Dundee Has Lowest Level of P1-3 Pupils in Classes of 18 or Fewer

More Nats Larger Classes
Scottish Government education statistics published on Wednesday have revealed that only 2.8% of Dundee pupils in their first three years at Primary School are in classes with a pupil teacher ratio of 18 or fewer. 

Compared with other Councils in Scotland, Dundee is bottom of this class. The average percentage across Scotland is 12.9%.

The overall Pupil Teacher Ratio in Dundee primary schools has also increased over the last year continuing a trend from 2008. 

In 2007, the SNP promised parents and carers in Scotland they would reduce class sizes for all P1-3 classes to 18 or fewer. More recently, they reduced their target to 20% of primary 1-3 pupils in these smaller classes. These statistics show that in Dundee they have totally failed with only a handful of classes across the city with 18 or fewer pupils.

Unfortunately Dundee is bottom of this national league table. Pupils, parents and carers in the City deserve better. 

SNP Councillors in Dundee have some explaining to do.


Upgraded Car Park at Gillies Park on its Way

Signpost to Gillies Park in Broughty Ferry
On Monday night the City Development Committee approved a tender for £48,358 for the surfacing of the car park at Gillies Park and some related lighting work.

I welcome this contract for the surfacing of the car park at Gillies Park. Many Barnhill residents have complained to me about the potholes and mud in the car park so I am sure they will welcome this upgrade.

It will also help parents and carers dropping off and picking up their children from Barnhill Primary School. The Nursery and P1 classes located in the new extension to the school are easily accessed from Gillies Park.

There will also be improvements to the lighting which should help all park users feel more confident about walking through the park at night time.

I have been assured that the work will be carried out before the end of March so thankfully folk won't have to endure the potholes much longer.


Christmas Land Train and Santa's Grotto in Broughty Ferry Sunday Afternoon 14 December 2014

Broughty Ferry Land Train
Come to central Broughty Ferry to do your Christmas shopping on Sunday 14th December 2014 and take your children for a ride on the Festive Train and visit to Santa's Grotto between 12-4 that afternoon.

The land train, decorated with lights and tinsel, will be offering rides around central Broughty Ferry with pick up/and drop off outside Visocchi’s in Gray Street. The specail £1 fare will be donated to charity.

Santa and his elves will also be handing out sweets to children from their Grotto 

These events are all courtesy of the Broughty Ferry Traders' Association.


Clean Sweep Along Coastal Path

Mechanical Sweeper
Earlier this week, staff from Dundee's Environment Department deployed one of their smaller mechanical sweepers on the coastal pathway between the Stannergate and Douglas Terrace. This has cleared up accumulated debris on both sides of the path. 

I am sure regular users of the path, including dog walkers and cyclists, will notice the difference.

Well done to the Environment Department to whom I had made a request. I have also suggested that this stretch of pathway is regularly scheduled for a clean sweep, perhaps once every one or two months.


Dundee Named the First UK City of Design by UNESCO

Dundee Joins UNESCO Creative Cities Network
On Monday 1st December, Dundee was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as the first City of Design in the UK.

Our city has been recognised by UNESCO for its diverse contributions to fields including medical research, comics and video games.

The title recognises the design innovations Dundee has contributed to the world, including, biomedical research which has led to numerous new drugs, comics including the Beano and Dandy, orange marmalade, and video games including Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.

The city's waterfront is also undergoing a 30-year, £1bn regeneration project at the waterfront. Central to this plan is the creation of V&A Museum of Design Dundee. The city is also home to Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee Rep Theatre, McManus Art Gallery and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art.

Through this prestigious award, it has joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network along with 27 other cities from 19 countries. Within the network there are seven thematic areas: Craft and Folk Arts, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music

Launched in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The network aims to foster international cooperation between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and enhanced influence of cultural in the world.

This designation is further recognition of the growing reputation and confidence of Dundee as a city with international significance.


World AIDS Day 1 December 2014

On October 27, 1988, the UN General Assembly officially declared December 1, 1988, to be World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day has also been observed on this date each year since then.

Is your HIV knowledge stuck in the 80s? Take part in a World AIDS Day quiz to find out.

AIDS stands for "acquired immune deficiency syndrome" or "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome" and denotes a condition, which results from the damage done by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) to the immune system. The condition was first identified in 1981 and the name "AIDS" was first introduced on July 27, 1982.

HIV can only be transmitted between people through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the blood stream with a bodily fluid. Hence, there has been a lot of stigma around the spread of HIV and people living with HIV and AIDS. It has been estimated that around 33 million people around the world have been infected with HIV and that around two million people die from AIDS related conditions each year.


