Late and Lengthy Guidance for Teachers Issued with Letter from Cabinet Secretary for Education

On Monday morning, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, issued a letter to all teachers in Scotland along with links to three separate documents:

A Statement for Practitioners from HM Chief Inspector of Education August 2016 (6 Pages)

Benchmarks Numeracy and Mathematics Draft, August 2016 (43 pages)

Benchmarks Literacy and English Draft August 2016 (49 pages)

In his letter he says, 
"I accept in the last few years, that time (of teachers) has become cluttered by a plethora of guidance and advice that, however well intentioned, has led to increased workload, confusion and duplication. I am determined to tackle that problem."

While he promised to deliver this to teachers by the beginning of the new school year, he must be embarrassed that he has missed his target by two weeks with two of the documents unfinished and only issued in draft. Issuing almost one hundred pages of additional guidance may also suggest that he has not made a good start in simplifying and clarifying the priorities for our school teachers.

Clearly more documentation will need to be considered when the final versions of the Benchmarks for Maths and English are eventually circulated. I think, the length and ambition of the new documents mean that it will be difficult for our Head Teachers to find collective time to work out with their staff what this means for their schools until the next CPD days in November. 

This is a disappointing start from the Cabinet Secretary for Education.


Pedal for Scotland Cycle Challenge Sunday 11 September 2016 - Please Sponsor Me

Pedal for Scotland Classic Challenge 11 September 2016
On Sunday 11 September 2016 I will be taking part in the Pedal for Scotland 55 mile cycle ride between Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Please sponsor me. 

I am fundraising for Tushinde Children's Trust - Charity Registration No. SC041330. 

Tushinde supports vulnerable children in the Mathare slums in Nairobi. These children have often lost one or both of their parents to HIV and are being brought up by kinship carers. In response, Tushinde organises child sponsorships which promote positive education and health outcomes.

Link to Tushinde's August Newsletter

Donate now - link to my Just Giving Fundraising Page


Singing, Skating and Dancing Sensation from Dundee Schools Music Theatre Performing Starlight Express

On Friday night I attended a  very entertaining and professional performance of Starlight Express by Dundee Schools' Music Theatre (DSMT).

At a packed Gardyne Theatre, the very talented young players sang and danced their way through a series of lively routines. As a regular at these shows, this is what I have come to expect from DSMT. But on this occasion, the staging required the cast to roller skate as well. 

All the young players danced in their skates, sang in their skates and acted on their skates and in motion. In fact, exploiting a tricky loop down to and up from the orchestra pit had us on the edge of our seats.

Thank you DSMT for such a fun night at your music theatre..


Commenting on Lack of Spare Places in Dundee Primary Schools to Cope with A Rising Number of Children

Where is my Nursery place?
The figures obtained from the City Council support the warnings I have issued in recent years. I have made it clear to the Council that it is continuing to reduce capacity in our primary schools through school mergers and school closures while the number of school pupils in Dundee is continuing to rise. This is a recipe for disappointment for parents and carers when they can't get their child a place in school. 

Bearing in mind that our Primary schools and Nursery schools will need extra places to cope with a doubling of nursery hours by 2020, the Council can't be complacent about this. New school buildings or conversions take a long time, 4-5 years, to put in place. 

When the next School Estate Review is published in the Autumn, we will be able to see whether Councillor Hunter is continuing to ignore warnings that he is gambling with the future of our school children by failing to change direction. I don't want Dundee to be known as Dundee City of Portable Classrooms.


Dundee Pupils Excel in Barnum at Dundee Rep

Dundee Schools' Music Theatre perform Barnum August 2016
On Friday night I was at Dundee Rep where I thoroughly enjoyed a very entertaining and 'professional' performance of Barnum.

Senior pupils from our eight secondary schoools, who make up the company of Dundee Schools' Music Theatre, were the actors, singers and dancers who combined so wonderfully on stage.

Marceli Guziewicz played the demanding role of Phineas Taylor Barnum. He was on stage for most of the night with a confident presence and credible characterisation. Other stand out performers were Ava Hickey who played Charity Barnum, Jessica Sommerville who played the ringmaster and Tobenna Ogwuda who sang so brilliantly.

