Pupil safety outside Dundee schools

Yesterday, I took part in the latest meeting of the City Council’s working group tackling school parking and pupil safety outside schools across the city.
At my request, an item on the agenda was about ensuring good practice regarding parking near schools and we had a lengthy discussion about this, including ways of promoting good practice.   Included in the discussion was proposed arrangements at Harris Academy once the whole school moves to back to Perth Road in August (senior pupils only are now starting at the new building in advance of the end of the current term)
We also had a discussion about School Crossing Patrollers across the city.   The recent attempts to recruit more SCPs has been really successful with all but 2 of the 85 posts now permanently filled – the best position the city has been in in terms of SCP provision in a very long time.   

Dundee examination appeals drop a real cause for concern

I have today highlighted the huge drop in the number of SQA examination appeals or re-marking of papers and a resultant sharp decline in Dundee pupils being successful in having a disappointing SQA exam result being successfully re-marked.  The figures – which appear to show a similar pattern Scotland-wide – show a worrying trend.
The City Council’s Education Department has advised me as follows :
The Head of Secondary Education at Dundee City Council has advised me :
“It is worth pointing out SQA have recently changed their system.  In the last two years they no longer have used appeals as we would know them.   They use a re-marking procedure only.   This will mean that data in the last two diets will be entirely different from the pattern before this  SQA consulted widely on this change and the educational consensus was that the new system was fairer and gave greater credibility to the examination system.”
I accept that the new system cannot be directly compared to the old appeals system as it is now a re-marking procedure only.     In the old appeal system, schools sent additional evidence to show how well pupils had previously performed ‎- usually a prelim paper and mark.   However you look at it though, the fact remains that where in some years nearly 900 Dundee pupils’ marks were successfully appealed under the old system and now fewer than 30 pupils’ results were improved under the new system.
It is really concerning that we are seeing such a huge drop in pupils’ examination results being reviewed where the pupil, parent and teacher feels the initial grade may be incorrect and the fact that the old system of using additional documentary evidence is no longer taken into account concerns me too.
Additionally, the SQA now charges schools £29.75 for a marking review and £39.75 for a priority marking review.   I understand some private schools are letting parents pay this if they demand their son or daughter gets their exam script re-marked, but local authority schools’ parents are not permitted to pay.    There are good reasons why Education Departments do not permit parents to pay given that many parents simply cannot afford to meet such a cost, but the fact that it is allowed at all gives an unfair imbalance towards private schools.
However, leaving aside the cost issue, it is a concerning situation where only 28 pupils’ results across Dundee were re-marked upwards last year, where under the old appeals system, hundreds of Dundee pupils successfully appealed.

Schools consultation information

Further to the decision taken at the City Council’s Education Committee on 8th December to consult on a proposal to close Menzieshill High School from the end of the 2015/16 school year and the Harris Academy catchment area be increased to include the Dundee part of the Menzieshill High School catchment area, the Director of Education has written this week to consultees as follows :

On 8 December 2014, the Education Committee gave the Director of Education approval to consult on the following proposal:
The closure of Menzieshill High School and redelineation of the catchment area of Harris Academy to include Menzieshill High School’s existing catchment area within Dundee; and to transfer that part of Harris Academy’s catchment area, which comprises the catchment area of Rosebank Primary School to Morgan Academy’s catchment area and make Morgan Academy the associated secondary school of Rosebank Primary School; and to make Baldragon Academy the associated Dundee secondary school of Longforgan, Inchture, Abernyte, Auchterhouse, Birkhill and Liff Primary Schools from August 2016.
The principal implications of the proposal are that:
 Menzieshill High School be discontinued at the close of the school session 2015/16. It is proposed that the changes in the rezoning also take effect for all applications for school places at Harris Academy, Morgan Academy and Baldragon Academy for the school session 2016/17 onwards. Menzieshill High School’s existing catchment area within Dundee will become part of Harris Academy’s catchment area;
 All enrolled pupils in Menzieshill High School will be entitled to transfer to the new Harris Academy at the commencement of academic session 2016/17. Any pupils who wish to enrol at another school would be entitled to make a placing request for that school;
 Perth and Kinross primary schools (Abernyte, Inchture and Longforgan) and Angus primary schools (Auchterhouse, Birkhill and Liff) which were all formerly associated with Menzieshill High School would become associated primary schools of Baldragon Academy;
 The part of Harris Academy’s catchment area, which comprises the catchment area of Rosebank Primary School, would become part of Morgan Academy’s catchment area; and Rosebank Primary School would become an associated primary school of Morgan Academy;
 the Dundee associated primary schools of Menzieshill High School, (Gowriehill Primary School, Hillside Primary School and Camperdown Primary School) would become associated primary schools of Harris Academy; and
 Invergowrie Primary School will remain an associated primary for Harris Academy.
Consultees should note the following points in relation to the proposal and consultation process:
1 The consultation begins on 12 January 2015.
2 Full details of the proposal and a copy of the proposal paper are available on the Dundee City Council website www.dundeecity.gov.uk from this date
3 A copy of the Proposal Paper may be obtained from your school office or from Customer Services, Ground Floor, Dundee House, 50 North Lindsay Street, Dundee.
4 Electronic representations to the proposal should be e-mailed to education@dundeecity.gov.uk
5 Written representations on the proposals may be submitted to Mr Michael Wood, Director of Education, Floor 2, Dundee House, 50 North Lindsay Street, Dundee, DD1 1NL.
6 Where possible, an acknowledgement will be sent to confirm receipt of all representations whether written or electronic. The representations will be used to inform the consultation.
7 The last day of the consultation period is Friday 27 February 2015. This is the last point by which representations must be received for the Council to take them into account.
8 In addition, the following evening public meetings have been arranged to offer you the opportunity to make your views known.
22 January 2015 – Menzieshill High School – 7pm
27 January 2015 – Harris Academy – 7pm
28 January 2015 – Rosebank Primary School – 7pm
2 February 2015 – Baldragon Academy – 7pm
3 February 2015 – Morgan Academy – 7pm
We look forward to hearing from you or talking to you at the above meetings.
Yours sincerely
Director of Education

