Coincidence of Death of Five Residents at Orchar Nursing Home

The deaths of five residents of the Orchar Nursing Home, within the space of two days, are being investigated by Tayside Police.
A man aged 74 and four women aged 81, 88, 90 and 91 all apparently died between Sunday 25 and Monday 26 March at the Orchar Nursing Home in The Ferry. A spokesperson for Tayside Police said it was making enquiries into these five deaths.


Dundee Youth Council Report on a Successful Year

Yesterday evening, I attended the second AGM of the Dundee Youth Council which was held in the City Chambers. The purpose of the Dundee Youth Council is to represent, support and improve the lives of young people in Dundee.
Presenting the Annual Report, Chairperson, Matt Lansburgh, overviewed a year of significant achievements including planning and facilitating community, citywide and international events. High on their list of milestones was undertaking a consultation which reached 4394 young people in Dundee, half of the potential age group. He also announced that he was standing down as Chair as he had just been appointed to the Tayside Health Board.
Laura Gorman, Vice-Chair in 20011/12 was elected as Chairperson for the coming year.
David Mundt, the Convener of Consultation - gave an overview of the early results from the views of young people in Dundee that had been gathered in their recent survey. He reported that the top three concerns of young people in the city were:
  • Education
  • Health and
  • Transport
Interestingly the following points emerged about Education:
  • Pupils at Braeview were concerned about their state of their school building and think its needs refurbishment;
  • Some pupils in the City thought it was unfair that the option to take Outdoor Education at school seemed to be only offered to badly behaved pupils and
  • Some concerns had emerged about Curriculum for Excellence and the City Campus.
This was an inspiring meeting demonstrating the potential of our young people and the significance and value of their perspectives.
The challenge, I think, for the Council, is to provide more meaningful opportunities to engage our Youth Councillors and young people in general in 'changing for the future'; principally their future.

Plea for No Tax on Art and Local Events in Dundee

The prospect of hefty fees to obtain a Public Entertainment Licence for small exhibitions and events—including those to be held free of charge—has been causing concern amongst artists, performers and owners of small venues and organisers of community events.
In Dundee where we have many arts based groups flourishing around Dundee Contemporary Arts and the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art they have already met to try to stave off the imposition of unreasonable charges. 
In Broughty Ferry, there are many free arts and community events including the switching on of the Christmas Lights, Gala Week and the Annual Broughty Art Society Show which potentially might be affected.
At the Licensing Committee on Thursday morning 29 March I made the following contribution to the debate:
"Members I don't want a tax on art and local entertainment in Dundee I am pleased that common sense has prevailed and the Agenda Note for the Licensing Committee this morning takes us on a more cautious route. I think is would be a sensible decision to defer imposing any charges while the Council conducts a consultation. I expect that our lengthy consultation period would allow fears and concerns about any extension of charges to be fully explored before we are asked to decide which if any events might fall within these new regulations next year. In a city that will soon have the much heralded V and A museum on our waterfront, from which we hope our arts based sector will grow, it is important not to impose red tape, regulations and ridiculous charges that would unnecessarily stifle the very creative impulse that we are trying to foster in Dundee. Additionally I don't want to discourage community groups from organising events in their neighbourhoods for their members and supporters. We must not do anything that would discourage their valued contribution to the life of our city."

The Committee decided to defer imposing any new charges while Council staff undertake a thorough consultation.

Until recently, it was up to each local authority which public entertainment events they chose to licence. However, changes brought in by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (S) Act 2010 now require them to look at Public Entertainment Licences for free events.
One of the motivations behind this change was impromptu raves, that would spring up in some public parks – but as no entry fee was charged, the Local Authority could not effectively regulate the events through their licensing system. 
The range of licensable activities is still left to each individual Local Authority to determine according to local need. Please note that the requirement is for the place (venue etc), not the person (organisers), to be licensed.
This change is due to come into effect on 1 April 2012. Some local authorities have already considered the implications of charging licensing fees for free events and have exempted certain ones. Others, like Dundee have decided that this is a change that attracts a standard 9 month consultation period.