Long Lane Fort Street to Gray Street) Closed to Traffic Monday 8 December 2014


THE DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AS TRAFFIC AUTHORITY being satisfied that traffic on the road should be prohibited by reason of carriageway investigation works being carried out HEREBY PROHIBIT the driving of any vehicle in Long Lane (from Fort Street to Gray Street), Broughty Ferry, Dundee

This notice comes into effect on Monday 8 December 2014 for 1 day.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained. The one-way order relating to Long Lane will be rescinded for the duration of these works.

Alternative routes for vehicles will be available via Fort Street / King Street / Gray Street.

For further information contact (01382) 433082.

Mike P Galloway, Director of City Development Dundee City Council


International Carers’ Rights Day 2014

Today, Friday  28 November 2014 is Carers’ Rights Day, a time dedicated to making sure that carers are aware of their rights and where they can find help and support, raising awareness of the challenges that carers face both in terms of balancing their time and navigating their way to the financial and practical support that they are entitled to. According to Carers UK, almost 47% of carers are greatly worried about money. 

I appreciate the sacrifice that many carers make in, often, giving up work to care while simultaneously being faced with the additional costs of caring, and I hope that all carers, including the reported 660,000 carers in Scotland, have access to the support that they need and understand their rights as carers.

This is Scottish Labour's Carers pledge as written by Carers:

Accountable, Transparent and Responsive support and services for Carers
  • Giving the Care Inspectorate responsibility over inspecting Carers services
  • Require Local Authorities to do yearly reports on Carers support and services, including speaking directly to Carers: this report must be publicly available.

Commit to ensuring Young Carers get the support they need and deserve.
  • Fully commit to Scottish Youth Parliament Care. Fair. Share Campaign;
  • Changing EMA Guidance so young Carers are guaranteed not to lose EMA due attendance issues
  • Extending SAAS dependency grants so Carers get an extra £2640 per year when in High Education
  • Extending Young Scot concessionary travel to Young Adult carers until 25
  • Investigate what other measures can be introduced to help Young Carers access to education 


Commenting on Proposed Closure of Menzieshill High School at Education Committee 24 November 2014

Commenting at the Education Committee on Monday 24 November 2014 about the proposed closure of Menzieshill High School as part of the School Estate Review brought forward by Director of Education with the support of the SNP group of Councillors. 

Convener, (the SNP's Education Convener, Councillor Stewart Hunter) this report of the School Estate Review, has the structure of a playground joke. You have good news and bad news for parents and carers in Dundee. The good news is that the Council is proposing to build a new shared campus primary school in Whitfield combining under one roof St Luke's and St Matthew's RC Primary School, St Vincent's Primary School and Longhaugh Primary School. The bad news is that the Council is proposing to close Menzieshill High School and gamble that it has enough secondary school places for children in the combined area covering Lochee and the West End.

In my opinion, beginning the process of closing any school is a very serious business. As it says it in the marriage ceremony, 'it is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly'. Closing a secondary school which stands at the heart of its community as a school and recreation centre out of school hours must be a last resort and must be only when all the alternative strategies have been explored and rejected.

This sentiment is contained in the Scottish Government Guidance on School Closures contained in Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 Statutory Guidance issued on 1 August 2014.

In this case I am surprised and disappointed that you have been prepared to bring such a flimsy report to the committee and dismiss the achievements of pupils and teachers with such minimal written evidence.

So as I have said, I don't think the parents, carers, pupils and the teachers of Menzieshill High School are well served if we rely on one short paragraph and table showing comparative school roll 2008/9 - 2014/15 to begin the process of closing a school. All the report reveals is that the school roll has gone down by 10 pupils in the last year and 57 pupils in the last four years. That's the sum total of the evidence brought forward to support closure of a secondary school.

In fact when you (Education Convener Councillor Stewart Hunter) went to the press about this you provided some reference to additional evidence which you apparently have been privy to which led you to say - as quoted in the Council's official Press Release dated Friday 13 November:

“This is not an easy option to bring forward, but the situation shows no sign of improving and this will only hinder the education of pupils."
“It would be for the educational benefit of young people to attend Harris Academy in the future."
“If pupils go to the new build Harris Academy they will be offered the full curriculum. This is not the case at Menzieshill High at the moment because of the implications of such a small pupil roll."

So apparently the school estate issue has knock on effects to the breadth of curriculum on offer at Menzieshill High School but there is no mention of this in the report we have in front of us tonight.

This admission on your part also raises another important question. If Menzieshill High School cannot deliver a satisfactory breadth of curriculum, how is that any different from 2012/13 when it had just ten fewer pupils? If we accept your conjecture that the school is not delivering an adequate curriculum on your watch, why have you waited to bring this forward as an issue? There must be suspicion about why you delayed making this decision public until the later Autumn, after the Referendum. Importantly the Director of Education did not refer to the curricular shortcomings of small schools in his last annual Standards and Quality Report.