Concern over thousands of college applicants being turned away

Dundee College
As reported in today’s Courier, figures obtained by Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Liam McArthur MSP, have revealed that colleges across Scotland are unable to offer places to thousands of applicants.   Full details of the figures obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats are given below.
In the Courier, I made the point that it is very concerning that Dundee College was unable to offer a place for 3,191 applicants in the 2012/13 academic year.      That is up from 2,957 applicants in 2011/12 and 2,037 applicants in 2010/11 and shows a worrying trend that is letting down Dundonians wishing to take up a college place.    
Dundee College does an excellent job but the Scottish Government has continually cut its funding.  The Education Cabinet Secretary should reconsider his decision to further cut college funding.
Liam McArthur has criticised the SNP government for planning to slash a further £34 million out of the college budget at a time when unemployment remains far too high and demand for college places is outstripping supply.  
Commenting on the figures across Scotland, Liam said:
“The Education Secretary needs to think again on his planned college cuts. These figures show that up and down Scotland, colleges are being forced to turn away applicants due to a lack of places. How can the SNP government seriously expect to tackle unemployment if it is slashing over £30 million out of college budgets when they need it most?
“James Watt College was unable to accommodate 1,261 students in 2012/13. That is 1,261 missed opportunities. It rings alarm bells that many of our colleges are turning applicants away due to a lack of places.
“Those who attend colleges often face different circumstances than university applicants. They tend to look for courses on their doorstep and family commitments may mean they cannot relocate to another city. What happens when there’s no room at their local college? These figures show that the SNP’s decision to cut college budgets could have serious ramifications to the lives of our aspiring learners.  
“Interestingly, our figures also show that applicants may also be languishing on waiting lists. City of Glasgow College had 8,021 applicants on waiting list this year alone. I hope that the college waiting list audit can shed some light on this but it is clear that there are questions to be answered about whether this really is best practice.  
“I remain concerned about the pace and extent of college mergers being demanded by the Education Secretary. These figures demonstrate a need to review access and seek to widen it across both further and higher education sectors. In our universities and our colleges, it is clear that we still have a long way to go to achieve fair access to education.
“Mike Russell will only be stoking the flames of unemployment if he goes ahead with plans to cut £34 million out of the college budget.”
Figures obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats :    We asked: Can you tell me how many applicants have been turned away due to a lack of places in the last three years? 
How colleges responded:
No Response provided for:
Angus College, Kilmarnock College, Cardonald College, Stevenson College Edinburgh, or Motherwell College
Students NOT turned away at: 
Orkney College, Perth College, North Highland College, Inverness College, or at Coatbridge College.
Students turned away at and the numbers:
Dundee College was unable to offer a place for 3,191 applicants in 2012/13. That is up from 2,957 applicants in 2011/12 and 2,037 applicants in 2010/11.
In 2012/13, 400 applicants were turned away from Carnegie College. This is an increase from 343 in 2011/12.
Banff & Buchan College turned away 180 applicants in 2012/13, which is up from 130 applicants in 2011/12. In 2010/11 the college turned away 131 applicants.
West Lothian College turned away 638 students (excluding January programmes) in 2012/13. In 2011/12, the college turned away 489 applicants, and in 2010/11, the college turned away 461 applicants. 
South Lanarkshire College saw 4,999 applications for 1,800 full-time places in 2012/13. As a result, “569 suitable applicants did not receive a place in 2012/13.” In 2011/12 they had 4,747 applications for 1,800 places and in 2010/11 they had 4,093 applicants for 1,800 places.
Reid Kerr College turned away 1,968 students (excluding January programs) in 2012/13. The College turned away 2,217 students in 2011/12 and 2192 students in 2010/11. In 2009/10, the College turned away 2,121 students.
At Moray College there were 64 rejected applicants in 2012/13 which is up from 52 students in 2011/12 but down from 89 students in 2010/11. 
Langside College turned away 2,781 students in 2010/11, 573 students in 2011/12 and 270 students in 2012/13.
Forth Valley College has 734 applicants on their waiting list for 2012/13. This is up from 579 in 2011/12 and 410 in 2010/11.
Dumfries College and Galloway College turned away 86 applicants in 2012/13. This is up from 60 students in 2011/12 and 23 students in 2010/11.
Anniesland College rejected 883 applicants in 2012, compared with 976 applicants in 2011 and 1587 applicants in 2010, due to a lack of places. 
96 applicants to Borders College for 2012/13 did not get a place due to the oversubscribed courses. This is up from 53 applicants in 2011/12 but down from 114 applicants in 2010/11.
At Ayr College 536 applicants were unable to secure a place in 2011/12 this is up from 247 in 2010/1 and 377 in 2009/10.
Barony College, Dumfries turned away 59 people in 2012/13 which is down from 154 people in 2011/12 and 74 people in 2010/11. On 1 October 2012, Barony, Elmwood, Oatridge and SAC merged to form Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), so I replying on behalf of all four former colleges.
Elmwood College turned away 465 students in 2012/13, 206 students in 2011/12, and 29 students in 2010/11.
Oatridge College turned away 185 students in 2012/13, 138 in 2011/12, and 154 in 2010/11.
Scottish Agricultural College turned away 80 students in 2012/13, 68 students in 2011/12, and 0 students in 2010/11.
City of Glasgow College had 8,021 applicants on a waiting list in 2012/13. In 2011/12, 2,951 applicants were on a waiting list and 2,128 applicants were on a reserve list. In 2010/11, no applicants were on a waiting list.
Glasgow Metropolitan College had 4,908 applicants on its waiting list in 2010/11. For 2011/12 and 2012/13, the college responded saying “Glasgow Metropolitan College kept waiting lists which could be interpreted as the number of applicants failing to get a place.”
North Glasgow College turned away 104 students in 2010/11, 456 students in 2011/12, and in 2012/13, 936 students were turned away due to a lack of places.
Glasgow Central College had 377 applicants on a waiting list in 2010/11. For 2011/12 and 2012/13, “if a course was full applications were not accepted even onto a waiting list.”
John Wheatley College had no place for 424 students in 2012/13, compared with no places for 183 students in 2011/12 and no places for 224 students in 2010/11.
Stow College turned away 4,716 applicants in 2010. In 2011, they turned away 6,914 applicants. In 2012, the College turned away 6,207 applicants.  
James Watt College was unable to accommodate 542 students in 2010/11; 900 students in 2011/12, and 1,261 students in 2012/13. 
Aberdeen College does not hold information about college applicants turned away.

Concern over college funding cuts

On the day the First Minister opened the refurbished Dundee College premises, along with my colleague Cllr David May, Convener of Angus Council’s Infrastructure Committee, I met with Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Alan Mitchell, regarding our joint concerns at huge cuts to the college budgets at Angus College and Dundee College.

The Chamber of Commerce has made clear it will seek clarification from Scottish Government about the level of revenue budget cuts affecting the colleges that, for example, amount to a 13.5% reduction for Dundee College in cash terms during the period 2012/13 and 2014/15.

