Swinney “side-stepping” massive problems in Scottish education

In response to John Swinney’s statements on the state of Scottish education to the Education Committee and Parliament today, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP said:

“The SNP side-stepped the massive problems with education in the Programme for Government and have failed to convince anyone it’s their number one priority.

"After a decade in power they appear to have done a decade's worth of damage. The Education Secretary needs to act urgently to give teachers a better deal, reassure parents and end the time-wasting practice of testing five-year-olds."

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National testing review a “blatant spin document”

Responding to the publication of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments User Review Year 1, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP commented:

“Parents and teacher will be horrified at this blatant spin document from ministers. The report makes it clear right from the start that ministers will carry on regardless.

“Page after page backs up our concerns that some children have been unable to manage the technology to take the tests. Schools have had to use senior pupils and staff to sit in with younger children. Teachers are questioning the value of the tests.

“Despite all the concerns,  the government’s solution is to ask the same test questions but in a different order.

“These tests for P1 children have been shown up as time-consuming, confusing and of limited value. The SNP are carrying on regardless. We say they should stop the P1 tests. We want a vote at Holyrood to force ministers to see the sense in halting them.

"Young children in Scotland deserve better than being treated as another experiment for ministers."

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Scott: SNP Government turns into testing bully

Shetland MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott today said the SNP Government has resorted to "throwing its weight around like a playground bully" after it was revealed it has now instructed local authorities to deny parents' requests to withdraw their children from national testing.

The instruction was contained in a letter to council education directors published by TES Scotland. The Scottish Government stated that "parents don't have the option to opt out of the assessments" except in "exceptional circumstances".

This flatly contradicts the advice previously given by the Scottish Government and testing bosses to parents. For example, a freedom of information request showed the top testing official telling Glasgow City Council in March that "With respect to parental rights to withdraw, your parents is [sic] right that there is no legal requirement to sit the SNSA. On that basis the children can be withdrawn."

The new letter states that the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland (SOLAR) was of the view that that parents have no right to withdraw their children but it did not say whether the Scottish Government, the architect and driver of the national testing regime, had sought or received its own legal advice.

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SNP undermining own education engagement plan

Shetland MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott has said the SNP Government stonewalling and deliberately confusing parents over their right to withdraw their children from national testing is completely at odds with the Education Secretary's new parental engagement plan, published today.

The Scottish Government’s engagement plan is intended to help “address barriers some parents may face” and "enhance the role of parents in their child's education". However, as the Scottish Liberal Democrats highlighted last week, barriers include the failure to tell parents key information about their rights and their child's schooling.

The Scottish Government's leaflet for parents didn't tell them of their right to withdraw their child from national testing. Those that queried this directly were repeatedly not given a straight answer. In an effort to quash a parental boycott the government now says they have "no formal legal right" to withdraw their children, despite emails showing this flatly contradicts the advice given by the project's top civil servant.

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Scottish Government leaves hundreds of crofts and farms in the lurch without CAP payments – 30 businesses in Shetland still waiting

Scottish Liberal Democrats have today said farmers are despairing after revealing that 492 farming and crofting businesses are still waiting to receive CAP funding from the 2017 funding round.

 

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott voiced his frustration that 30 crofters and farmers across the islands are among those still waiting.

 

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Scott condemns Shetlanders' exclusion from university access schemes

Scottish Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson and MSP for Shetland Tavish Scott has written to the Principal of Edinburgh University, Professor Peter Mathieson, criticising the move to award clearing places only to those students identified as being from poorer backgrounds by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), a decision which excludes every prospective student from a more deprived background currently living in Shetland.

This approach has been criticised by University of Edinburgh Professor of Education Policy, Lindsay Paterson who highlighted figures suggesting that 65 per cent of young people from low income households do not live in the SIMD 20 postcodes. A paper from the Commission on Widening Access, published in March 2016, stated that "SIMD, as an area based measure, is considered too blunt to identify individual circumstances".

The letter is copied to Education Secretary John Swinney and the Commissioner for Fair Access, Sir Peter Scott, and follows Mr Scott’s criticism earlier this year of Aberdeen University’s decision to award a year’s free university accommodation to SIMD 20 students at a cost of some £130,000, and new information acquired through a Lib Dem FOI request showing Robert Gordon University also operating two SIMD only schemes, one of which gives students a goody bag worth £250.

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Northern Isles Digital Forum - Shetland

Islesburgh Community Centre, Friday 17th August 2018, 11am to 1pm

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Scot Lib Dems to propose boost for teachers at autumn conference

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP laid out yesterday a plan to back teachers with a range of proposals designed to restore the status, strength and resilience of the profession to be discussed at the party's conference next month.

The party has repeatedly called for McCrone 2 - an independent expert commission to review teachers' terms and the demands placed upon them.  In Dunfermline on 8 September, delegates will now be asked to back the Commission designing and delivering better conditions for teachers including:

  • A new “teacher premium” for schools in disadvantaged areas consisting of pay supplements designed to attract and reward the best teachers for the schools in greatest need;
  • New, optional, three-year packages for probationer teachers – consisting of the current one-year probationary period plus two further guaranteed years – to help local authorities get graduates to take up posts in certain geographical areas such as the Highlands and the North East.
  • New retention bonuses paid to new teachers who commit to posts in hard-to-fill areas;
  • A guaranteed minimum level of support staff in every school to allow teachers to focus on the needs of each individual pupil;
  • A pay rise for teachers to reflect that starting salaries are 20% lower than comparable professions
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Scott: SNP must trust teachers or classrooms will face another difficult year

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott has today said that the Scottish Government must trust teachers or classrooms will face another difficult year as further evidence of the impact of the Government's education policies emerged.

This week:

  • Exam results showed the total number of courses passed by S4 pupils has declined by a third since 2013, with education expert Keir Bloomer saying the government had been "sleepwalking" towards a "castrophic" drop, "giving young people fewer opportunities".
  • Analysis by Professor Jim Scott showed the number of S4 pupils studying and passing French has dropped by more than 60% (27,626 pupils passed in 2012-13, compared to just 9,854 last year), with other modern languages also experiencing big falls.
  • It was revealed that there were almost 700 vacant teacher posts as the new term approaches.

It comes after last week Scottish Liberal Democrats unearthed that ministers were sent hundreds of pages worth of blistering feedback from teachers on national testing of P1 pupils, with teaching unions now contemplating boycotts;

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Scott and McArthur Demand Updates on Steps to Unlock RET Impasse

Following the failure of the Scottish Government to introduce full RET on Orkney ferry routes this summer and resorting to a stop gap equivalent for the Aberdeen-Lerwick and Kirkwall-Lerwick routes, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur have called on the new Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, to update local residents on the steps being taken by the government to resolve the impasse.

Despite repeated promises to introduce the cheaper ferry fares scheme before parliament rose for the summer recess at the end of June, Ministers failed to deliver after they were unable to reach agreement with Pentland Ferries on the details of the scheme.  As a result, fares for passengers and cars on routes serving Orkney remain higher than they should be with no indication as to when this situation will be resolved.

For services out of Lerwick, fares have been reduced by 12% for islanders as cabins are not included. This is far from the 40% promised by the Scottish Government last year.

Mr Scott and Mr McArthur, have now written to Mr Matheson reiterating their disappointment and demanding an update.

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