Convener, you are also quoted in that same Council press release as saying:
“Education officials work closely with officers from the city development department to carefully consider demographic trends and planning considerations."
“Numbers of pupils will not rise enough at the associated primary schools to offer an significant increase to the Menzieshill High intake."
I can also confirm that the secondary school identified for the Western Gateway is Baldragon Academy, so that development will have no impact on the roll."

There is no sign of these population projections in the report we have in front of us tonight. More worrying is that later on tonight, in the subsequent meeting of the Social Work and Health Committee, the Review of the Social Work Department Service Plan 2012-14 includes population projections for Dundee to 2032. These show that the under 15 population is projected to increase by 20% over the twenty year period to 2032. What difference will that significant growth in this age group make to the projected rolls of our primary and secondary schools in the city?

We need to know what cognisance has been taken of these trends in the Education Department and whether a move to six non denominational secondary schools down form seven would have sufficient capacity for the expanded demand for places. More specifically, in the context of the proposed joint catchment area for Menzieshill and Harris, can we say with confidence that all pupils living in the catchment area will be able to gain a place at the combined school? I am sure that parents and carers living in the current catchment area of Harris Academy will want to know the effects of current and future cohorts of Menzieshill High School pupils being shoe horned into their new school, will have on access to school places at the school and the quality of education.

Finally, Audit Scotland have criticised councils in Scotland in general and this council in particular for the absence of robust options appraisals when making important decisions. There is no options appraisal and apparently a quite Thatcherite There is No Alternative (TINA) response from the Director and the Administration of the Council. This report is therefore an inadequate response.

We should also examine the catchment area for the western gateway. Indisputably Menzieshill High School is closest geographically to the western gateway area and it is in my opinion it is the mark of a geographically challenged person to claim the this expansion area should continue to fall in the nominal catchment area of Ardler Primary School and Baldragon Academy. When you Convener confirmed that this was the case in the press release it was as though you were slamming the door shut on any initiative to support enlarging the potential roll of Menzieshill High School.

In the belief that it would be totally wrong to initiate the closure Menzieshill High School on the basis of single paragraph and a single table of historic pupil numbers in a report reviewing the school estate in the city, in a report that clearly identifies that the targeted school for closure is assessed as being in superior physical condition to two other secondary schools in the city, in the absence of any educational case for closure, and in the absence of an options appraisal, the following amendment is proposed:

2. Recommendations

ii First Bullet Point
"the closure of Menzieshill High School (including the delineation of its existing catchment area within Dundee) to the new Harris Academy, and"


ii Third Bullet Point
"Invites the Director of Education to return to the Education Committee with a comprehensive report about the future of secondary Education at Menzieshill High School containing:
the projected rolls of primary schools in respectively the Menzieshill and Harris catchment areas;
an assessment of the impact of re-delineating the western gateway area from the catchment area of Ardler Primary School/Baldragon Academy to Camperdown Primary School/Menzieshill High School and
an education, pupil focused, options appraisal about the future of Menzieshill High School.

This motion was defeated by all the SNP Councillors voting against it in a block.


Final Countdown to Broughty Christmas Lights Night Thursday 28 November 2014

Broughty Ferry Christmas Light Night 2014
Christmas Light Night in The Ferry –

Thursday November 27th 2014 in Brook Street and Gray Street in the heart of Broughty Ferry from 6pm.

Sponsored by Gillies: featuring live music, carol singing and carnival attractions, with the lights switch on at 7pm!

NOTE Brook St and Gray St will be closed to traffic from 2pm-9pm


Grove Academy 17th in Sunday Times Top 50 State Secondary Schools in Scotland 2014

Grove Academy 17th in Sunday Times Top Fifty State Secondary Schools in Scotland 2014
Click on table to enlarge
Congratulations to the pupils and staff of Grove Academy which has once again been identified as the top performing state secondary school in Dundee and Tayside. 

In a ranking of the top 50 state secondary schools in Scotland published by the Sunday Times on 23rd November 2014, Grove came in at 17th on the list. This is up from 22nd place in 2013.

Grove have consistently achieved a top 30 place in these ratings over the last five years. Note there are over 350 state secondary schools in Scotland.
The Sunday Times published their list of the top fifty state secondary schools in Scotland on Sunday 23 November 2014.


Commenting on Proposed Closure of Menzieshill High School

Menzieshill High School
It is very disappointing news that the SNP Administration of the Council are proposing to close Menzieshill High School as part of the Review of the School Estate. 

Pupils, parents and staff will be wondering why their secondary school has been allowed to wither on the vine as the school roll reduced over recent years. It was a missed opportunity that the catchment area of the school has not been extended to increase the potential pupil numbers. For example, the Western Gateway area is currently in the catchment area for Baldragon Academy when Menzieshill High School is much closer in distance.

There are many questions to be answered about this proposal with very flimsy details in the Education Committee Report.  It surely needs more than two brief paragraphs to justify the closure of one of our Secondary Schools?

