Accident Damaged Wall Reported to the Council

Accident damaged wall at the corner of Dundee Road and Douglas Terrace, Broughty Ferry February 2014
Earlier this week it was reported that a car was in collision with the low boundary wall of this well tended open space at the corner of Dundee Road and Douglas Terrace.

A constituent contacted me and asked who was going to repair the obvious damage to the stone wall. It must have been quite an impact with debris scattered over the grass.

I have contacted the City Engineer and Planning Department to ask them to arrange for the wall to be sensitively reinstated, emphasising this open space is part of the West Ferry Conservation Area.


Broughty Ferry Community Council Launch New Website

Broughty Ferry Community Council New Website February 2014
Click on image to enlarge
Broughty Ferry Community Council have just relaunched their website.

Their new website is uncluttered and easy to navigate. It helpfully provides access to minutes and agendas of their meetings and all their activities working on behalf of The Ferry. Their next meeting will be held on Tuesday 4 March 2014 beginning at 7pm.

Broughty Ferry Community Council meets on the first Tuesday of every month (excluding August and January) in the Library, Queen Street, Broughty Ferry Dundee DD5 2HN.
Community Council meetings begin at 7pm and are open to the public.


Changing the Way We Care Free Conference for Older People in Dundee 13 March 2014

Changing the Way We Care 2014
Click on image to enlarge
Dundee's dynamic Celebrate Age Network are holding a consultative conference for older people in the city on Thursday afternoon 13 March 2014 1.30 –4.30pm. Venue Baptist Church, Ward Road, Dundee.

This free event will provide older people in Dundee the chance to give their views directly to social work, health and housing about how they want services delivered.
Register your interest in attending 
now by contacting Hazel Imrie telephone (01382) 305741. Please tell Hazel if you need transport to get to the event.


Mills Observatory Summer Closure - More Budget Cuts Emerge

Over the weekend disturbing news emerged about the Mills Observatory. An article in The Scotsman - Summer Closure of Mills Observatory Ridiculed - revealed that Leisure & Culture Dundee, the arms length organisation that runs libraries, museums, swimming pools and sport halls, has apparently decided to cut back on the summer opening hours of the Observatory. This 'saving' was apparently one of the knock-on effects of the Council's budget last week.

I was surprised and disappointed that the summer closure of the Mills Observatory was being contemplated. This certainly had not been conveyed to us in the budget papers supplied. 

This brings into sharp relief the more limited scope of oversight by elected members when council services are devolved to arms length bodies such as Leisure and Culture Dundee.

The Mills Observatory on Balgay Hill is a unique part of the 'cultural offer' in Dundee. In fact we proudly boast as a city that it is the only full time public observatory in the United Kingdom.  

With the construction of the V&A just round the corner, it is a great pity that other parts of our cultural 'offer' in Dundee are being cut back. This seems counter productive.


Roads Maintenance Partnership Respond Quickly to Dangerous Hole on the Pilot Pier

Pothole at the Pilot Pier in Broughty Ferry February 2014
Click on image to enlarge
Earlier this week, following a period of stormy weather, a constituent noticed that a large hole had appeared in the surface of the Pilot Pier in The Ferry.

Whether or not this was caused by waves braking over the end of the pier, it was clear that some of the stone setts which previously formed the surface of the pavement are now in the sea.

On Wednesday morning, I contacted the Roads' Maintenance Partnership who arranged within a few hours to install a temporary metal cover over the hole pending a more permanent repair. This was a quick and efficient response in the interests of public safety.

I have also requested that the stone setts are removed from the Beach and retained for the tradespeople who will come to fill in the hole and restore the surface.


Labour Budget Proposal Can Retain the Early Years Practitioners Based in 22 of Our Primary Schools

At the Council's Budget Meeting this afternoon (Thursday 13 February 2014), the alternative budget savings Labour Councillors have identified will allow us to propose an amendment to the budget brought forward by the SNP Administration of the Council. 