It is great to see the official opening of the Dundee College improved campus facilities today, but the revenue budget cuts facing the college sector are far greater than those facing much of the rest of the public sector.   The First Minister must rethink his priorities to give more priority to further education, otherwise the government’s promise that all 16-19 year olds should have a place in education or training will not be met and young people and others will be denied choices and chances.    Free prescriptions for millionaires should not be a priority;  further education must be.

After having this year’s (2011/12) funding cut by 10.4% which resulted in Dundee College having to implement £4m of savings, resulting in 120 staff job losses and a number of course cutbacks, it now appears that during the period 2012/13  – 2014/15, Dundee College funding will be cut by a further 13.5% in cash terms.    These cuts are front loaded with a 7% cash cut in 2012/13.    This represents a cash reduction of £1.4m for Dundee College.

At a time when the First Minister says he wants to invest in jobs and growth, this makes no economic sense.

My colleague, Cllr David May, has written to the Arbroath Herald as follows :

“I am appalled at what the SNP is suggesting for our universities in Dundee but the news this weekend for our colleges is devastating, as the SNP government is going to slash the budgets for our colleges in both Angus and Dundee. This will not only lead to job cuts of college staff but is bound to lead to cuts in the courses they can offer. 

Our young people in both Angus and Dundee will suffer as a result and so much for the SNP investing in the future of our young people.   Yet again, just like the proposed mergers of the two Dundee universities and the hike in business rates, I am unable to see this in their election manifesto and so, in my view, they do not have a mandate for slashing college budgets.   Furthermore how does this equate with what the SNP have said about growth in the economy?
Surely our SNP MSPs in Angus will back our young people and publicly condemn this, and vote this down in the parliament.
Cllr David May  (former Dundee secondary HT and now Convener of Infrastructure Services at Angus Council).

Tuesday update

Today, I took part in the Jericho House Support Group latest meeting, at which we discussed and planned events for this very worthwhile project, including a dance during November and also a play Jericho House is planning on the subject of recovery from alcoholism.  It is hoped the play will run during West End Christmas Week.  The recent sponsored walk for Jericho House raised nearly £1000 – an excellent result.

Later on, I attended the West End Schools Project Board – the board set up to oversee the building project on the former Logie Secondary School site on Blackness Road for a new St Joseph’s Primary School and Park Place Nursery and Primary Schools.    I mentioned that the City Council must consider the need for a school crossing patroller on Glenagnes Road when the new schools open in October 2012.

Tonight, I attended a meeting of River Crescent Residents’ Association at which I discussed with residents a number of local matters, including the possibility of a Friends group for Riverside Nature Park and local roads issues.

This morning’s Courier covered my comments about Royal Mail’s decision to close the Crichton Street collection office and tonight’s Evening Telegraph reported on the 4S bus situation to St John’s High School and my concerns at the removal of this school bus.    A meeting of parents about the matter has been arranged for next Wednesday and I have booked Blackness Library for that meeting.

Dundee pupils should be listened to and their concerns addressed

I have today said that the City Council and its Education Convener should be prepared to sit down with Dundee pupils who are protesting about the council’s education cuts to listen to their concerns and see what can be done to address them.

This follows the protest outside Tayside House on Friday when the pupils were told that they should make an appointment with the Director of Education after the Easter holidays.

The pupils should have the opportunity to put their case earlier than that to show the council is listening – with the Education Convener and opposition spokespersons as well as senior council officials being prepared to take part.   It makes sense that this happens during the school holidays whilst pupils are available off school.

It was disappointing that when around 100 pupils came down to Tayside House on Friday, no-one from the Education Department was available to meet them.    I am aware that the Director was about to go on leave on Friday, but in a large department it is surprising that no-one would come down to speak with them.

It is important that pupils’ concerns are listened to and I have therefore written to the department suggesting that during the school holidays representatives of the pupils are invited to discuss their concerns with the Head of Secondary Education in the Director’s absence, the Education Convener and opposition representatives.    The council should be seen to listen.

I have found the Head of Secondary Education to be very approachable in discussing the various issues I have received from constituents about education – particularly the City Campus proposal.   I have therefore suggested to him that arranging a meeting very soon with pupils would be good practice.

The Head of Secondary Education has responded to me saying that he will meet with the Education Convener today to discuss the matter but, in principle, he sees no problem with meeting pupil representatives.   This is to be welcomed.

Law Nursery

This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting parents of children at Law Nursery;   they are very concerned at SNP plans to close the nursery on its long standing and highly successful site and relocate it within Rosebank Primary School.  

I accepted a petition with 1161 signatures on it – an indication of real concern about SNP plans.    I delivered this to the Director of Education later today.

Tonight, we unfortunately saw the high handed arrogance of the Dundee City Council SNP administration at its worst.   Bowing to public pressure, they withdrew their paper to close Law Nursery from the Education Committee but refused to give parents and the Education Committee any reassurance that the report will not come back and that the proposal is permanently dropped.

I have called on the Education Convener Liz Fordyce to stop this unfortunate approach and give parents a categoric assurance that she has dropped the closure proposal permanently.   I spoke tonight to a parent leading the campaign to save the nursery on its present site and although she had been advised that the item was dropped from tonight’s committee, no assurance was given that the proposal has been permanently abandoned, as parents demand.Tonight saw the SNP administration rather lose the plot.    Some members of the public were denied access to the meeting and the Education Convener failed to give any reassurance to members of the Education Committee over Law Nursery.

I ask Mrs Fordyce to give a clear and categorical assurance that the SNP has permanently dropped its plans to close the Law Nursery facility and move provision to Rosebank Primary School.

It is not what parents want and its about time Mrs Fordyce started listening to them.

Thursday …

After a visit to Ancrum Drive to discuss impending works that the City Council will undertake to ensure the flooding problem from Lochee Park into residents’ gardens is tackled, I attended a very interesting briefing on the private sector house condition survey in Dundee, undertaken by David Adamson and Partners.

This contained very interesting information about the city’s private sector housing stock – owner occupied, former local authority sold housing and private rented housing.  Of concern is the extent of investment needed to bring those houses requiring repair up to an acceptable standard (£24.82 million to achieve tolerable standard/visible repairs up to £76.02 million for comprehensive repairs) and environmental concerns – graffiti/vandalism/parking issues/rubbish etc – a concern for some residents in the West End and in other wards, according to the survey.