Before the meeting of the Education Committee in ten days time, my Labour Group colleagues and I will want to consult with Head Teachers, parents and carers in the schools together with the relevant trade unions affected by the closure of Menzieshill High School and the other schools affected by the wider proposals in the Schools' Estate Review.


Temporary Road Closures Central Broughty Ferry This Week for the Erection of Christmas Lights

being satisfied that traffic on the road should be prohibited by reason of the erection of the Broughty Ferry Christmas Lights being carried out HEREBY PROHIBIT the driving of any vehicle in:

1. Brook Street (between Fort Street and Gray Street), Broughty Ferry.

2. Gray Street (between Long Lane and King Street), Broughty Ferry.

3. Fort Street (between Long Lane and King Street), Broughty Ferry.

This notice comes into effect on Tuesday 18 November 2014  for 3 evenings between the hours of 6.00pm and 11.00pm.

Only one section of road will be closed at any one time.
Local diversion routes will be available for each closure.
Access will be maintained where possible.
For further information contact (01382) 433168.


Disappointing News from Abellio ScotRail - No Plans for Enhanced Rail Services in Broughty Ferry

Broughty Ferry Station Platforms
Dutch firm Abellio take over running ScotRail trains next year on a ten year franchise. It is very disappointing news for Broughty Ferry that even before they begin running our trains, Abellio ScotRail have indicated that they have no plans and commitments to improve the frequency of train services for Broughty Ferry.

Our regional transport body TACTRAN have played their part in making the case for an hourly service from Arbroath to Glasgow stopping at Broughty Ferry. Clearly, the Scottish Government, who approved the terms of the new franchise bidding process, did not make enhancing our local train services a priority.

Residents in Broughty Ferry will be wondering why Shona Robison MSP was clearly so ineffective in supporting her constituents aspirations for improvements to the frequency of stopping services in The Ferry.

Despite this very disappointing start by Abellio, I am seeking reassurance that the priorities and conditions of the new franchise does not mean that the door has been slammed shut on making any improvements to rail services in The Ferry for the next ten years.


Claypotts Road is Closed Due to a Gas Leak

Earlier today (Thursday 13 November 2014) the City Council announced that Claypotts Road had been closed at a point near to Claypotts Castle because of  a gas leak, The Roads Department have advised the road should be open again by Friday evening.

Unfortunately this additional emergency closure will add to delays for drivers at from the ongoing roadworks at the Claypotts intersection.

2015 Broughty Ferry Calendar Now on Sale

Broughty Ferry Traders' Association Calendar 2015
The Broughty Ferry Traders’ Association have just published the 2015 edition of their calendar.

The Broughty Ferry calendar features twelve beautiful photographs, one for each month. The photographs were all submitted to the Traders as entries in their Gala Week Photography Competition this summer.

The calendar photographs attest to the high standard of entries received and to the attractiveness of Broughty Ferry as a place to live, work and visit. Proceeds from the sale of the calendar will help support local good causes. 

The 2015 calendar costs £9.99 and is available from Eduardo Alessandro Studios, 30 Gray Street, DD5 2BJ tel 01382 737011 and many other shops in The Ferry.


Grove Parent Council Meeting 11 November 2014

Last night I attended the meeting of the Grove Parent Council held in the school's staff room.

The parents and carer members of the Parent Council discussed a range of matters with Depute Head Teachers Lesley Elder and Fiona McIntosh.

Amongst the issues covered were enhancing communications between home and school. Lesley Elder circulated and introduced Grove's revised anti bullying policy and procedures which had been updated in the light of the review of citywide policies by the City Council. Parents and carers can read or download this document (on the schools website) by clicking on this link.

The next meeting of the Grove Parent Council will be in January 2015.


Remembrance Day Service at Grove Academy

Grove Academy War Memorial 11.11.2014
This morning I attended the Grove Academy Remembrance Service at 11am at the school's war memorial adjacent to the main entrance.

The short service was led by the chaplaincy team with a pupil trumpeter playing the last post and a young piper the haunting lament. Staff and pupil representatives joined in a thoughtful service, particularly drawing attention to the Grove FPs who died in two world wars and subsequent conflicts.

This year had added poignancy because of the centenary of the outbreak of World War One in 1914. At a personal level, it was brought closer to home following my visit to Flanders in July when my wife and I attended the daily act of commemoration at the Menin Gate in Ypres.


Countdown to Broughty Ferry Christmas Light Night Thursday 27 November 2014

Christmas Light Night in Broughty Ferry
Christmas Light Night in The Ferry – Thursday November 27th 2014 in Brook Street and Gray Street in the heart of Broughty Ferry from 6pm.

Sponsored by Gillies: featuring live music, carol singing and carnival attractions, with the lights switch on at 7pm!