The company however all deserve praise for their dancing, singing and their juggling, clowning, acrobatics and other circus skills.

Even by the high standards of Dundee Schools' Music Theatre, this was an outstanding performance.


Commenting on Attendance, Absence and Exclusion in Dundee Schools

Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland 2014/15
The Report before the Children and Families' Service Committee on Monday 22 August 2016 about Attendance, Absence and Exclusion in our schools has some progress to report. I think it is important to recognise that the trends on attendance rates and exclusions are at last moving in a positive direction.  

There is however, clearly much to be done particularly in reducing the rate of exclusion of looked after children in our City.   In the latest figures, the exclusion rate for looked after children is 15% compared with non-looked after children at 2%. This cannot be right.  On Monday night therefore, I want to hear more about how we are going to narrow this gap.

One of the other issues which is not mentioned in the report is about lateness. Unfortunately persistent lateness is still an issue for a significant number of pupils in our primary and secondary schools. I know some of our schools have specific initiatives to try and break the cycle of starting school late and thereby disrupting learning several days in every week. In future, I think lateness should also be reported along with attendance, absence and exclusion.

Finally, I think parents and carers whose children attend regularly and punctually and are not excluded would like to know more about how our schools are providing constructive alternatives to exclusion within school in a way that does not disrupt the learning of the majority of pupils who want to learn.


Temporary Closure of Brown Street Broughty Ferry from Tuesday 16th August 2016

being satisfied that traffic on the road should be prohibited by reason of carriageway resurfacing works being carried out HEREBY PROHIBIT the driving of any vehicle in Brown Street, (from No.77 Brook Street to the North side of Long Lane) Broughty Ferry, Dundee.

This notice comes into effect on Tuesday 16th August 2016 for five working days.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained.

The terms of the DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL (DUNDEE (ONE WAY TRAFFIC) CONSOLIDATION) 1987 will require to be suspended where they relate to ONE WAY TRAFFIC in Long Lane for the duration of the above

Alternative routes for vehicles are available via Brook Street/Fort Street/King Street/ and reverse

For further information contact (01382) 433168.

Mike Galloway
Director of City Development


Ferry Food Fayre Sunday 14 August 2016 12:00-16:30

Once again, Food and Hospitality members of the Broughty Ferry Traders Association have got together to showcase the wealth of the food and hospitality available in Broughty Ferry. The event is has grown after the overwhelming popularity of the 2015 event and promises to give locals and visitors an opportunity to meet their local food producers and find out more about where their food comes from.
The event, at the Best Western Woodlands Hotel on Sunday 14 August 2016, is free and features opportunities for the public to get involved with competitions including The Great Broughty Bake Off and The Great Broughty Shake Off for cocktail lovers. There will also be demos, raffles, tastings and talks.
The event has been co-ordinated, again by Clementine Co-owner and BFTA Committee Member, Jan McTaggart:
"Last year’s Ferry Food Fayre was incredibly popular. In fact, it was much, much busier than we had expected! It was lovely that so many folk turned out to support our new event – which showed that there’s quite an appetite for this kind of thing. So, we knew we simply had to do it again... but bigger and better!"
The Woodlands Hotel has made everything possible by providing the whole of the ground floor including the restaurant, bar, library and outside areas which means that there will be separate spaces for the talks and demos, the Bake Off display and for the stalls. Scott Brothers are doing a barbeque outside and the Woodlands Hotel Head Chef is opening up his kitchen for a unique, behind the scenes experience where customers will be able to buy food directly from the people who cooked it. Like last year, the Ferry’s incredible cafes will be there – including new business Lulu’s Gluten Free Goodies – so everyone will be able to enjoy some cake!
This year the organisers of the Food Fayre encouraging people to enjoy the walk to the Woodlands to help avoid traffic congestion in the area. It also means that they’ll be able to enjoy the offerings from Ogilvy Vodka and Aitkens Wines! And for people who really need to take the car- they’ve got some willing volunteers from the Traders' Association who will help direct the traffic around the car park entrance. They’ve also had the kind offer of a free mini bus from Barnhill Travel – so they may be able to offer some free transport too.