Barnhill Primary School P6/7 School Show Really Rocks

Yesterday evening Primary 6 and 7 pupils from Barnhill Primary School entertained us with a lively performance of The Rocky Monster Show. They played to to a packed and appreciative audience in the Grove Academy hall.
This rock’n’roll musical is billed as a “riotous mix of The Addams Family, Young Frankenstein and The Phantom Of The Opera."
There’s something for everyone in this show: plenty of freaky characters, from Professor Fenton to The Superbs girl band and, would you believe, Elvis brought back from the dead!
The Rocky Monster Show provided an entertaining and toe tapping evening which showcased the multi-talented young singers, dancers and actors in Barnhill Primary School. 
I particularly appreciated the cheeky chappy performance of Ross Butter who played Mungo. He clearly enjoyed his night in the spotlight but so did his fellow pupils who all turned in good performances. These young pupils sang their hearts out and danced their way to demonstrate that P6/7 pupils are a talented group that really rocks!


Councillor Calls for a Clean Sweep in The Ferry

While British Summer Time began at 1am on Sunday morning, the gulleys of the Street outside my home were still choked by the accumulated grit and sand from the winter road treatment and rubbish swept to the side of the road by vehicle movements. However I fare in the forthcoming elections, I think I made a clean sweep of these gulleys on Sunday afternoon!

This does however beg the question about the frequency of road sweeping in The Ferry. I know many constituents are frustrated by the apparent lack of service in Central Broughty Ferry.

I have taken this up with the Environment Department to try to pin them down about the frequency of service that residents should expect in return for their Council Tax. The best that can be said about the current state of the gulleys is that constituents can see that their Councillor receives no special treatment in his Street!

Free Easter Manga Workshops for Young Illustrators Next Week

Click on this image to enlarge
Manga illustration workshops are taking place at the Central Library on Monday and Tuesday next week (April 2 and 3).

The free Easter holiday activity is designed for budding illustrators aged 12 and over who are interested in developing their techniques of 'Manga' illustration. Manga is the Japanese word for comics or cartoons.

Tips and hints on drawing techniques will be given by experts.
The workshops run from 10am to 12 noon both days, with advice sessions in the afternoon from 1-3pm.
Limited places are available - phone Dundee 431500 or email to book.
More details are available online at
The Central Library is operated by Leisure & Culture Dundee, working in partnership with Dundee City Council.

Convener and Director of Education Plough on Regardless

I was disappointed that the Education Convener and the SNP group of Councillors together with the Director of Education should have been so opposed to my amendment at the Education Committee on Monday night 26 March.
It was strange that they opposed an opportunity for even a small minority of subject departments in some of our secondary schools to have the option to defer entering pupils for the new National 4 and 5 examinations and take the existing Intermediate assessments. But this was only where this was the best interests of the pupils involved.  
I was surprised that they chose to ignore this opportunity since it had been provided by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell MSP, in his letter last week. 
In the same letter he promised some extra cash for Councils to help prepare teaching and learning materials for the new curriculum and the opportunity for secondary teachers to be granted two additional in-service training days. Since my amendment also included using the extra cash and taking the in-service days was defeated, I understand that the Director will need to return to a future meeting of the Education Committee if he changes his mind and wants to make use of these.


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Eastern Primary School Opening Celebration

This morning I attended the event to formally celebrate the opening of Eastern Primary School at its new location next door to the new Grove Academy. Eastern moved into the 'old Grove' buildings last August after these had been refurbished.
One of the remarkable features of the new school is the decorative gate to the playground on Church Street. This features art work created by the children commemorating the move from Whinny Brae to Camperdown Street.
The celebrations were held in the Games Hall and involved all the pupils in a series of well chosen musical performances. The event was ably and enthusiastically introduced by the Acting Headteacher, Vivienne Snee.
If I had to choose my two favourite performances,  I especially appreciated the two young trumpeters, Cory Milligan and Louis Browne, who serenaded us when we arrived. Later in the proceedings, I enjoyed joining in with the whole school singing 'World In Union' which was a novel choice. Its adapted words helped focus on the new beginnings and possibilities for the current pupils and future generations of children who attend this outstanding Primary School. 