NOTE Brook St and Gray St will be closed to traffic from 2pm-9pm


Remembrance Sunday 2014

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


Commenting on Supply Teacher Shortages in Dundee

The reported shortage of supply teachers in Dundee is putting additional pressure on Headteachers and their staff in our schools to cover classes when colleagues are absent.

The current supply shortage is a result of a very unfortunate combination of factors which have served both to increase the demand for 'supply teachers' and at the same time restrict the supply.

Firstly that the age profile of teacher until recently was skewed towards those approaching retirement. Their replacement with recently qualified younger staff in a profession where women are more numerous has meant that there has been a concurrent increase in the number of staff on maternity leave in any given school year. This year I understand that there are more than 45 teachers in Dundee on maternity leave, all of whom need replacement.

Secondly, there has been a rise in the number of rising five year old children in our city entering Primary School each year; about 300 extra children per year equating to 18 additional classes alll needing a teacher.

Thirdly, one of the SNP's most damaging cuts in education was to reduce the national rate of pay for short term supply teaching. This initially restricted the daily rate of pay for up to five days supply teaching to the lowest rung of the salary scale. For experienced supply teachers, this made short term supply work much less attractive so understandably some supply teachers withdrew from the supply list or became selective; avoiding taking short term supply work at the lower rate of pay.

This has put a strain on teachers and management teams in schools as they cover classes. When this repeatedly happens this takes them away from other roles and tasks that they would be otherwise undertaking. In secondary schools the internal 'please take' cover may be by a teacher who is not qualified in the subject taught. While this cover is satisfactory, if not ideal, for an occasional lesson, this it is not a satisfactory longer term solution for pupils in a class preparing for SQA examinations.

After several years of difficulties securing supply teachers throughout Scotland, the Scottish Government has finally agreed to establish a national task force to look into and come up with some solutions that increase the pool of supply teachers. The sooner this group report, the better.

In the meanwhile, we are exploiting the goodwill of our school teachers and understandably this is wearing thin. Parents I am sure will be anxious that the education of their child does not suffer as a result of these shortages.


Cedar Road and Forthill Road Flooding

Unfortunately flooding at the junction of Forthill Road and Cedar Road in Broughty Ferry happens around a dozen times a year. In addition to the hazard the flood creates, especially for pedestrians, the murky water contains an unhealthy mixture of sewage and rainwater. When the water level eventually subsides, there is a disgusting residue of sewage on the ground. I have received complaints on behalf of the owners of properties in Cedar Road and Seafield Lane. These include penetrating damp into the stonework of a house built into a boundary wall, water damage to a driveway and sewage residues deposited on garden ground as well as the unpleasant experience of travelling up and down a polluted roadway and footpaths.

While Scottish Water organize a clean up of the mess when notified, they explain that they have no current plans to increase the capacity of the drainage system to cope with heavy downpours. They repeatedly say that their current investment plans focus on other priorities which are set by Ministers in the Scottish Government. I think it's time that Shona Robison, our MSP for Dundee City East and a Minister in that Scottish Government, used her influence to get these investment plans modified. There must be many other locations in other parts of the city and elsewhere which have similar problems that need some investment to sort them out. Until then, with climate change, flooding incidents at this junction will be more numerous. I think it's unacceptable that residents have to put up with an inadequate drainage system.


Barnhill Tenants and Residents Group Awarded Grant

Housing Committee Report 27.10.2014 Dundee City Council about recognition of Barnhill Tenants' and Residents' Association
For a number of years there has been a group of tenants meeting informally in North Barnhill. Their interest has been in representing residents living in Abercromby Street, Abernethy Road and Aberdour Place; principally about housing and environmental issues. 

About six months ago, the group agreed to formalise themselves into a fully constituted Tenants' and Residents' Group. With the support of Tenant Participation Officer, Nicola Mitchell and Communities Officer, Carole Jenkins and a considerable amount of detailed work by their committee members, the formalities have now been completed.

At the Housing Committee on Monday evening, the Committee were advised that the recently constituted Barnhill Tenants' and Residents' Association met all the criteria to become a Registered Tenants' Organisation (Housing {Scotland} Act 2001. As well as approving their registration, the Committee also approved an administration grant of £500 for 2014/14.

I wish Barnhill Tenants' and Residents' Association all the best for the future. I am committed to working with them on the issues that they raise on behalf of their local community.


New Website for Broughty Ferry LIfeboat

Homepage of the new website for Broughty Ferry Lifeboat.
Broughty Ferry lifeboat have just re-launched their website following a major overhaul. Their website provides news and information from and for their volunteers and supporters. The revamped website is now accessible on a mobile, tablets well as a laptop and PC.


Happy 125th Birthday Grove Academy 1889 - 2014

Grove Academy Broughty Ferry School Badge
Today marks the 125th anniversary of Grove Academy. It was founded on 10th September 1889 when the Broughty Ferry School Board took over a school established in the 1880s in a house situated at the north east corner of the present site. The original house called the 'Grove' had been a private school known as Mr Swan's Grove Seminary. 