Later today, I had a very useful meeting with the Head of Secondary Education about the City Campus proposal and progress with Curriculum for Excellence.   Thereafter, I held my weekly surgery at Blackness Primary School.

Tavish Scott : Liberal Democrats improving the Scottish Budget for students and colleges

Dear Fraser

 Today’s Scottish Budget is a major boost for students and colleges.

It has delighted the National Union of Students who have said: “The Scottish Liberal Democrats have worked very hard for students on this issue” and “This is great news”. 

It will help tackle a crisis faced in Scotland’s colleges from 1st April this year. They can’t afford to wait for a new government. They need action now. As news reports in the last few days have highlighted, there are potential course closures at Elmwood, James Watt, North Highland, Dumfries & Galloway and Carnegie College and many more.The changes we have negotiated from the Scottish Government will give thousands of students access to bursary support. That will mean they can take up their studies and find ways into work. 

We have also secured funding for more than a thousand new places directly at colleges. This will help colleges who are facing severe financial pressures. 

We have also secured funding for additional modern apprentices and training opportunities that rely indirectly on colleges. I raised the issue of apprenticeships in renewable energy at FMQs in the autumn. This is tackled in the Budget changes we have secured. 

We are also very pleased that we have secured funding for a second year for our idea of a Post Office Diversification Fund. This benefited fifty post offices in the last year and can now benefit more this year. The fund helps post offices introduce new types of business (such as hot food or drinks). It will help them stay open, serving their communities. 

Of course, this Budget and the changes we have secured will not solve all of the problems that Scotland faces. Colleges and communities still face enormous challenges. Much will have to wait until after May. Our plans for government envisage a spending review and budget revisions very quickly after the election. We have already spoken with the Permanent Secretary’s senior officials in order to brief them on our intentions to move rapidly in government.

But the steps we have secured today mean a better Budget for Scotland than would have been the case without the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Yours sincerely,

Tavish Scott MSP

Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Education in Dundee – budget concerns raised

I have today raised with Dundee City Council’s Director of Education the following questions and concerns about budget proposals affecting education in Dundee :


I would be grateful if you can clarify the following questions for me as soon as possible and certainly in advance of next Thursday’s Policy & Resources Committee meeting. 

a) Primary Promoted Post Structure – I note the revised proposal involves the number of Depute Head Teachers reducing by more than half (50 to 23) and that the estimated saving in 2011-12 from this aspect will be £854 000. This implies a very fast implementation in the new financial year and I would ask if you can share your implementation plan in order that I can be reassured that this matter will be handled sensitively for staff concerned. I note what you write about acting DHTs, but can you clarify exactly what you mean by “the phased redeployment of DHTs where practical”? I am sure I am not the only elected member who needs reassurance as to how the Education Department envisages implementing these proposals. 

b) In 4.2.7 of that report you also indicate that the level of savings achieved by DHT removal falls short of required savings by £77 300. You therefore propose the removal of 3.2 FTE “excess teachers” in the primary sector. Can you please clarify where these posts are, how this will affect teaching and class structure at the affected schools, and how the £77 300 is calculated? Can you also give me your implementation plan so I am assured that the full £77 300 can be achieved during the 2011/12 financial year?

c) In 3.1 of this report you indicate that the savings are required “to contribute to the funding of the ‘new build’ properties at the West End, Whitfield and Balgarthno Road.” I am confused by this statement as these projects have been included in the City Council’s Capital Plan for some time and are therefore already funded. Can you please clarify?

d) Dundee Campus Proposal – I am pleased to see that the travel costs for pupils I had requested is now included in the finalised report. However, the report does not indicate how the costs of this have been calculated. Can you please advise me how the £10 000 cost in 2011/12 and £11 000 in the full year are calculated?

e) Devolved School Management. I paste below my earlier question raised via the Chief Executive and your response in red :

Devolved School Management. One of the savings assumed here is in respect of a cut in the provision for short term absences. Fraser wishes an assurance that when money runs out for an individual school, because of say an outbreak of influenza, will there be continuing support from the Education Department. How will this particular saving be achieved?

The intention is to give Head Teachers complete responsibility for the management of their staff absence budget and I shall expect them to do that to the best of their ability. The intention is that this will be part of an extended DSM scheme (to be brought in due course to Committee for approval) giving schools much more responsibility and autonomy than they have at present. However, it would be irresponsible of me as Director not to be able to respond to an emergency situation that might arise in a school, and I shall continue to do that.

As to how the saving might be achieved, we are already seeing absence cover requests decreasing, partly owing to the adoption of more robust absence management procedures, which in turn has led to a significant reduction in teacher absence levels.

I am pleased that you will respond to an emergency situation where a school’s DSM budget for short term absences is exhausted. However, can you advise me from what budget this will be met?

Many thanks.

Best regards


Cllr Fraser Macpherson

Councillor for the West End

Liberal Democrat Group Leader – Dundee City Council

City Council Budget

I was on Wave 102 (click ‘play’ above to listen) and Radio Tay news today about the council budget, again making the point that there was merit in all-party discussions with our Head Teachers to reach the best possible solution for management arrangements in our schools.

Having discussed proposals from the Labour Group with Cllr Kevin Keenan, the Labour Group Leader, it is clear these have the potential to release up to £350 000 additional funding for education to help devolved school management – something my LibDem colleague Cllr Helen Dick and I will support.

Last couple of days …

Yesterday, as well as attending the latest meeting of the West End Schools’ Project Board and my weekly surgery at Blackness Primary School, I had the pleasure of attending a civic reception at the City Chambers to highlight Dundee’s support for the Perth 800 celebrations and for Perth’s bid for city status. Both Dundee Lord Provost John Letford and Perth and Kinross Provost Dr John Hulbert gave entertaining speeches and it was good to see a good turnout of both Perth and Dundee representatives.

Today, I had a very productive meeting with Chief Superintendent Gavin Robertson, Detective Chief Inspector Shaun McKillop and Inspector Dave Scott from Tayside Police,
following concerns about break-ins in parts of the West End.

The police representatives emphasised that the police are giving high priority to the break-ins situation across the Dundee Division of Tayside Police. Specifically, in terms of Beat 26 in the West End Ward, which covers the east part of the ward (excluding the Perth Road corridor) from the river up to Pentland, there has been significant targeted police resource being put in and in terms of detection and prevention this is showing signs of improvement with a detection rate above the city average (covering both theft and reset). Use of proactive patrols and intelligence-led stop and search is proving helpful.

The police are keen to ensure that residents are given good security advice and we had a very useful discussion about promoting and extending controlled entry systems for tenement/flatted properties. They are also keen to meet with local residents’ groups to update them on what action is being taken both to prevent and detect thefts from houses, garages and sheds in the area.