Curriculum for Excellence in Dundee Must Provide Best Options for Our Secondary School Pupils

At the Education Committee tonight, I will be arguing that there is an alternative to the Director’s one size fits all flow charts and timetables for curriculum for excellence in our Secondary Schools.

Let’s not kid ourselves that it’s all under control and everything in the educational garden is lovely.  In recent workforce surveys many teachers in Scotland have indicated their lack of preparation for and confidence in delivering the new curriculum and preparing their pupils for the new examinations.  Although the recent letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Education is last minute, it offers some additional cash and some opportunities for opt outs from the new examinations.

The motion I will be presenting to the Committee tomorrow evening will provide an opportunity to pause and take stock rather than ploughing on regardless.

We need our secondary schools and their subject departments to honestly explore the possibility of deferring entering their pupils for the new exams and taking the existing Intermediate assessments instead. We must be guided by the overriding principle that we must always do what is best for our pupils who only get one shot at this.

We should not be over influenced by the Director’s grand design but rather take account of the reality of readiness in every department in every one of our secondary schools.  I am sure many subjects departments and many teachers are relatively confident about the big changes ahead and will take these in their stride. But it would be surprising if some departments in some schools would not benefit from the opportunity to make use of the special measures which the Cabinet Secretary for Education has made available for every secondary school in Scotland.

Finally, we need a report in early June that appraises councillors of the real choices that are to be put before pupils, parents and carers before the end of the summer term.


Inspiring Exhibition at Forthill Sheltered Housing Lounge

Yesterday morning I spent a most enjoyable hour at the Art Exhibition at Forthill Sheltered Housing Complex in Forthill Drive. The annual exhibition features paintings produced by members of the Art Class that runs at the lounge once a week. In the photo you can see Joe Murray one of the artists standing in front of several of his paintings. 
I particularly appreciated the autumnal woodland scene painted by Julie Duncan. She told me her inspiration came from a visit to the Enchanted Forest near Dunkeld last Autumn. I only held back from snapping it up by the lack of vacant wall space at home to hang more paintings.
I think the most significant thing about the class is that here are a group of senior citizens actively involved in developing or rediscovering their creativity. This is the kind of older age I think we would all aspire to.
It's clear to me that many older people need much more than caring services; given the opportunity, like these residents, they will readily engage in challenging learning and development pursuits and activities.


First Meeting of School Parking and Pupil Safety Working Group Shrouded in Secrecy

 I am not sure that I can can confirm much more than I had previously reported that the first meeting of the School Parking and Pupil Safety Working Group has been called for later this month. 
The Agenda has arrived but as you can see, it has been shrouded in secrecy by applying the"NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN TERMS OF 

I am not convinced that this level of secrecy is required in relation to something so clearly of public interest to parents and carers.


Broughty Pensioners Lose Out as Osborne Raids Their Tax Allowances

In the Chancellor of the Exchequer's third budget yesterday he raided the resources of pensioners, what some commentators have referred to as a 'granny grab'.
He announced an increase in personal tax allowances for those under 65 but failed to protect the existing age related extra tax allowances for pensioners. In subsequent examination of the detail in the budget volumes, it became clear that not only is he freezing these allowances for existing pensioners and gradually phasing them out but also removing them immediately for new pensioners born after 6 April 1948.

Details of the Tax Changes from HMRC website
So much for promising a significant increase in the future in the basic pension in 2015 and then taking it away by removing these age related tax allowances. Did he think that pensioners would not notice?

So while George Osborne and his coalition partners give with one hand they are taking away with the other. This will affect everyone over and approaching pension age in Broughty Ferry (and elsewhere). 