In 1889 the school staff consisted of the headmaster Mr A Hutt, and his two assistant teachers. Mr Hutt was appointed headteacher in 1889 aged 24. He remained in post for 40 years until he retired in 1928.

Grove began life as a response to the increased demand for school places triggered by not only the raising of the school leaving age to 14 in 1883 but also the rising population following the opening of the Dundee and Arbroath Railway in 1838.

During the intervening 125 years, Broughty Ferry and Grove Academy have changed dramatically.  Grove has developed from a small 'all through' school into one of the leading state secondary schools in Scotland.

Many happy and successful returns.


Grove Academy 125th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday 13th September 2014 - Tickets Still Available

Grove Academy, Broughty Ferry, 125th Anniversary Celebration 13 September 2014
Click on image to enlarge
On Saturday 13 September 2014 there will be a celebratory event to mark the 125th Anniversary of Grove Academy. 

During the evening, pupils will be putting on a number of performances including drama, music and readings from archive materials.

There will also be opportunities to see some of the artifacts from the school archive including photographs that date back to 1889.

The quest speaker is the distinguished Grove FP,  Tom Winsor, who is currently Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales.

Tickets are still available @ £14 each and are available from the Grove Office during school hours or you can contact Mr Doherty 01382 436800.


BERA Evening Class Enrolment Night - Monday 8 September 2014 at Grove Academy from 6:30pm

Enrolment night for BERA Evening Classes is Monday 8 September at Grove Academy from 6:30pm.

Broughty Ferry Education and Recreation Association (BERA) recently launched their Programme of evening classes in Broughty Ferry, which will run during the Autumn Term starting in week beginning Monday 15 September 2014.

The classes  are organised on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and take place in Grove Academy. 

Enrolment night is Monday 8 September at Grove Academy from 6:30pm.

Read or Download BERA's programme of classes on the link below or pick up a paper copy of the programme from Broughty Ferry Library.

Link to BERA Programme of Evening Classes for Autumn Term 2014


100+ Young Winners of Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland at Broughty Ferry Library

Broughty Ferry Library Summer Reading Challenge Winners 2014
Click on image to enlarge
On Tuesday evening, I had the pleasure of presenting certificates to 103 children who had completed the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland at Broughty Ferry Library. There were also certificates for 8 children who had completed the Book Bug Challenge for children under 4. The Summer Reading Challenge is designed for children between the ages of 4 and 11. To gain a medal and certificate, each young reader needs to read six books and visit their library three times over the summer holiday. Many of the winners on Tuesday evening had read many more than six books.

The Summer Reading Challenge recognises that, "Reading for pleasure is more important to children’s successes than education or social class. The Summer Reading Challenge gets .... children into libraries to keep up their reading skills and confidence during the long holidays." Clearly it also encourages many children and their parents and carers to their local library.

Congratulation are due to parents, grandparents and carers for supporting their young readers by engaging them in this programme. Thanks are also due to Sandra Westgate our Librarian and her team of staff who have organised the scheme within our library.


BERA Launch their Programme of Evening Classes for Autumn Term 2014

Earlier this week Broughty Ferry Education and Recreation Association (BERA) launched their Programme of evening classes in Broughty Ferry, which will run during the Autumn Term - September to December 2014 starting in week beginning Monday 15 September 2014.

The classes  are organised on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and take place in Grove Academy. 

As well as many classes that have run in previous years, there are new subjects on the programme this year including:
Make the most of tablets, kindle, skype and websites on Monday and Thursday evenings.

Enrolment night in Monday 8 September at Grove Academy from 6:30pm.

Read Download BERA's programme of classes on the link below or pick up a paper copy of the programme from Broughty Ferry Library.

Link to BERA Programme of Evening Classes for Autumn Term 2014


Brilliantly Entertaining Performance of Joseph by DSMT

Last night my wife Rowena and I took our grand daughter to a stage musical. 

We had a most enjoyable night out as we were entertained by the very talented cast of Dundee Schools' Music Theatre. They were performing Andrew Lloyd -Webber and Tim Rice's, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat at the Whitehall Theatre.

The quality of the singing was excellent with standout performances from Zoe Heggie, Ava Hickey and Lucy Pedersen, the three narrators, who confidentally sang three part harmonies and Marcelli Guziewicz who very ably took centre stage as Joseph in dance, drama and song.

The choreographer should be congratulated for devising routines that made full use of the large company who danced and sang their hearts out on the extended stage, as well as singing and dancing their way up and down the aisles.

Every year, I attend DSMT performances, I think it will be hard to top or match that the following year, but truly the cast of Joseph have exceeded themselves and previous shows I have watched.

