29/08/2014

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

28/08/2014

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

26/08/2014

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.                          

12/08/2014

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.

07/08/2014

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.

06/08/2014

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

05/08/2014

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.

01/08/2014

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.