Help the children

The First Minister has stated that Scotland's failing education system is simply 'not good enough' and raising standards are her highest priority in government.

I met a young teacher recently, who does not have a permanent teaching position but is in a “permanent” supply situation, in the north east of Scotland. She said there are children leaving junior school aged 11 and 12 who cannot read. Further, when she visits these schools, she finds no daily programmes of work in place which she should follow, as a temporary replacement. She has to “free range” her daily schedule.

When will the First Minister match her rhetoric with action and commit all her energy and resources into producing educated children in Scotland, who can sustain both themselves and their country in a very competitive modern world? All we hear about is independence – when will Ms Sturgeon get a grip on the reality of the day job and deal with the biggest problem currently facing the country?

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Jimmy Armstrong

Abergeldie Road, Ballater

As someone who has worked in education for nearly 40 years I despair at times of grand plans for education, such as the “Scottish Baccalaureate” (your report, 15 August). This may sound like a gripe about the SNP Government, but let me say I find Labour’s plan for a “Scottish Graduation Certificate” just as baffling. Highers have become a standard that are understood by employers and UK academia; the Scottish Baccalaureate is a complete unknown, and the “Scottish” label loses any currency the “Baccalaureate” part may imply. That only 140 students are taking this, after seven years of operation, suggests all this is doing is putting their prospects at risk, even the 73 per cent that actually passed.

The Baccalaureate is an internationally recognised qualification, as are A levels. Do we have to redefine and label everything as Scottish? The SNP want to embrace Europe, and to standardise. Should we not start with education, and stop playing around with the future of our children simply to realign everything with political dogma?

Ken Currie

Liberton Drive, Edinburgh

In the run-up to the Scottish Parliament election, Nicola Sturgeon gave bold commitments about overcoming the educational attainment gap between children from the poorest and better-off areas of Scotland. She spoke of placing this objective at the centre of all that the Scottish Government did, and how we should judge her on the success on this critical issue. In the SNP manifesto the objective was described as “making significant progress in closing the gap within the next parliament”. Indeed, back in January, the First Minister went as far as saying she would completely remove the attainment gap over the next decade.

Weekend reports about the way the language on this is being toned down suggests Education Secretary John Swinney is seeing a need for more realism in ambitions, as the progress to be achieved is now being referred to as “demonstrable” and “substantial” respectively. Of itself, this is not so surprising, it was just a shame that in trying to make a point in speeches ahead of an election, the First Minister once again overdid the rhetoric, particularly when priorities can change, which it is clear has happened to Nicola Sturgeon’s post the Brexit vote.

The key in relation to the attainment gap, is whether genuine progress can be made in what is essentially an issue of tackling the consequences of poverty. Targeting education to achieve this will arguably require far more resources than the SNP government have allocated to date, with rather underwhelming sums that will be heavily diluted as they are spread across the whole scope of the areas being addressed. Overcoming poverty is a complex issue, and education is likely to only ever be a part of the necessary response. The Scottish government must be careful it does not unfairly put teachers in the position of being at the forefront of the government’s response to some of society’s most intractable problems, without sufficient resources or the necessary coordinated social policy action.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Why the worry that 10 per cent fewer Scottish pupils are studying “H” Grade Maths? If this finally forces the educational establishment to look again at Maths’ pre-eminent position in the Scottish curriculum, so be it. One of the biggest cons inflicted on society was that which said “numeracy should represent the mirror image of Literacy”(The Crowther Report, 1959).

The success of the con meant lucrative careers for hundreds of maths teachers as the subject became compulsory in the curriculum.For me only Latin was a bigger waste of my time.And just as tedious.

Yes, we all need arithmetic.I need to understand Dunfermline Athletic’s goal difference and know when the next Inverkeithing to Edinburgh train comes in,and I need to check my change in the shops.

However, I have never been asked by Egypt to help build a pyramid.If I want to lay a carpet 8x9ft, I phone a carpet fitter. I was taught to use logs but did not want to be a lumberjack. Equally useless was measuring water flow into a bath to work out when it would overflow. I have always turned the tap off. Some subjects are much handier than others and if we must have compulsory subjects, Modern Studies,Spanish and Cookery would have a strong case.