Making no concession to the age of the teenage performers involved, this was a polished and pacy performance that thoroughly deserved its enthusiastic reception and standing ovation at the end.

Joseph is being performed for the remander of the week Thursday 28 - Saturday 30 August 2014 7:30 pm at the Whitehall Theatre in Dundee. Catch it if you can. 

Book your tickets now or call Dundee City Box Office on 01382 434940


Significant Changes in S4 Subject Choices in Dundee Secondary Schools

I raised this issue on the Agenda of the Education Committee on Monday night because I believe we should be monitoring and responding to the effects of switching from Standard Grades to the new National 4 and 5 examinations.

I want to make it clear that my observations should in no way be seen as a criticism of the examination results of our pupils nor their teachers in our schools. My comments should be seen as issues we should acknowledge and respond to in the current school year.

What was noticed when the changes to the examinations were first flagged up to pupils, parents and carers was the reduction in 25% of the subjects that our young people could enter in their S4 examinations. Whereas an S4 pupil could undertake 8 standard grade courses, with the new National 4 and 5 examinations only 6 subject courses could be followed throughout S4. This reduction seemed to be at odds with the aims of Curriculum for Excellence promoting a broad general education. Some of our secondary teachers had concerns about the effect on fewer choices on the number of senior pupils electing to take their particular subject. Many parents were concerned that this reduction in choice would involve not being able to gain the necessary breadth of qualifications to undertake a particular career.

Now we have some figures it is possible to see that some subjects have suffered from very significant reductions in pupil numbers in S4. Comparing 2012/13 when pupils last took Standard Grades with the first year of taking the new National 4 and 5 examinations, there has been a very big reduction in our young people taking a modern language. An 86% reduction in French, 65% reduction in German and a 21% reduction in Spanish. 666 pupils in classes taking a standard grade modern language (General and Credit classes) in 2013/14 as against 171 taking a National 4 or National 5 class in 2013/14. Changes like this are likely to have a profound effect on the number of young people taking a modern language at Higher. Advanced Higher and subsequently at University. It will also have an effect on the number of language teachers we can maintain in our schools; weakening rather than strengthening this area of the curriculum.

The second issue arises from recommendations from the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board Report This working group reviewed the experience of the first year of the new qualifications and produced a report with recommendations for teachers, local authorities and national bodies about tackling the 'significant and unsustainable level of over assessment (of pupils undertaking National 4 and 5 courses)in many parts of the system.'

With all these issues, I think that parents and carers, pupils and their teachers as well as members of the Education Committee are entitled to know how we will be supporting our secondary schools to respond to these issues in the current school year and beyond.                          


Building Works at Barnhill Primary School Behind Schedule

As we enter the last week of the school holidays, the extension and improvements at Barnhill Primary School are not yet complete with many building workers still on site. 

Teaching staff are programmed to undertake Professional Development and preparation on Monday and Tuesday next week with pupils due to start school on Wednesday 20 August. 

But will the school be ready to handover by the end of this week?  I have been informed that the contractors are running behind schedule but forecast they will now be finished on Friday 15 August. 

I am concerned that if there is any further slippage, the school may not be ready for the pupils and their teachers next week.


Road Safety Fears after Fourth Car Crash at the Same Location in Nursery Road

Last Saturday, a young driver lost control of their vehicle and demolished a brick built garden wall and a street light on Nursery Road. This was reported in the Courier on Monday and Tuesday.

It is very worrying that the car crossed the pavement which is well used by pedestrians and that this is the fourth time over seven years (13 February 2007, 23 December 2010, Christmas morning 2012, and 2 August 2014) that this same garden wall has been significantly damaged by the impact of a car crashing into it. Judged by the damage to the street light and the garden wall, a pedestrian would have been killed or severely injured by such an impact.

I have been contacted by the homeowner whose house fronts onto Campfield Road and whose garden boundary runs along the side of Nursery Road. He is very concerned that this is the fourth such incident and wants some road safety measures to reduce potential damage to life, limb and his property.

I have also been contacted by another resident whom I am sure speaks for many residents in the area:
"I don’t want to seem as though I am overreacting but the last accident took place at a time of day where anyone could be passing. I am in that area a lot and can see that a lot of people, especially parents of young children pass there to and from the shops and the local schools and don’t accept that it is right that the council will only do something when someone is injured as quoted by the house owner’s son in 'The Courier' "

I would also add that this stretch of footpath is well used by residents of the dispersed sheltered housing at Forthill Drive/Nursery Road/Anton Drive who walk or ride their mobility scooters to and from the Campfield Square shops.

I have asked the Head of Transportation on the City Council for a road safety asessment and proposals of measures that will reduce the potential risks to pedestrians at this point.


Broughty Ferry War Memorials Display 4 - 30 August 2014

Broughty Ferry library has organised an exhibition to mark the centenary of the declaration of the beginning of the First World War. 