The government's own assessment of the impact of these changes is as follows:
"In 2013-14, 4.41 million people aged 65 and over will be worse off compared to 2012-13 when RPI indexation to the age-related allowances is taken into account." (Overview of Tax Legislation and Rates HM Treasury/HMRC page 46)

Confusion from Contrasting Advice About Readiness of our Secondary Schools for Curriculum for Excellence

This week Councillors in Dundee have received contrasting advice about preparations for the next phase of Curriculum for Excellence in Dundee secondary schools. In contrast to the confident tones of the Director of Education’s report issued for the Education Committee on Monday 26b March, we have been circulated with a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell MSP, that concedes:
more help is needed to 
‘ensure all secondary schools move confidently to the next stage of implementation (of Curriculum for Excellence)’. Mike Russell is providing £3.5 Million for secondary schools to buy in supply cover while specific teachers have dedicated time to prepare course materials. This would work out at about £110,000 for Dundee.  I also notice that parents and carers have been asked to stump up for cover at home when two additional in-service days are held and their children will be off school.
So what are councillors to make of this apparently contrasting advice?
Are we ready or not?
Are these additional in-service days necessary in Dundee when preparations for Curriculum for Excellence are apparently so advanced?


Concert by Dundee Schools' Orchestras and Bands at The Caird Hall

Earlier this evening I had the pleasure of attending the second of the two Annual Spring Concerts by Dundee Schools' Orchestras and Bands at the Caird Hall.
The diverse programme of musical offerings included a magisterial performance of The Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky and a fun filled rendition of Desk by the Percussion Ensemble
The Wednesday night programme showcased music making by:

  • the Percussion Ensemble;
  • the Junior String Orchestra;
  • the Guitar Ensemble;
  • the Concert Band and 
  • the Schools' Symphony Orchestra.
They all produced spirited and enthusiastic performances which were a fine showcase of their talents as accomplished young musicians.
Bravo and magnifeque!

Reassurance That Camber on Station Ramp Will be Improved

When the new entrance to the 'down' platform at Broughty Ferry Station (for trains running towards Dundee) opened last month, I noticed that the camber on the ramp between the pavement and the new passageway to the platform looked to be difficult to negotiate, especially for people with mobility difficulties. Link to earlier page on my blog.
When I referred this to the Head of Transportation at the City Council, they arranged for an inspection of the ramp which confirmed my observations. 
I have received the following reply from the Council:
"Thank you for contacting me relating to Broughty Ferry station access and I can confirm that the Council have been in contact with the Contractor who is undertaking the works within the station.  They have confirmed that the tarmac 'ramp' into the station from Gray Street is only a temporary fix and they are going correct this with a more permanent solution which will ensure ease of access for all."
I trust that this means 'job done'!


Community Use of Sports Hall at Eastern Primary School for Evenings and Weekends

On the Agenda of the Education Committee next Monday (26 March 2012) is a proposal to open up community use of the Sports Hall at Eastern Primary School. This would cover use outside school hours mainly in the evenings and at weekends. This sports hall was originally built as part of the Centenary Wing of Grove Academy but became part of Eastern Primary School when Eastern relocated to the 'old Grove' premises in August 2011.
For many sports women and men in teams and clubs, this news will be most welcome. It should mean that players in our amateur leagues can practise under cover which will be especially welcome during the winter.
Rather confusingly, in my opinion, the report refers to the Centenary Wing which in fact contains the Eastern Primary School Staff Room,  Dining Hall, Reception and Offices as well as the Sports Hall. In addition the some of the space in the 'Centenary Wing' is now used as office space for Sports Development and Education Advisory staff as well as our own Communities Officer for The Ferry, Carole Jenkins.
I have already written to the Depute Chief Executive for clarification that this proposal will not prevent the Sports Hall being used as a Polling Station for future elections.
Read or download the report and get in touch with me if there any matters that you would like me to clarify or take up.