A new crime prevention advice book is also being published and I have asked for copies for constituents.

I am pleased that the police are taking very proactive and positive steps to tackle this serious issue.

Also today, I took part in a briefing about suicide prevention at which representatives of various organisations, including the City Council, NHS Tayside, Tayside Police, the University of Dundee, took part. It was appropriate that this took place on World Suicide Prevention Day.

Given the concerns we all have about the suicides of young people in the city over the summer, this was an important event to discuss suicide prevention measures being taken locally, multi-agency working, and support for people and their families.

I asked questions about support and about awareness training. A full report on the outcomes from today’s meeting will go to the council’s Social Work and Health Commitee. Full details of the Scottish Government’s Choose Life campaign is available at http://www.chooselife.net/.

Busy Monday …

In addition to holding two surgeries today :

* I had a positive meeting with the Chair, Chief Executive and Head of Pharmacy at NHS Tayside about the transportation of drugs issue I have highlighted recently. The NHS representatives agreed to put the policy before the Board’s Improvement & Quality Committee for discussion and have also agreed to my request to retain records for longer.

* I met the Director of Housing and the Housing Strategy Manager about ensuring that the Logie area is given every support to ensure there’s a residents/tenants group into the future, following the recent decision by Logie Residents’ Association to disband.
* I then met with the Sinderins Court and Pennycook Court Residents’ Association and we had a good discussion on a number of local issues, including bus services.
* I attended a lengthy series of City Council meetings tonight – including :
Education Committee – where I raised a question about preparations for Standard Grade replacement following implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence.
City Development Committee – where I highlighted my concern that the department’s Service Plan does not include improving parking opportunities in areas of parking difficulties – including parts of the West End. The council’s progress with this issue is delayed and that is unfortunate. I sense no clear direction from the SNP administration to deliver the much-needed parking improvements for the West End. At this committee, I also expressed concern at the loss of parking spaces in South Tay Street.
Housing Committee – at which I sought assurances that provision of showers will still be made for all people with medical need. In relation to progress with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, I raised the need to provide controlled entry facilities for tenants in flatted properties.
Policy & Resources Committee – where I seconded a motion by Cllr Kevin Keenan, Labour Group Leader, to make the proposed so-called Changing for the Future Board more democratic, open and accountable. Unfortunately the SNP group had the usual ‘take it or leave it’ approach and this positive amendment was defeated. And in a similarly unfortunate way, my suggestion that the Development Quality Committee be renamed the Planning Applications Committee (i.e. – it is what it says on the tin) rather than the SNP administration’s meaningless “Development Management Committee” proposal was lost, despite my suggesting deferring the matter for a short time to enable further discussion of the matter. One thing is for sure – the SNP is certainly not for listening to anyone else’s point of view. Nothing new there then.

Standard Grades replacement

A constituent recently wrote to me expessing concern that there appears to be still no criteria for the new national exams that will be replacing Standard Grades. He asked if this meant that teaching staff have to start teaching the new curriculum, but with no idea about the detail of the exams that they should be preparing pupils for?

The Head of Secondary Education at the City Council has advised me as follows :

“The new examination framework will not begin until May 2014. Pupils in the present S2, S3 and S4 stages will continue to sit Standard grade exams until May 2013. The SQA is currently developing the new examination framework and is working with teachers from subject departments across the country, including a number from Dundee, to develop the new exams.

These will be tried and trialled in schools and refined to ensure that they are fit for purpose. The Scottish Government has made it clear that the new assessment framework will build on the learning experiences and outcomes actoss the subjects being studied in S1-3.”

It would, of course, be a bit bizarre if a pupil undertook the new curriculum but sat the examinations that were a product of the old curriculum. I have therefore asked for, and received, an assurance that no pupil on the new curriculum for excellence will sit the old Standard Grade examinations.

Meetings tonight – and tomorrow

It was good to see residents turning out at the Police Community Surgery at Blackness Library at teatime today. I spoke with a number of residents about local issues, including cycling matters, the begging concern, litter and parking.

West End Community Council’s meeting tonight featured a useful presentation on the proposed Riverside Nature Park, as well as discussion on the Dundee West Transition Towns project, an update on the West End Primary Schools Project Board and WestFest 2010.

I am meeting the City Council’s Chief Executive tomorrow morning about the cuts in Fairer Scotland Funding, an issue I am greatly concerned about.

Harris Academy Parent Council

Tonight, I attended a very interesting and informative meeting of the Harris Academy Parent Council. A detailed overview of the school’s extensive preparations for the Curriculum for Excellence was given. Along with Jim Thewliss, Head Teacher, I spoke about the latest developments on the Harris rebuilding/improvements project. Yesterday, the Director of Education gave me the following update on the project :
“There will be a site meeting this week with a representative from Historic Scotland to discuss possible options re the listed building issue.

There has been no formal meeting with Scottish Futures Trust since the original meeting, but an SFT adviser has been identified for each council and informal discussions have begun.

The accommodation schedule for the new school is being prepared currently in conjunction with the school. Meetings between now and 11th February are planned with school staff to establish a baseline of necessary accommodation. A meeting, chaired by Michael Wood*, will take place week commencing 15th February to finalise the accommodation schedule. This will contribute to the development of the new feasibility study which is likely to be presented to committee in May/June 2010. Our planning still assumes a ‘new build’ cost of £28m.”

* Michael Wood is the City Council’s Head of Secondary Education.   The site meeting with Historic Scotland referred to above took place earlier today.

Parking, buses and school class sizes …

Last night’s City Council committee meetings were lengthy, at some three hours in total, and a number of important subjects were discussed, including :

Parking : The long-awaited report on residents’ parking, looking at five areas of the city including the area approximately east of Sinderins from Roseangle/Magdalen Yard Road in the south to Blackness Road in the north (termed ‘West End’ in the report) and the Invergowrie Drive area finally appeared on the agenda of the City Development Committee.

The report (see http://tinyurl.com/parkingreport) gave the outcomes of the surveying work and informal consultation on the difficulties residents in the affected areas face trying to get their cars parked in these areas of high parking demand. The surveying and consultation took place during my period as Planning & Transport Convener and it had been the intention of the previous administration to maintain the momentum in the process of finding parking solutions for residents, by bringing a report to committee in spring 2009. The SNP administration that took control of the council at that time has since taken an age to move this process forward (I have lost count of the number of e-mail exchanges and converstations I have had with council officers including the Chief Executive in lobbying to get the report to committee for discussion and progression) – but at least the matter has now finally been debated.

