Readers' letters: Education crisis risks blighting a generation of children

Should school hours be cut to address a budget deficit? One reader thinks not (Picture: school hours be cut to address a budget deficit? One reader thinks not (Picture:
Should school hours be cut to address a budget deficit? One reader thinks not (Picture:
Anyone familiar with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens will recall the two young wretches beneath the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Want and Ignorance.

There is no doubt child poverty is a serious concern but our children’s educational needs are equally important. The two, as Dickens knew well, are intrinsically linked. I was therefore astonished and appalled to read that Falkirk Council were suggesting reducing school hours to address a budget deficit.

If a parent removes a child from school unauthorised they face fines. A homeschooler must present detailed teaching plans. And yet suddenly a council can propose reducing learning hours, presumably making staff redundant and thereby balancing their books.

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We know Covid has had a profound and rippling effect on our children but this is being exacerbated by current issues in schools. Poor staffing levels, falling standards, special needs not being met. Education plays a huge role in breaking the cycle of deprivation and whilst I strongly believe schools are only part of life’s education they are vital for children whose lives are afflicted by poverty.

As well as schools, universities are facing a cliff edge in funding and courses are being scrapped, such as languages at Aberdeen, reducing diversity of choice and excellence.Meanwhile the confrontational, reductive brand of politics we have to endure goes on, and on, the petty point-scoring and blame culture whether in Holyrood or Westminster.

We know how much time issues take to resolve via the political machine, but five years covers most of a child’s primary or secondary education and more than an undergraduate’s. There needs to be action immediately by cross-party consensus to repair the damage and avoid blighting a generation of Scotland’s children with Victorian levels of want and ignorance.

Lorna Thorpe, Alyth. Perth and Kinross

Possible funding

Given the regrettable Falkirk Council proposals to reduce teaching hours to try to balance their budget, there may be a short-term solution with a small token infusion of funds.

With the long awaited Code of Conduct Report on Michael Matheson still to be made public, would it not be appropriate for Mr Matheson to resign and forgo his salary and any golden handshake and have it paid over to the council for the benefit of his constituents. Rather than elect a replacement, any ongoing notional salary funds could also be paid to the council until the election in 2025.

Fraser MacGregor, Edinburgh

Disabled access

On April 19 I received a small flyer through my door from CIty of Edinburgh Council inviting me to examine the plans for the Meadows to George Street plan online. As a resident who lives on one of the streets marked for closure to vehicles, this was the first time I had received any direct contact from Edinburgh Council regarding these plans.

On examination, I was horrified to see the extent of the plans, which go considerably further than originally proposed, as well as the total lack of any concession or access arrangements for disabled residents such as myself. I am also taken aback at the tiny amount of time the plans were available to view, a mere four weeks to lodge objections before tomorrow’s deadline of May 17.

There was absolutely no engagement with affected residents prior to April 19. I am disabled with mobility issues and rely upon motor vehicles for access to my home as well as for essential deliveries of food and medical supplies. The closure of Forrest Road to motor vehicles means I will no longer be able to live in my home of 20 years and I will be forced to move.

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Having attended a drop-in session organised by the council regarding this project, it became very clear that no consideration whatsoever has been given to disabled access and disabled residents such as myself are simply regarded as not existing. These plans are not in accordance with the Equality Act, which ensures disabled access must be taken into account.

Euan Andrews, Edinburgh


Leah Gunn Barrett is a regular contributor to the letters pages of The Scotsman telling us all how we are downtrodden as a result of being part of the world's sixth largest economy, but her letter of May15 really takes the biscuit.

We are a colony of England she repeats several times, and unspecified figures have “gaslighted” Scots for 317 years, destroying their culture, language, and a whole lot more.

So how come so many “cringeing” Scots have contributed so much to the Union which Ms Barrett despises? Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin, Robert Watson-Watt whose radar invention saved Britain in 1940, Alexander Buchanan, the founder of modern meteorology, John Logie Baird who invented television, and a hundred others who regarded themselves as British as well as Scots.

If anyone is gaslighting Scots it’s fervent nationalists who continue to talk Scotland down, and the SNP government which has created barriers between Scotland and England – such as the Gaelic branding of all government departments, and police vehicles and ambulances with what is in effect a foreign language to 90 per cent of Scots.

Even before devolution Scotland was a state within a state with its own legal and education systems, its own churches, and its own local governance. Now that the Scottish Government has huge power over how Scots live their lives – and in case of the SNP government a majority would say too much power – Ms Barrett’s claims are ludicrous.

William Loneskie, Lauder. Scottish Borders

Genuine extremists

Rishi Sunak has spoken about “extremist” threats to the UK and appears desperate to claw back support from somewhere for his failing government. He needs to address the genuinely extreme nature of his own government.

For one, he has been privatising the NHS – which no one voted for – and selling it off. How does he think people will be looked after as they won’t have money to pay for insurance schemes and medicines? His actions along with previous Conservative administrations is cruel to the extreme.

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Mr Sunak and his government have persisted in sending arms to Israel to enable it to pursue killing Palestiniana in Gaza. The world watches in horror as mainly women and children are massacred. Mr Sunak has also insisted on withdrawing support for UNRWA so that those left alive in Gaza have no medicines, food, water or fuel. He must know the numbers eventually dying will be very high.

Mr Sunak does not wish anyone to say these actions by his government are wrong. So he has decided to attack protestors who understand that indiscriminate killing, and collective punishment are forbidden under international law.

Mr Sunak and his government put through the Rwanda Bill. This takes away rights from people who come to the UK for safety from persecution. HIs government now pretends that Rwanda is safe when it has already been ruled unsafe. People will now be forced there by the UK Government at great expense, disregarding human rights, international law, and the highest court in the land.

Pol Yates, Edinburgh

Verified news

With Ukrainian troops struggling to contain the Russian advance on Kharkiv, BBC News finally concedes the war in Ukraine is not going swimmingly after all.

What ever happened to the much vaunted fact checking service BBC Verify with Ros Atkins?

The incessant drip drip of American news and propaganda, since the merger of BBC News and BBC World News, in April last year, has seldom been more apparent.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

Stop whingeing

I am sick and tired of reading about Justice Secretary Angela Constance constantly whingeing about the supposed refusal of the UK Government to include Scotland in its legislation to overturn the wrongful convictions of sub-postmasters connected with the Post Office Horizon scandal (Scotsman, 15 May).

When it suits them the Scottish Government jealously guards Scotland’s separate legal system, underlined by the fact that the Scottish prosecutions were undertaken by the Crown Office and not the Post Office as was the case south of the Border. Even the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC seems to have found difficulty in having a UK-wide approach to the quashing of the convictions and Ms Constance’s comments smack of deflection politics to cover up her own government’s inaction.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirling

Excuses, excuses

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So, the Scottish Government is declaring a national housing emergency. That is not unexpected, given their record over the last 17 years. Even less unexpected is their response and tiresome excuse – “Ms Somerville is expected to blame UK government austerity and Brexit for the decision.” We had better get used to such excuses as the predicted Labour government will probably be equally inept at addressing the many problems they say the country faces.

I just hope that Labour are a bit more inventive than the SNP with their excuses and at least try to remedy the problems. I’m certain that SNP ministers, when asked awkward questions, just take out a slip of paper and read “the fault of UK Government austerity and Brexit”. We had better get used to hearing excuses, I fear.

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

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