17/12/2015

Pupils at Kingspark School Entertain with Christmas Show

Ticket to Kingspark School 'Snowy Chums' Christmas Show 17 December 2015
Earlier this afternoon, I enjoyed an enthusiastic performance of 'Snowy Chums', the Christmas Show performed by the talented pupils of Kingspark School.

I can't remember any previous school show where the Head Teacher had confidently asserted that every pupil in the school had been involved, one way or another, in the staging of the show and the performance. This was an outstanding example of pupils working together: designing the tickets, preparing the hand written invitations, singing and dancing, taking part in the video about the school, serving refreshments, as well as the enterprise group making and selling Christmas gifts and decorations. 

The performers on stage are to be congratulated for singing their hearts out and mastering and delivering their lines and dance moves.

Head Teacher, Laura Smith, and her staff deserve recognition too for having clearly embedded the 'Getting it Right for Every Child' in their practice. 

15/12/2015

Commenting on Continuing High Levels of Pupil Absence in Dundee Schools

Being at the bottom of a national league table for pupil absence is not where we want to be in our schools and our city. Days lost through absence from school are days lost from learning.

Of course it is important to recognise that average attendances mask the fact that a majority of our pupils have excellent attendance at school. On the other hand, a relatively small proportion of pupils may have a very poor record of attendance which depresses the average attendance in a specific school and across the city. However we interpret them however, there is a job to be done to raise the average citywide attendance.

When we look for solutions, I have misgivings about putting too much reliance on short term projects employing temporary staff. When their project is over, after two or three years, the initiatives they have begun may well be unsustainable by the remaining core staff in a school. 

The reduction in the number of Guidance staff in Secondary Schools and the number of Depute Head Teachers in our Primary Schools will not have helped our schools focus on tackling non attendance. These cuts have reduced the senior staff who would directly follow up these issues with pupils and their teachers as well as parents and carers.

Just now the Council is consulting on a plan to reduce by a third the number of places for pupils in our three small scale Education Centres which offer an alternative to secondary pupils who are disengaged from their secondary schools who often have multiple additional support for learning needs. Currently many of the pupils who transfer to one of these centres experience a dramatic improvement to their attendance and participation in learning. I am concerned that the vague alternative and much cheaper services the Council are discussing will make matters worse not better for these pupils and less effective in promoting their attendance and participation by these pupils.

If we are going to tackle a low average attendance in our schools, relative to other Councils in Scotland, I think we need to stick with what currently works and promote initiatives that have the backing of staff and parents and carers, rather than impose more short term initiatives from the centre.

14/12/2015

Widespread Disapproval by Ferry Residents to Proposals from Local Government Boundary Commission

Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland
Last week it was reported that close to 1000 residents from The Ferry had submitted written objections to the Boundary Commission for Local Government in Scotland (LGBCS). 

Their representations have focused on opposing the proposal for removing that part of West Ferry that lies to the west of Victoria Road and Claypotts Road from Ward 8 The Ferry for elections to the Dundee City Council.

By any measure. this level of public response is a magnificent display of community solidarity, an overwhelming demonstration of disapproval with these proposals and a clear vote for West Ferry staying an integral part of The Ferry ward for city council elections.

We now await the deliberations of the Boundary Commission for Local Government in Scotland. Apparently, any changes they finally recommend to the Scottish Government would be planned to come into force for the next local Government elections in May 2017.

Link to my representation to the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland

12/12/2015

Ferry Christmas Carol Service 7pm Monday 14 December 2015 St James's Parish Church

The annual Lifeboat Carol Concert will be held in St James Parish Church (the Lifeboat Church) on Monday 14 December 2015 beginning at 7pm

This is a wonderful opportunity to join in carol singing, remember the work of our brave and dedicated volunteer lifeboat crews and donate to the Lifeboat via the offertory.

St James’ Parish Church, Fort Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, DD5 2AD

11/12/2015

Commenting on Increasing Class Sizes in Dundee Primary Schools

Short term Education cuts - Long term damage
I know parents and carers in Dundee will be concerned by the news that class sizes in Dundee are continuing to increase and the number of teachers we employ has declined significantly. They know that the quality of the education their children receive depends on the expertise and number of teachers in local schools.

The SNP's record of running Education in Dundee is imposing one cut after another in the number of teachers in our schools. In the census in September 2010 there were 1511 teachers in post and in September 2015 this was down to 1409. This loss of over 100 posts represents the equivalent of more than two teachers in each of the primary and secondary school in the city. We can't go on like this cutting the schools' budget year after year and not expect that this will undermine the attainment and achievement of our children.

Strangely when the City Council was provided with the opportunity to bid for extra millions of pounds to help close the attainment gap in our city, they have apparently declined the opportunity to employ more teachers to reduce class sizes, especially in the early years.

For the second year running, the Education Convener, Councillor Stewart Hunter is presiding over the worst record in Scotland for the proportion of pupils who are taught in class sizes of 18 or fewer in P1-3 classes in our Primary Schools.

The plain fact is that the cash the city has received from Scottish Government has been reduced year after year and the Council Tax has been frozen. While George Osborne and the UK Government has imposed significant cuts in the value of their annual block grant to the Scottish Government, the SNP government in Holyrood must also accept responsibility for imposing cuts in our schools by avoiding using the powers they possessed to increase the rate of income tax and failing to bring in a new system of local government funding to replace the Council Tax.