The report envisages the drawing up of residents’ parking scheme proposals in 4 of the 5 areas (not the Invergowrie Drive area) with priority in terms of timing of this work being given to two areas, including the area I refer to above as ‘West End’.

I sought assurances from the Director of City Development over timescales and he indicated that (subject to public consultation) should a parking scheme find favour with residents, it would be in place in approximately 18 months.

Whilst welcoming the fact that consultation with the community is to take place, I stressed that this must be proactive and inclusive – to ensure that any scheme finally agreed is fit for purpose and actually has the support of residents. I pointed out that the response rate to the questionnaires issued in the area during the informal consultation period was only 16%, so public engagement is vital. I have concerns about the so-called “cost neutrality” of the proposed scheme and a charge of around £77 per annum may well make any scheme unattractive.

Given the large number of residents who regularly contact me about their problems with parking, I will be following progress on this issue closely and would welcome feedback from residents at any time – parking@frasermacpherson.org.uk or call me on 459378.

Parking again! : At Education Committee last night, another aspect of parking was discussed – that being the drop-off of pupils and parking around schools. The report (see http://tinyurl.com/schoolsparking) outlined the successes of the parking pilots at Park Place Primary in the West End and Eastern Primary in Broughty Ferry and proposed a roll-out across the city.

I welcomed this, particularly given the number of concerns raised by parents and other residents about the parking problem outside West End schools – in addition to the long-standing concerns at Park Place that resulted in it being a pilot site, I get many complaints about the parking situation at both Blackness Primary School and St. Joseph’s Primary School in particular.

In answer to my question to the Director of Education last night about the speed of roll-out of the project to particular schools, he gave a commitment that this would be shared with local councillors and I have now written to him seeking detail about the West End schools.

Policy and Resources Committee : At Policy and Resources Committee, I asked the Chief Executive for assurances about how the City Council’s 2009/10 overspend was being tackled – at £220 000 in the red, net of underspends, as of 30th November 2009, there is concern at this, particularly given the continuing areas of expenditure pressure such as demand-led social work services and winter maintenance.

The committee also discussed cuts to Fairer Scotland Funded projects to the tune of nearly £1m. As these projects provide much-needed services to many of our most vulnerable citizens, this is an issue of considerable concern.

I have specifically raised with the Chief Executive my concern about the proposal to remove funding from six projects, particularly given that most projects have met or indeed exceeded their targets/outcomes. At committee last night, I particularly highlighted my concern at the proposed removal of funding for the Sheltered Shopping Scheme – its loss would be met with great disappointed by the many elderly folk across Dundee who use this useful bus service to take them shopping.   I am in correspondence with council officers seeking clarification as to how this service could continue to be funded.

At both Education Committee and Policy and Resources Committee, a report of free school meals and P1-3 class sizes reductions was tabled. Whilst welcoming the approach taken on school meals (expansion of breakfast clubs including Blackness and Park Place Primaries, with the Park Place facility being a joint one with St Joseph’s), the approach the SNP administration is taking with class sizes benefits only some schools and shows just how hollow SNP promises to reduce all Primary One to Three classes to 18 or less, made at the last election, really were.

Victoria Park concerns – feedback from the Director of Education

As reported in tonight’s ‘Evening Telegraph’, the City Council’s Director of Education has responded to me about the department’s proposals for use of Victoria Park by the schools on the proposed shared campus on the former Logie Secondary School site as follows :
“You are correct that this project will need to come forward as a planning application which will allow for public comment and consultation. As you are aware, the new planning regulations now give easier opportunity for anyone who wishes to make comment. The planning application process for the new primary school in Whitfield was our first opportunity to test out the new regulations in Dundee and this worked extremely well, including two public exhibitions with officers on site to answer questions.

I want to emphasise that no major take over of any of the park space is envisaged. Primary schools in Dundee who do not have dedicated playing fields occasionally make use of park space for events such as sports days and football matches, but their use tends to be rare. I do not envisage the new West End campus requiring anything more frequent in Victoria Park. Because of that, there are no proposals to erect fences, and the statement I have read in the press about a possible all-weather facility is quite simply wrong – no such facility is proposed.

I am intending that the outcome of my discussions with Stewart Murdoch (Director of Leisure and Communities) should be taken to the West End Project Board, which as you know will contain representatives from a number of stakeholders. You will also remember that Chris Ward (Assistant Chief Executive) is chairing that group and intends calling the first meeting in late January.

With regard to consultation, parents are represented on the Project Board and will have an opportunity to express their views. I would also have no objection to an organisation such as Friends of Balgay Park being represented on the Local Implementation Group, the first meeting of which will take place after the initial meeting of the Project Board.”

Update – West End Schools

Further to my article yesterday about the Scottish Government’s to allow the City Council deregulation from the Schools Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967 (as amended), that will allow the St Joseph’s Primary, and Park Place Primary and Nursery Schools Project to go ahead on the former Logie Secondary site in Dundee, I received a very prompt response to my request for an early Board meeting from Director of Education Jim Collins today, that indicated :

“I agree that we should try to organise a project board meeting as soon as possible. I shall be discussing that with the Chief Executive and with Chris Ward (Assistant Chief Executive) who, you may remember, was designated as the chair of the project board.”

It is very important indeed to consult with all stakeholders – particularly parents and carers and the wider local community – throughout the building process and I see the establishment of the Board and the promised project implementation groups as vital to the process of ensuring good quality consultation and making sure that all views, concerns and issues that may arise during the construction of the new schools are adequately addressed.

West End Schools – deregulation decision

Yesterday, the Director of Education advised me that Scottish Government has approved the City Council’s application for deregulation in respect of the proposal to build two new primary schools and a nursery to replace the current Park Place and St Joseph’s Primary Schools buildings and Park Place Nursery, on a shared campus on the site of the former Logie secondary school.

As reported in today’s “Courier” I have made the point that the Scottish Government decision has taken some time to be made.

Some time ago the Director of Education gave me an assurance that he would call an initial meeting of the west end schools project board as soon as the decision was known

I hope this can now happen without delay as it is important to consult with all -and particularly parents – as the project progresses. I have written to the Director asking for assurances in that regard.

Hyslop no more …

The Scottish Liberal Democrats on Saturday informed all four parties in the Scottish Parliament that we intended to propose a motion of no confidence in Fiona Hyslop as Education Secretary.

The First Minister has now bowed to pressure and sacked the Education Secretary.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott MSP, said, “Since the weekend we have been in discussions with all the other parties.