National Football Academy Campaign Comes to The Ferry

At lunchtime today I was out in Brook Street in The Ferry with Jenny Marra MSP. We were collecting signatures in support of the campaign Jenny has led to Bring the National Football Academy to Dundee. 
Over 50 people signed our petition including residents and Grove Academy senior pupils and their teachers out on their lunch break. Most of these busy shoppers had already heard about the proposed National Football Academy and they were all pleased to have an opportunity to show their support and help ensure that this national centre comes to Dundee rather than the usual suspects Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In our conversations on Brook Street, it was clear that most folk we met recognised the advantages that Dundee could offer to such a centre, especially our enduring passion for playing and watching football, Sports Science expertise at the University of Dundee, and good communications with the rest of Scotland. For the city, it would obviously facilitate home growing more of our professional footballers of the future as well as boosting jobs in Dundee. 
If you would like to join the thousands of Dundonians who have already signed the petition you can do this online:
Bring the National Football Academy to Dundee Website or Facebook


Welfare Rights and Wrongs in Dundee

At the Policy and Resources Committee on Monday 12 March 2012, councillors were considering the Report on Changes to Housing Benefit and Welfare Reform. Here is a copy of my speech in support of my proposed improvements to recommendations in the report. My amendment, on behalf of the Labour Group, was approved.

Convener, I welcome this report but loath what it tells us about the combined reduction in benefits which will be paid out in our city.
It is indeed crucial that we address the issues affecting our citizens from the combined effects of the Westminster Government's cuts in social security benefits in Dundee. The paper from the Finance Directorate calculates that the combined annual reduction in cash benefits in the city will total £27.5 million.

This will significantly reduce household incomes that are already being squeezed by price increases in the shops, hikes in electricity and gas bills, increases in fares and at the petrol pumps. Every one of those families and households in receipt of less money reduces the cash in purses and wallets. That level of cash reduction not being rung up on the tills will inevitably have an effect in our city shops and businesses. As a result, I am sure that the council will find it a more challenging times in which to recover rent and council tax arrears.
The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government at Westminster is the source of these changes and are to blame for heaping so many combined cuts on households.  It makes David Cameron's claim that "we are all in this together" sound rather hollow.
But there one matter that receives rather less attention in this report. Are the Council using their existing powers to the full to protect our citizens from the financial tsunami that is advancing towards us?

The paper has little to say about the evidence of growing demand for welfare rights advice in our city. Switching more benefit administration to the Department of Work and Pensions will mean many more folk interacting with a faceless service via a call centre or on a computer screen. Given the scale and complexity of the changes and the difficulties each household will have understanding and coping with the changes, demand for face to face welfare rights advice will inevitably grow. This will put a further strain on the existing providers of welfare rights advice in the city including the council.
So we need to know whether we have enough welfare rights advisers in Dundee and are these available in the right places? Where, for example, is the Broughty Ferry access point for at least a weekly surgery for Advice and Information on Welfare Benefits?

Many of the existing network of advice agencies lurch from year to year on insecure funding like the clients they serve. There should be scope for the Council to ensure that those agencies that provide front line advice and advocacy and meet quality standards have their funding guaranteed for three years.

In April 2013 there will be an important transfer of powers from the UK to Scotland when the responsibility for the payment of crisis loans and grants from the Department of Work and Pensions transfers to the Scottish Government. It’s not yet clear whether this will be administered by local councils or the Scottish Government. In the Council's submission to the Scottish Government consultation, the council indicated that their preferred option was for a national scheme with national guidance that is administered by local councils. We concur with that position and hope that the Scottish Government will as a matter of urgency clarify its position. The Council will need good notice of its additional responsibilities if it is to be ready to exercise these in a fair and efficient way to some of our most vulnerable citizens confused and disadvantaged as they migrate from one or more benefits to another. We need therefore as a committee to know how we are preparing to take on our responsibilities for this additional duty.
Convener, I so move.
Councillor Laurie Bidwell
12 March 2012

Policy and Resources Committee Monday 12 March, Report on Changes to Housing Benefit and Welfare Reform


It's Official - I Shall be Standing For Re-election in the Local Government Elections on 3 May

Councillor Laurie Bidwell with Scottish
Labour Party Leader Johann Lamont MSP
Earlier this month I was re-selected by the Broughty Ferry Branch of The Labour Party to seek re-election to the City Council.

I have been proud to represent residents in The Ferry over the last five years. I shall be campaigning hard to retain my seat in the local government elections on Thursday 3 May 2012.

