31/01/2011

Barnhill Primary School Oversubscribed


Feedback from parents in the catchment area of Barnhill Primary School confirms that the Primary One intake beginning in August is already significantly oversubscribed.

This means that more parents who have a rising five child who live in the catchment area of the school have put their child's name down for entry to the school in Primary One than were accommodated last year when the Primary One classes were full. Unless more places are found in the school, some of the children who live in the Barnhill PS catchment area could be denied a place.

In addition children who are priority two might not get a look in at all. Priority two children are those who live outside the school's catchment area but already have an older brother or sister who attends the school.

This is a very serious issue, which may well require an adjustment to the Council's budget for next year if parents and their children are not to be denied a place at their local primary school. I don't think parents and children should suffer from the results of inadequate planning by the Education Department.

When I raised this issue last year in relation to the capacity of public services in Broughty Ferry to accommodate more housing developments, this was dismissed and it was claimed by the Education Convener that there was plenty of capacity in Broughty Ferry Schools. Well now, where is that spare capacity for parents living in the Barnhill Primary School catchment area?

24/01/2011

SNP cuts will Undermine Improvements to Schooling in the City


Providing an Opportunity to Expose the SNP's Education Cuts in Dundee

I have requested an opportunity for the Education Committee to consider the SNP's Education Cuts on Monday evening so that the extent and effect of these can be exposed. Far from improving schooling in Dundee, I think the planned cuts will undermine the improvements Labour made in the City. I am very concerned that improvements in attainment in our schools will be stalled or put into reverse.

All but one Primary School in Dundee will lose teaching staff as result of the SNP's cuts

In fifteen schools with under 220 pupils, such as Park Place Primary (151 pupils) and St Vincent's Primary School (212 pupils) will lose their Deputy Head Teacher post and their Head Teacher will effectively have no one to delegate management responsibility to when they are out of school or absent. The removal of the deputy's post in these schools will result in a reduction of the overall staffing for these schools by one post. (15 full time equivalent teacher posts lost in the city)

In eleven primary schools with between 221 and 325 pupils, the schools will lose the equivalent of 0.3 (just under a third) of a member of staff. For example, Blackness Primary School (305 pupils) will find their Deputy Head Teacher with a 0.5 teaching commitment. This will be partly offset by the appointment of a Principal Teacher from amongst the existing staff with a 0.2 allocation of time for management. This will result in the loss of a 0.3 post equivalent. (3.3 full time equivalent teacher posts lost in the city)

In ten further, larger schools, in the city (326-500 pupils) such as Criagowl (491 pupils) and Clepington (432 pupils) there will be an increase in the teaching commitment of the two depute head teachers by 0.5. This will mean that these school will lose half of a teacher's post further down the school. (five full time equivalent teacher posts lost in the city)

Forthill Primary School in the Ferry (520 pupils) is our largest primary school and hasn't yet achieved its full capacity. As it's in the largest category, it will attract a third depute head teacher post. However, the combined teaching commitment of these three deputes has been increased to 2 full time equivalent class teachers. Perversely this will mean that despite the appointment of a third Depute Head Teacher, there will be no more management time available in Forthill than many smaller schools in the city. This increase in teaching time by deputes will also displace another teacher further down the school. (one full time equivalent teaching post lost and one management post gained)

Undermining School Management

Finally, Head Teachers and Depute Head Teachers are not back room staff who shuffle paper. As their titles imply they are teachers first an foremost with responsibilities to fulfil vital roles such as quality assurance of teaching and learning including conducting classroom observations and mentoring new staff. They also often cover short term absences in their schools. As the budget for buying in short term cover is being cut too, management in our schools and covering for absence will be more problematic. What for example, will happen in our schools with no Deputes at all?

Dundee's Successful Structure for Raising Attainment – Endorsed by HMiE

When HMiE reported on the progress of the Education Authority in March 2009, they commented that:

'2 Continuous improvement

The authority had made significant progress since the original inspection.

Councillors, the Chief Executive, the Directors for Education and of Leisure and Communities articulated a clear vision for education in Dundee. They had taken the necessary strategic steps to develop appropriate structures and policy frameworks to help bring about improvements. The Education Department had been restructured to ensure a more focused approach to strategic management and quality assurance.

This had strengthened team work, provided more opportunities to share good practice and ensured a more consistent approach to support and challenge. The remits of the senior management team (SMT) had changed creating primary and secondary teams.