I am relieved that we have found a way to stop the removal of the Early Years Practitioners who work in twenty two of our Primary Schools in the City. These practitioners, many educated to degree level, make an important contribution to pupils learning by, for example, taking reading and maths groups in P1-3 classes.

I trust that the SNP Administration will recognise the weight of public opinion against this damaging cut and support our amendment.

Since the SNP took over the administration of the Council in April 2009, they have removed staff from our Primary Schools year after year.

In successive budgets they have cut a Deputy Head Teacher from each of our Primary Schools, removed the team of visiting teachers of PE and Music from working in all our primary schools and increased class sizes.

This time I hope they will step back from imposing a damaging further cutback in our Primary Schools, which we have shown can be avoided.


Potholes at Junction of King Street and Westfield Road Reported to Roads Maintenance Partnership

Potholes close to the junction of Westfield Road and King Street in Broughty Ferry, February 2014
Earlier today I reported a series of sizeable potholes in the road close to the junction of King  Street and Westfield Road in The Ferry.

As you can see, some of these fissures run along the joints from previous repairs.

I have asked the Roads' Maintenance Partnership to fix these as soon as possible.

Potholes close to the junction of Westfield Road and King Street in Broughty Ferry, February 2014

Council Urged to Support Youth Work Provision in Dundee With More Than Words

Our ambitions for improving the life chances of young people in Scotland: Draft National Youth Work Strategy 2014-19 (Cover)
At the Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening 10 February, we considered a draft response to:
"Our ambitions for improving the life chances of young people in Scotland: Draft National Youth Work Strategy 2014-19."

This is my contribution to the debate:

Convener, we welcome this strategy and the Council's draft response. Our young people, deserve quality youth work provision wherever they live in Dundee.

This Draft Strategy for Youth Work states that:

"All young people should have access to high quality and effective youth work practice. It is only by planning young people at the heart of our work that we can begin to develop services and realise ambitions."

These objectives are ones we support.

But the Council's ringing endorsement of youth work and the new strategy appears to be at odds with the budget proposals we will be considering later this week (Thursday 13 February 2014) which propose a reduction of the equivalent of 4 full time Youth Workers. Over two years this would amount to a 7% cut in youth worker provision in Dundee.

Words in a strategy are cheap Convener. Young people in Dundee will judge you by your actions and whether your administration is at least maintaining the number of youth workers in our city.


International Safer Internet Day Tuesday 11 February 2014

Safer Internet Day Logo
Today, is the designated international Safer Internet Day 2014.

Safer Internet Day is organized by Insafe, a European network constituted by 30 national Safer Internet Centres in EU member states and in Iceland, Norway and Russia.

With a different theme each year, the 2014 theme is "Let's Create a Better Internet Together."

In Dundee the major linked event will actually take place on Thursday. A group of organisations is providing a free drop-in event How to Stay Safe Online which is to be held on Thursday 13 February 11:00 am to 15:00 pm in the Steeple Church, Nethergate Dundee. This seems like a sensible switch (from Tuesday) as Thursday is a CPD day for teachers and a holiday for children.
Link to details How to Stay Safe Online.


Eastern Primary School Nursery Receives Good Report from Care Inspectorate

Care Inspection Report Eastern Primary School Nursery
In November 2013, the Nursery at Eastern Primary School was visited by the Care Inspectorate. Last week the report on their inspection was published.

Given the short interval between the previous inspection in February 2013 and the latest one, just nine months later in November, I think the nursery staff are to be congratulated on the very positive progress that is acknowledged in the new report:

"What the service does well:

Children were cared for in a well organised and resourced environment, providing them with many learning opportunities. Staff were working well as a team to make improvements within the nursery, as a result this was improving outcomes for the children attending."

The Inspection Grades awarded were as follows:
  • Quality of Care and Support - Grade 4 - Good
  • Quality of Environment - Grade 4 - Good
  • Quality of Staffing - Grade 4 - Good
  • Quality of Management and Leadership - Grade 4 - Good
Feedback from parents and carers to the Inspector was very positive about the nursery staff and the standard of care they showed in practice and the learning and development of the children that was being fostered.