We could have a Curriculum For Relevance – how radical. I can say “I hate Maths” in four European languages – now that is useful.

John Lloyd

The Maltings, Keith Place, Inverkeithing, Fife

It’s not all bad

There were ten letters in Monday’s Scotsman castigating the Scottish Government and not one in support of any of their policies, and yet on the same day and in the same paper I read that the school rebuilding policy is going well, with twice the number of schools – more than 600 rebuilt or refurbished than the previous Labour administration achieved.

On Saturday it was reported that pupils had achieved best-ever results in examinations.

Scottish hospitals consistently achieve their targets in accident and emergency, (over 95 per cent of people seen within three hours). Satisfaction levels with Scottish NHS are at an all-time high.

However, in England the NHS is at crisis point with all the trusts breaking their budgets, short of staff, privatisation reaching a new high and junior doctors striking in frustration.

When our First Minister makes a visit overseas to raise Scotland’s profile one of your correspondents describes her as an “embarrassment to Scotland”. This for the politician who regularly tops all polls as the most trusted and popular in the whole UK.

Crime figures are at a 43 year low and there are 1,000 extra police compared with the previous administration.

Obviously, many things can be improved. It was ever thus.

However, judging by the electoral success of the SNP over the last decade, they are seen to be doing many things well by most of the people.

James Duncan

Rattray Grove, Edinburgh

Blame Blair

Has the UK Labour Party seen the error of its ways, as leadership candidate Owen Smith accuses the Tory government of a secret agenda to privatise the NHS, indicating from this accusation that the Labour Party are opposed to privatisation? Remember who started the privatisation of the NHS in England? Tony Blair, no less, in 1999.

Who also introduced the Private Finance Initiatives and Private Public Partnerships into our NHS and wider public services, costing the country billions annually? Again, it was New Labour under Tony Blair. Has Mr Smith convinced his party of the need for a u-turn regarding their past record on privatising the NHS?

Catriona C Clark

Hawthorn Drive, Banknock, Falkirk

Bank on stability

Sensationalist headlines on RBS moving its HQ to London ignore the more mundane reality that, following Basel 3, Basel 4 and EU Liikanen banking reports, multiple cross border “brass plate” subsidiary company registrations will become the norm.

Banks are also being forced to hold much more capital as a proportion of their lending books and set up separate speculative or “casino” type banking entities which means governments and taxpayers will only be on the hook for traditional high street banking thus avoiding future huge bail outs.

This undermines RBS boss Ross McEwan’s claim that even in its current form RBS is too big for the Scottish economy when as an independent country Scotland’s liability for losses would only be to those incurred within Scotland, and it should be remembered that 80 per cent of losses were incurred in the City of London.

Cross border banking registrations can actually boost jobs in Edinburgh as they will compensate for the many legal and accountancy jobs lost when Lloyds transferred many HBOS HQ activities down south. Many more jobs will be created in Edinburgh’s financial and business sectors through an independent Scotland remaining in the EU after Brexit as firms move to Edinburgh for an EU presence.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

On yer bike, Andy

Congratulations again to Andy Murray. Back to back Olympic gold medals; double Wimbledon Champion after decades of waiting for just one British winner to come along; and then he carries the Great Britain Davis Cup team to victory.

I wonder just what he has to do to get a knighthood. Maybe he needs to take a leaf out of the cycling book of recognition a la Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins, and win his next tournament while riding a unicycle?

John Rhind

Meadow Lane, Beadnel, Northumberland

Brexit threat

Whether it really is new money or not, it’s welcome news that Nicola Sturgeon is to spend £100 million on infrastructure projects and create new jobs. Indeed, after Audit Scotland’s damning report on the condition of our roads, if filling in potholes is involved, we’ll all be grateful.

However, she maintains such expenditure is necessary to mitigate the impact of Brexit. Surely she must realise the biggest threat to the Scottish economy isn’t Brexit but neverendum?

Why would a company of any size invest or expand in 
Scotland, with the prospect ahead of years of SNP-driven constitutional wrangling and resultant financial uncertainty?

Sadly, business leaders will regard practically anywhere else in the UK as a more attractive location to build businesses and expand their workforce.

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus, Edinburgh