A new tier of management had been created which provided additional capacity in taking forward effectively the authority’s priorities. This included the implementation of the Learning and Teaching in Dundee (LTiD) and Improving Pupil Attainment and Achievement (IPAA) strategies.'

and

'Overall, the outcomes of HMIE follow-through inspections were positive. Schools, centres and community learning services had made sufficient progress to allow HMIE to disengage and make no further visits as a result of the original inspection.

The role of new education managers in overseeing the work of Quality Improvement Officers (QIOs) had made a positive contribution to improvements in schools and centres.'

Upsetting Dundee's Successful Structure for Raising Attainment

I think the £4.3 million cuts in the Education budget will result in putting at risk many of the gains which have been achieved in Dundee Schools. Dundee pupils, and their parents and carers deserve better.

Notes

HMIE

Follow-up to the Inspection of the Education Function of Local Authorities [PDF]
Published 09/03/2009

22/01/2011

Public Consultation Exhibition in Dundee for Firth of Forth Offshore Windfarm

Seagreen Wind Energy Limited, a joint venture between Scottish & Southern Energy plc and Fluor Ltd is currently developing the Firth of Forth Zone, the largest wind farm development area off the Scottish coast. Their project team will be available to discuss the first phase of the development at the following event in Dundee:

Tuesday 25 January 12 noon - 8pm Discovery Point Dundee

This is part of Seagreen's community engagement which, along with consultation with statutory and non-statutory stakeholders, will help to inform the project design and allow for the identification of suitable mitigation measures. If you are unable to attend the public consultation exhibition, the materials will be available to download from their website after the event.

21/01/2011

The Effect of Reduced Teacher Numbers on Children's Education in Dundee


I am very concerned about the negative effect on children's education of the £4.3 million cuts in Education that the SNP are introducing in their budget for Dundee Schools for April 2011 - March 2012.

By requesting this item is placed on the agenda of the Education Committee on Monday, I have provided the only opportunity for the Education Committee to consider the impact of these changes before they are considered at the Budget meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee in February.

I think the most likely effect of their package of cuts will be a end to the improving exam results in Dundee Schools, maybe some slipping back in performance. This is to be regretted , especially at a time when exam grades will be so important for school leavers as they compete for places at college and university or for their first job.

I hope the Education Committee, will send the Education Convener to think again.

12/01/2011

Teacher Reductions in Dundee Primary Schools

SNP claims that their £4 million plus package of education cuts in Dundee will only affect back office functions and will not affect teaching and learning are inaccurate and misleading.

Coming to many Primary School in the City will be a reductions in the number of Depute Head Teachers and a general increase in the teaching duties of any remaining Depute Head Teachers. When these deputes do more classroom teaching they will replace other teachers currently in their schools. They will not be an additional teacher in their schools. Overall the number of teachers in most primary school will fall.


Not only that but as a consequence there will be less time for the remaining Deputes to undertake classroom monitoring and other work on enhancing teaching and learning in their their schools. This is a recipe for undermining recent improvements in attainment and achievement in schools in the city. It will also mean that the overall pupil teacher ratio in Dundee Primary Schools will get worse. This is another example of SNP broken promises on Education.


I have requested that reductions on teacher numbers in our schools will be placed on the agenda of the next Education Committee so that it is no longer a matter hidden behind the shroud of secrecy of the Changing for Future Board. I think that parents and carers in Dundee have a right to know what is really happening in our schools.

03/01/2011

Blue Flag Status Flushed Away?

The proposed closure of the staffed public toilets in the Queen Street Car park could be another factor that prevents Broughty Ferry qualifying for the coveted Blue Flag award for our beach. Its replacement by an automatic unstaffed toilet will not I think easily convince Blue Flag judging panels that it is an adequate replacement.

The following Blue Flag beach criteria are clear:

  • An adequate number of toilet or restroom facilities must be provided and

  • The toilet or restroom facilities must be kept clean.
(Extracted from Blue Flag Beach Criteria).

Apart from flushing away our chances of regaining any prestigious Flag for our beach, Broughty Ferry will also lose the informal surveillance of the car park, the mini recycling centre and the station platforms currently supplied by the toilet attendants.

I think Ferry Councillor Guild, also the SNP's Leader of the Council, should think again about this item in his budget proposals.