“There is a growing crisis in Scottish education that can only be addressed with a fresh Education Secretary.

“There are 54,000 children in P7 who face a new Curriculum For Excellence next August. Yet teachers say that they still have not had the details of the assessments and the exams that they need. Without a fresh approach, the new curriculum will be under-planned and under-resourced.

“There is a crisis in teacher numbers. The latest figures show there are 1,300 fewer teachers than this time last year. Class sizes are rising. We need a fresh approach to restore teacher numbers and give new teachers the career opportunities they deserve.

“Over the weekend, Fiona Hyslop fundamentally broke the relationship between central and local government. She threatened to nationalise every school in Scotland. Nobody believes that the Minister in Edinburgh can possibly run every single school.

“We need a fresh Education Secretary to rebuild that bond of trust and create a working relationship with councils and schools that will help children and teachers.”

West End Schools – Logie site

As residents will be aware, the City Council has sought deregulation from the 1967 School Premises (general requirements and standards) (Scotland) Regulations in respect of the proposal to build new primary school facilities for St Joseph’s and Park Place Primary Schools and a new Park Place Nursery School.
A decision by Scottish Government has taken weeks and I recently asked for an update from the Director of Education. Here is his response :
“Dear Fraser

Part of the process for determining whether deregulation should be approved or not is the consideration by the Government to a report by HMIe on the proposal. For some reason, the HMIe report has taken more time than I envisaged or hoped. I have now had an assurance from HMIe that that report has now been forwarded to the Scottish Government. With somewhat bated breath I look forwarded to a decision being made soon. It will also be my intention to contact the School Estates directorate to confirm that the matter will now be dealt with speedily.



I hope that Scottish Government will now advise the City Council of its decision in the very near future.

Two Friday updates

Update 1 : Replacement School Crossing Patroller for Blackness Primary School at Hawkhill – latest from Dundee City Council this afternoon :

“Good Afternoon Cllr Macpherson,

I am pleased to inform you that we have now been able to arrange for the above SCP to be manned with effect from lunch time on Tue 27 Oct. The individual concerned will be issued with his equipment/clothing on Tuesday morning and will receive the relevant training before taking up his post. I should point out that the new SCP has had previous experience as an SCP, which explains how we can have him in place within such a short space of time.”

Update 2 : As I indicated earlier today, I had raised residents’ concerns about slippy leaves on pavements at Abbotsford Place and Blackness Avenue. By lunchtime, I had received the following feedback from the Waste Management Department :

“Hi Fraser

I have arranged for these leaves to be swept up this morning.

The supervisor reports the job is now completed.”

I bumped into one of the Abbotsford Place residents who had complained about the issue in Tesco Metro in the City Centre this afternoon as she was well impressed with the quality of clean-up and the speed of response. The Waste Management Department is extremely responsive, so very many thanks!

Hawkhill crossing – good news

Further to my article earlier this week about pupil safety concerns crossing the Hawkhill by-pass due to the lack of a school crossing patroller (to view go to http://tinyurl.com/scphawkhill), I was pleased to have received assurances today from the City Council’s Director of Education that a temporary school crossing patroller will be in place from the start of next week, to assist Blackness Primary School pupils get safely to school.

Parents had expressed concern to me that, with the schools coming back after the autumn holiday this week, there is still no replacement crossing patroller at this extremely busy road and I am pleased that the department has recruited a temporary patroller from the start of next week. I have also been given assurances that a permanent replacement is being sought, which is vital, as it is totally unacceptable that there was no patroller being in place at such a busy crossing.

I have also received assurances that the City Council will be taking a proactive approach in its efforts to recruit new school crossing patrollers.

Hawkhill : primary school crossing concerns

As reported in the Courier over the weekend, I have expressed concern about the safety of Blackness Primary School pupils crossing the extremely busy Hawkhill by-pass, where there is currently no school crossing patroller.

Parents have expressed concern to me that, with the schools coming back after the autumn holiday earlier this week, there is still no replacement crossing patroller at this extremely busy road. Hawkhill is a main route into the City Centre, is a busy bus route and many heavy goods vehicles use the road. Furthermore the crossing is adjacent to the corner with Peddie Street, a very busy road junction.

I contacted the City Council Education Department during the school holidays about the lack of a patroller and was advised by the department that :

“ … the individual who had been manning this crossing moved out of the Dundee area just after the school returned from the Summer holidays. A replacement was found from our temporary supply pool. However again this individual was able to secure full-time employment and withdrew their availability to man the crossing.”

I responded to the Council in the following terms :

“I must say I am most concerned about the situation at Hawkhill. There is heavy footfall of children here and the younger ones in particular cannot be expected to negotiate the pelican crossing without a patroller. Hawkhill is extremely busy and a bus route; the crossing is adjacent to the very busy junction with Peddie Street.

I view this as a priority for a patroller facility given the high volume of vehicles and use of the road by many buses and HGVs, given that Hawkhill is a main thoroughfare into the City Centre.

I’d be grateful if every effort can be made to get a replacement as soon as possible.”

I have taken the matter to the Director of Education and have also asked questions about the efforts to recruit new school crossing patrollers. It is totally unacceptable that the school returned without a patroller being in place at such a busy crossing.    Late today, my office at the City Council received assurances from the Education Department that the Director would be further briefed on my concerns first thing tomorrow.

Harris Academy : Feedback from the Director of Education

Contrary to the rather unfortunate tone of the comments made by the SNP MSP for Dundee West in today’s ‘Courier’ about the Harris Academy rebuilding project, there is in fact absolutely no certainty as yet regarding the actual level of funding (nor the timescales) for the project – as the response this morning from Dundee City Council’s Director of Education to my enquiry about this reveals :
Dear Fraser
I have discussed your e-mail with David, and am pleased to give you our collective response.
The short answer is that there can be no clarity to the questions of cost or timescale until the meeting has been held with Scottish Futures Trust which I referred to at Committee on Monday night.  As I indicated, Scottish Futures Trust wrote to all relevant authorities, on the back of the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement, seeking an early meeting to discuss all the issues pertaining to the forthcoming project.  Scottish Futures Trust would want that meeting to be held no later than the beginning of November.
There will clearly need to be discussions among relevant officers in preparation for the meeting, and then afterwards it would be my intention to bring a report to the Education Committee as soon as possible seeking approval for the project.  That Committee report could be in November, but you will understand that I would want an opportunity to confirm that at a later date once all meetings have been held.
I understand fully the desire for as much information as possible and I shall undertake to share that as soon as it is available.  You are correct that everyone welcomes this project and we would all wish to see it progress swiftly.
I have responded to him (copying in David Dorward, Chief Executive) in the following terms :
Thanks Jim;   I am grateful for your feedback.   Clarity from government in early course – hopefully through your meeting with Scottish Futures Trust – on proposed timescale and the extent of funding (whether or not this includes all improvements listed in the Harris Academy Feasibility Study) will be extremely helpful and I am grateful that you will seek to bring forward a report to the Education Committee as soon as possible after meeting with the Trust.
I’d be most grateful if you can advise me when officers of the council are meeting with the Scottish Futures Trust, once this has been arranged.   Many thanks.    
Best regards