My Response to Baillie Rod Wallace's Misleading Statement about Resolving Parking Issues at Forthill Primary School

In the Evening Telegraph on Friday 9 March, Baillie Rod Wallace gave the misleading impression that I, amongst others, had blocked an investigation into an examination and response to parking issues at Forthill Primary school. In fact, I supported an amendment that widened the scope of the review that he had requested. I think it is hard to justify investigating these difficulties in only one primary school in the city when this problem is obviously much more widespread. Even in the other three schools in The Ferry there are also parking problems aplenty and many expressions of parental and carer concerns about child safety at and around the school gates. 
The Education Committee on Monday 27 February agreed overwhelmingly to establish a working group to examine and respond to these issues citywide. The School Parking and Pupil Safety Working Group will be chaired by the Chief Executive and he has lost no time in arranging its first meeting later this month. 
Broughty Ferry will be well represented with the Head of Forthill Primary School, the Chair of the Parent Council of Eastern Primary School and me already confirmed members of the group. As part of this review, we have been promised a risk assessment of every school in the city which will allow us to prioritise the order of the schools we focus on. Bearing in mind that Forthill is the largest Primary School in Dundee and its well publicised parking and road safety issues, I am confident that it will be at or very near the top of that list. 
Parents and carers of children attending Forthill Primary School should be assured that the safety of their children is also high on my agenda for action.Laurie Bidwell Ferry Councillor


3rd Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty 15 and 16 March

On Thursday I shall be attending the 3rd Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty held in Glasgow. The Assembly will bring together community groups, voluntary organisations, policy makers and politicians, faith groups, trade unionists, academics - all those looking for the ideas and the actions to create a fairer Scotland. 
I have decided to attend the conference theme on tackling Fuel Poverty which I think is an important issue for many households in Broughty Ferry.
For those that are concerned by their Councillors racking up expenses from their Council Tax, let me reassure constituents that there is no conference fee and I will be travelling through to the conference at my own expense.
The Poverty Alliance organisers advise that the event is fully booked, but you can watch the live stream of the plenary sessions on the 15th and 16th of March. These will start at 10.30 (GMT) each morning. To watch the live stream click on this link.
And if you are on twitter, then you can contribute your comments and questions by using the hashtag #povertyassembly. Click on this link to the Poverty Alliance twitter channel
Their social reporters will also be giving updates throughout the two days of the Assembly, and you will be able to see the views of participants at their YouTube Channel, and hear them at Sound Cloud.

Actions on Missing Water Stopcock Covers in Broughty Pavements

Pavement hazard in Brook Street
In the last week I have been alerted to two broken/missing cast iron stopcock covers for domestic water supplies that sit in the pavement. As these present a potential source of danger on our footways, when I have been notified about these, I have reported them to Scottish Water.


International Women's Day 8 March 2012

Today, Thursday 8 March 2012 is the 101st International Women's Day with thousands of events occurring worldwide that celebrate women’s progress or rally against inequality.

For decades women have banded together to challenge injustices, overcome barriers and pursue equality. International Women's Day provides an opportunity to commemorate these efforts, celebrate progress and call for commitment to women’s rights, peace and equality.

International Women’s Day, continues to provide a powerful opportunity to unite, network and mobilise worldwide for meaningful change. It provides an opportunity to make a stand against inequality, discrimination and marginalisation that only serves to weaken all of our societies.

Read/download the programme of events during the Dundee Women's Festival 28 February - 17 March 2012 including events today.


Pizza Express Opening at Broughty Ferry Station?

Rumour is circulating that Pizza Express will stopping soon at Broughty Ferry Station and this will be no brief encounter. Seemingly they will be opening for business in the new restaurant premises currently being converted from the former station waiting room and station house. 
If this is true, this would add to the diversity of locally run and multiple managed cafes and restaurants in The Ferry. I am glad that apparently the new premises have found a tenant and the restored old station buildings will be brought back to life.