How to Stay Safe Online Event for Adults, Young People and Parents Thursday 13 February 2013 11:00-15:00

How to Stay Safe Online Event Dundee 13 February 2014
Click on image to enlarge
A number of agencies in Dundee in our city are promoting this event about online safety:

How to Stay Safe Safe Online

Thursday 13 February 11:00 am to 15:00 pm in the Steeple Church, Nethergate Dundee.

It's a drop in event with activities for all ages.

For parents and carers this is well timed as a free activity in the city centre on a CPD day in our schools when children will be off school and at home.

Come on in and join in the activities.

This event is the Dundee contribution to marking Safer Internet Day in our city.


Grove Academy Prominent in Sunday Times Top 50 State Secondary Schools in Scotland

Grove Academy in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, Sunday Times List of Top 50 State School in Scotland January 2014
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Congratulations to the pupils and staff of Grove Academy which has once again been identified as the top performing secondary school in Dundee and Tayside. 

In a ranking of the top 50 state secondary schools in Scotland published by the Sunday Times, Grove came in at 22 on the list above Kinross High School at 25 and Monifieth High School at 47.

The Sunday Times published their list of the top fifty state secondary schools in Scotland on Sunday 27 January 2014.


Revealed the 22 Dundee Schools Which Will Lose their Early Years Practitioners in Proposed Budget Cuts

The Head of Primary Education in Dundee has confirmed that the following 22 Primary Schools in Dundee will lose their Early Years Practitioners (EYPs) as proposed by the SNP administration of the Council. These staff will be removed from every one of of these schools in the proposed budget cuts for the year April 2014-March 2015.

These twenty two schools were previously chosen for these appointments on the basis of the challenge that many of their pupils experience in their learning. I think parents and carers whose children have a reading or maths group taken by an EYP will want to know how that work will be covered once their valued knowledge and skills are removed. 

Despite claims to the contrary by members of the Council Administration, these cuts will clearly reduce front line services in each of these schools:
  1. Ardler
  2. Craigowl
  3. Sidlaw View
  4. St Andrew's
  5. St Fergus
  6. Ballumbie
  7. Fintry
  8. Longhaugh
  9. St Luke's and St Matthew's
  10. Rowantree
  11. Claypotts Castle
  12. St Vincent’s
  13. Camperdown
  14. Gowriehill
  15. St Clement’s
  16. St Mary’s
  17. Ancrum
  18. Dens Road
  19. Rosebank
  20. St Peter and St Paul
  21. Clepington
  22. Our Lady’s


Commenting on the Proposed Loss of Early Years Practitioners from 22 Primary Schools in Dundee

On Monday Councillors received a copy of a letter sent by the Early Years Practitioners who work in 22 of our Primary Schools in Dundee. They are very concerned that as a budget saving their jobs in Primary Schools will disappear from June this year. 

In the SNP's budget proposals their jobs they will be cut from the primary schools and they will transferred to work in the nurseries to support more nursery hours for 3-5 year olds. This seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I think the Early Years Practitioners are right to be concerned on our behalf about a significant reduction in front line staff who work directly with children in our Primary Schools. The Early Learning Practitioners, many of whom are educated to degree level, work with reading groups and support children who otherwise might fall behind with their learning. On my recent visits to Primary Schools, I have seen at first hand the positive contribution they make supporting the teacher and the learning in our primary classrooms. For example; taking P1 reading groups involved in the new Read Write Inc reading programme. Some of these posts were established under the Raising Early Attainment in Dundee as long ago as 1997.  

This proposed cut will make it much harder to believe that the Council is committed to its Fairness Agenda and getting it right for every child.

Unfortunately, the SNP administration have a poor record on Primary Education. In their recent council budgets year after year they have removed teachers and staff concerned with children's learning in our Primary Schools.

I hope the letter from the Early Years Practitioners prompts the SNP administration of the Council to think again and find a way to withdraw this damaging 'saving' from their budget proposals.