From 4 - 30 August during library opening hours they are hosting a display of photos of the War Memorials that can be found in the Broughty Ferry churches which commemorate the men who lost their lives in The Great War, 1914-18.  

A Remembrance Book is available.

Broughty Ferry Library Opening Hours and Contact Details


Congratulations to Dundee Pupils on their Exam Results

I warmly congratulate Dundee pupils and students on all their successes in their various SQA examinations and assessments. 

Like our medal winning athletes in the Commonwealth Games, this will not be a flash in the pan but based on hard work over a sustained period of time. And of course I should not forget to credit the support of the equivalent of the coaches and supporters. In this case, the inspiration and encouragement of the teachers and parents and carers as well as the wider network of friends and family will also have been part of the story behind these successes.

For those that are disappointed with their results, I would encourage taking to heart the proverb that my late Father used to repeat on those occasions when I hadn't excelled: 'if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.' 

Later this week or next, analyses should be available from the Director of Education about how the results of our school pupils add up across the city and how these city wide results compare with previous years and with other areas in Scotland. I shall particularly want to find out how the new National 4 and 5 examination results compare with the previous Standard Grade results. 

But for today, the focus should be on celebrating the positive results of our pupils who deserve their day enjoying their successes; their equivalent of a podium finish at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.


Stop and Search Statistics Indicate a Worrying Change in Policing on Our Streets

In the first year of Police Scotland there has been an 82% increase in the number of stop and searches undertaken in Dundee. Since there has not been any dramatic increase in crime in our city, it is clear that there has been a very marked change in policy and practice of policing on our streets. 

The recently published policing statistics, show that 12,420 stop and searches were undertaken in our city during 2013/14 2. Of these:
2 searches were of children 0-9 years, 
776 searches were of children 10-15 years and 
2046 searches were of young people 16-19 years. 

Police Scotland state that the use of stop and search should always be 'lawful, proportionate, intelligence-led and respectful to the member of the public involved' but this dramatic increase in stop and search, particularly of young people, really concerns me. I am worried that young people will feel alienated from the Police if they feel unfairly picked on for stop and search.

A recent inquiry by the Scottish Police Authority (the SPA is the sucessor body to the seven Police Boards) reports that, 'younger age groups are significantly more likely to be searched. However, the detection rate for this population is broadly similar to that of other age groups.' This calls into question whether the dramatic increase in the use of stop and searches inDundee is justified. There are also gaps in the information recorded by Police officers. It is currently not possible to know whether some individuals have been stopped and searched more than once in a year. 

According to the SPA report, 'Most officers have not received any training in the use of stop and search since their probationary training. While many (in their research inteviews) did not perceive a need for training, we consider that officers would benefit from refresher training and further knowledge and skills development.' This is worrying.

Now that more statistics and this SPA review are available, I think we need more local scrutiny of what is happening to policing on our city streets; especially the dramatic increase in 'stop and search'. 

There is more than a suspicion, Chief Constable House is standardising across Scotland forms of Policing he brought with him from the Metropolitan Police in London. But Dundee is not London and Broughty Ferry is not Brixton. 

I think what we want in Dundee and in The Ferry is Policing that is a genuine and proportionate response to law and order issues on our streets and in our communities; not one that that is imposed from elsewhere.


Dot Scot Coming Soon for My Blog

I am looking forward to the 23rd September when my blog can make use of the brand new Scottish domain of ".scot" which was launched last week.

I registered my interest in obtaining the new domain name last year.

My Councillor blog address will become:

The number of Internet addresses has soared to just over over 1 billion, so it's essential to have an address that is short and which stands out. It will also be good to have a website address that more specifically identifies my home location.


Lone Piper from Dundee Plays at Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres

On Thursday evening 3 July 2014, Dundee's Kieran Murray paraded with members of the 1333 Squadron (Grangemouth) Air Training Corps at the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres. Nineteen year old Kieran played a solo lament on the pipes to an attentive crowd of around a 1000. Many nationalities were represented. They had gathered to honour the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and its allies, who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War. 

Kieran, a former pupil of Craigie High School, is a member of 1232 (City of Dundee) Squadron, Air Training Corps. He had joined with the ATC group from Grangemouth who were visiting the war graves on the Western Front.

It was a remarkable coincidence to meet a young citizen from Dundee on Thursday afternoon at the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Cemetery. I was visiting Tyne Cot with my wife Rowena to honour the memory of her maternal grand father, Private Tom Boynette, wo served with the Northumberland Fusiliers and died near Ypres.

In the course of our conversation with Kieran, we discovered that one of his weekly practices is at the Borough Halls in The Ferry just along the road from where we live. It's a small world! 

We had planned to attend the daily last post at the Menin gate in Ypres. Meeting Kieran earlier in the day provided an additional connection with the Last Post ceremony and my home city.