Food Train Dundee - Supporting Older People at Home

Food Train is a a new service for older people who live within the city boundary in Dundee. 
Food Train's shopping service is a simple process; customers complete a blank shopping list which is collected by volunteers. Help can be provided for any customer unable to write their own shopping list. All the orders are handed into a local supermarket and orders are made up up on a nominated day fresh for delivery by Food Train volunteers on that day. The shopping is delivered in a box which is unpacked by the volunteers who will put things away if needed. 
The customer pays for the shopping plus a delivery charge of £3. To access the service, customers must be unable or have difficulty getting their grocery shopping. Customers can self-refer or be referred by anyone. There are no forms to fill in and the service can begin immediately. Customers use the service weekly, fortnightly, monthly and short term or long term to suit there own needs. Each customer pays £1 per year membership to join the scheme.
There are also opportunities for volunteers aged 16+ who may gain accreditation for their volunteering.
Food Train is a charity with funding support from Dundee City Council.
I am sure many constituents in Broughty Ferry will find this a vital and helpful service.
For more information or to join the Food Train:
Contact Grant Symons at Food Train 01382 459202


Phoebe Caldwell - Remarkable Saturday Night Lecturer

Over the weekend, I attended the Saturday night lecture at Dundee University given by the extraordinary Phoebe Caldwell. 
Phoebe Caldwell is an expert practitioner in Intensive Interaction working mainly with children and adults on the Autistic Spectrum. She has over 30 years experience as a practitioner with people with severe learning disabilities. She describes her clients as experiencing 'behavioural distress' rather than their exhibiting challenging behaviour to others.
Her lecture was interspersed with well chosen video clips of her her practising in a variety of settings. The remarkable communicative 'break throughs' she demonstrated indicate an effective, if unconventional, approach to enhancing communication with people isolated by their autism.
I have written to the Director of Education and the Education Convener to suggest the Council consider inviting Phoebe Caldwell to work with practitioners in Dundee who work with children whose severe learning disabilities are linked with behavioural distress.


Whitfield Primary Schools Looks Back and Forward

On Thursday I attended a nostalgic open afternoon at Whitfield Primary School.
The school was celebrating its life and times over the 44 years since it had opened. It was taking a collective trip down memory lane before it relocates after Easter to the new replacement school building on Lothian Crescent. 
The replacement school, a merger between Whitfield and Newfields Primary Schools, will also house the Whitfield community early-years centre. The new school will be known as Balumbie Primary School.
But Thursday afternoon was all about reminiscing with former pupils and teachers of Whitfield Primary School returning to peer at school photos, press cuttings and memorabilia. 

This was certainly an event when I appreciated that the page was being turned on a significant chapter in the life of Whitfield.


Bob Servant Filming Moves to Douglas Terrace

Click on the picture to enlarge the image. Notice the BBC Scotland
van to the right and lighting and effects outside the bungalow.
On Thursday, the BBC unit filming Bob Servant Independent moved to a location at the end of Douglas Terrace. As I took my dog Milli for her lunchtime walk along to Grassy Beach, preparations were advanced for using an indoor location in the house with the distinctive glass and steel extension that is located just beside the railway bridge.
I am sure many residents in the Ferry are looking forward to seeing Bob Servant's adventures in a parliamentary bye-election with the added interest of identifying all the locations in The Ferry.


Tree Planting in Dawson Park Sponsored by Dundee Rotary Club

This afternoon I helped to plant a tree in Dawson Park. This specimen will now form part of the handsome line of trees that runs in parallel with the Arbroath Road
This is the first of five trees filling in gaps caused by wind damage last year.
The five trees were donated by The Rotary Club of Dundee who in fact donated the whole avenue of trees that were part of the development of 'Ambassador Routes' into the city some years ago. This is a lasting contribution to enhancing the appearance of this well used public park and greening one of our major thoroughfares into the city. 
Well done Dundee Rotary Club.

World Book Day 1 March 2012

As well as being St David's day, today is World Book Day.

Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world, this is the 15th year there’s been a World Book Day.

Children of all ages will be coming together to appreciate reading. Very loudly and very happily. 

The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. This fits in very well with the Dundee Born and Read campaign led by the Dundee Evening Telegraph.

Nobody really knows exactly how we learn to read, but everybody agrees that reading is a very important skill. Parents and carers can do so much to help children become readers. Read Together is a website with lots of ideas to help promote the sharing of reading between adults and children.