29/11/2014

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

THE ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984 SECTION 14(1)

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 The one-way order relating to Long Lane will be rescinded for the duration of these works.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

28/11/2014

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 

27/11/2014

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

B

Insert
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.

26/11/2014

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

24/11/2014

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.

18/11/2014

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.

17/11/2014

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

THE DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AS TRAFFIC AUTHORITY
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.

15/11/2014

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.

13/11/2014

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.

12/11/2014

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.

11/11/2014

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.

10/11/2014

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

09/11/2014

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.

04/11/2014

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.