Good news for Harris Academy – but detail of extent of funding and timescale required

Further to the reports in the press over the weekend, if you go to http://tinyurl.com/harriswave102, you can hear the early morning news on Wave 102, in which I made the point that we required urgent clarity on the funding of buildings improvements at Harris Academy.   See also the article in today’s “Courier” – http://tinyurl.com/harriscourier.
The good news that Scottish Government is to include Harris Academy in its secondary schools capital investment programme came at 9.30am with the following news release from government.    It is excellent that Harris Academy is being included in the programme and clarification will be sought at Education Committee tonight about the extent of funding (the feasibility study on improving the school envisages a cost of at least £17 million) and the timescales involved.
Here is the news release from Scottish Government :
Over 1,700 pupils in Dundee and Angus will be lifted out of poor condition schools following the announcement that Harris Academy and Brechin High will be among the first fourteen secondary schools to benefit from the £1.25bn school building programme.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop made the announcement today as she visited Lasswade High in Midlothian, before officially opening the new Armadale Academy. Ms Hyslop described the new building as “an inspirational example of everything a new school can be”.
The Scottish Government, together with COSLA, will now accelerate the process of agreeing the first set of primary schools to benefit from investment, with an announcement expected before the end of the year. Every local authority local authority area across Scotland is expected to benefit from the first phases of the school building programme which sees £800m of funding from the Scottish Government and £450m from local councils.
The Cabinet Secretary also today, jointly with COSLA, set out the guiding principles for future planning and action to improve the whole of Scotland’s  school estate, with publication of the new school estate strategy – Building Better Schools: Investing in Our Future. 
Ms Hyslop said:
“This Government and local authorities are already on track to lift 100,000 school pupils, by 2011, out of tired and crumbling school buildings and classrooms and providing them with cutting-edge accommodation and facilities in which to continue their 21st century education. As a result of the £2 billion of capital funding for 2008-10 made available to local authorities, over 150 projects have been completed since May 2007 and we expect 250 by 2011. What’s more, the pace of building has quickened with new and refurbished schools being delivered faster over this four year term than the last four year term.
“Today’s announcement is the latest step towards going even further and demonstrates our continued commitment to providing every pupil with the same high quality experience for their school building.
“Working in partnership with COSLA and local authorities we can deliver better school accommodation the length and breadth of Scotland and ensure our school estate is fit for the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.
“In June I announced the new £1.25bn school building programme which will, with £800m of Scottish Government capital investment, deliver 55 new schools for Scotland.
“Today’s announcement is the latest step towards turning that investment into better buildings. Pupils, teachers and communities across Scotland, including those in Dundee and Brechin, will benefit from these new schools.
“Today’s allocations are just the start of our investment, representing a quarter of the new schools that will be built as part of this programme. What’s more we have a vision for the school estate that will ensure we make the most of that investment, by backing it up with focus, ambition and commitment. The strategy published today sets out the guiding principals that will help us make the most of our buildings and spaces, grounds, fixtures and facilities.
“The pupils I have met at Armadale Academy today are testament to the rewards this can bring.”
1.      Over 12,000 pupils across Scotland will be lifted out of poor condition schools with the seceltion of 14 secondary schools for the initial round of investment. The schools are:
·       Ellon Academy in Aberdeenshire
·       Mearns Academy in Aberdeenshire
·       Brechin High in Angus
·       Dalbeattie High in Dumfries and Galloway
·       Harris Academy in Dundee
·       Eastwood High in East Renfrewshire
·       James Gillespie’s in Edinburgh
·       Auchmuty High in Fife
·       Wick High in Highland
·       Lasswade High in Midlothian
·       Garnock Academy in North Ayrshire
·       Clyde Valley High in North Lanarkshire
·       Ayr Academy in South Ayrshire
·       Dumbarton Academy in West Dunbartonshire
2.      The following criteria were considered as part of the process to identify the first tranche:
·       The distribution of needs, nationally
·       Best available information about schools’ condition (core facts, School Estate Management Plans, and other intelligency)
·       Best availability on schools’ “unsuitability” to deliver modern education
·       Additionality – schools which are not part of a funded programme already
·       Authorities’ own priorities
·       Aspects of readiness to proceed (bearing in mind there will be a second phase).
3.      The first tranche of secondary schools has been identified by the Scottish Government in partnership with COSLA and the Scottish Futures Trust.
4.      The first tranche of primary schools will be identified using the same criteria used for the first phase of secondaries. Without second guessing the process we have to go through, and having looked closely at the extent of poor conditions, unsuitability and the scale of needs and local investment priorities across Scotland we now anticipate that each council will benefit from the first phases of the school building programme.
5.      The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) will have a central role in managing this new school building programme, working alongside locals authorities. The SFT will develop, recommend and implement approaches that will secure a better schools programme across Scotland, and better value for money than could be achieved through each local authority working separately.
6.      The new school estate strategy has pupils at its centre and sets out the joint Government-COSLA target of achieving in excess of 90% of children being educated in good condition schools, with firms plans to lift the rest of pupils out of being educated in schools in poor or bad conditions. The strategy document – Building Better Schools: Investing in Our Future – is available to view at www.scotland.gsi.gov.uk
7.      In addition to the specific investment of £1.25bn, including £800m from the Scottish Government, we have provided local authorities with £2 billion of capital funding for 2007-11 for school building initiatives in their areas.
8.      250 new or refurbished schools over the period of this Parliament (48 months/208 weeks) exceeds the 200 over the previous 48 months/208 weeks. By the end of this Parliament, the rate of delivery will have gone up from 0.76 schools per week over the 8 years of the previous administration to an anticipated 1.2 per week over the period May 2007 – April 2011.
9.      The West Lothian Project (Armadale Academy and Deans Community High) one of the first project reach financial close and to be signed off as Cabinet Secretary in August 2007.