Tag Archives: education

Rennie to SNP: Are you conservative or progressive?

Willie Rennie will challenge the SNP in a parliamentary debate on their budget this week to actually use the powers that are coming the Scottish Parliament’s way and raise the rate of income tax to pay for a £475m investment in education. The SNP, of course, are holding out for independence and have no intention of showing that the powers they have can make a huge difference. In their 9 years in office, they’ve not even used the tax-raising powers that came to Scotland with devolution in 1999.

Willie’s penny on tax for education is a bold move. Saying you’ll put up taxes is a risk for a party in our position, but this is no time to play it safe. Anyway, just from talking to people, I think that there is a sense that you get what you pay for and if you want world class public services, you need to put money into them.

Willie said:

Liberal Democrats will be using this debate to challenge the SNP to show whether they are conservative or progressive, whether they’ll keep talking left but walking right.

Liberal Democrats are the only ones calling for Parliament to actually use the new powers we’ll get in April. Why wait? There is no point in sitting around, twiddling our thumbs, when we could make a real difference to the life chances of Scots.

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Willie Rennie’s penny on tax for biggest investment in Scottish education since devolution

Willie and ACH on nursery visit

Finally, someone is actually planning on using the new tax-varying powers given to Scotland. Willie Rennie has made a big announcement on education this morning. He intends cleaning up the mess the SNP have made in education with 4 radical measures, paid for by a modest rise in income tax which will not affect anyone who earns £19,000 a year or less.

That £475 million investment will include the Lib Dem Pupil Premium, already successful in England and, thanks to Kirsty Williams, in Wales. That’s all about giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school. Then there’s investment in nurseries and colleges, as well as a reversal of the SNP’s education cuts.

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Willie Rennie to make major announcement on education tomorrow

It’s 99 days to go till the Scottish election and Willie Rennie is making a major policy announcement tomorrow. He will be launching his “plan to save Scottish Education.”

He’ll be visiting an Edinburgh nursery tomorrow where he’ll be laying out what is being described as a “bold, costed plan.”

He is expected to say:

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Be careful with home education registration

The media reporting of the tragic death of Dylan Seabridge, blaming the fact that he was home educated, is bringing back bad memories of 2009. Then Ed Balls commissioned the “Badman Review” into whether Home Education could be used to hide child abuse. Whilst the review found no evidence to link the two, it felt very much like Labour was out to get us, like the government was looking for a reason to attack home education in an illiberal way as only Labour could. More often than not, home education is seen as the problem, not the local authority’s failure to act with the powers they already had, or the parents’ failure to seek help. These cases, whilst tragic, are very much the exception and do not reflect the reality of home education.

I was home educated between the ages of 11 – 17 and remember this being discussed by both students and parents. The approach felt like a witch hunt, with the government demanding access to your homes to privately question children. People were worried that the questions would be leading, and due to the number of children who were young or special needs the gut feeling was they wouldn’t realise the severity of the questions being asked.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favour of registration, but it would need to be done in a way that didn’t feel like an attack on home education.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 33 Comments

Rennie: Scotland’s children should benefit from the Pupil Premium

Willie Rennie is up in Aberdeen today, speaking to the local Chamber of Commerce. A major theme of his speech is the need to improve education. Schools budgets in Scotland are really struggling after 9 years of a Council Tax freeze.

Liberal Democrats have implemented the Pupil Premium in England and successfully made the case for it in Wales. Scotland is still lagging behind, despite a growing attainment gap.

Willie will say:

To get fit for the future our children and young people deserve the best education.

Just look at the reports from recent weeks: the OECD has warned that Scottish education is slipping from our world-beating position; the Scottish Government has missed its targets for early education for 2-year-olds by 75%; and more than 150,000 college places have been lost under the SNP.

And now the SNP have singled out local education authorities for a £500million cut to their budgets.

We can’t stand by and watch the destruction of education in Scotland.

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Moving exams in Ramadan “sensible and inclusive” says Farron

Tim Farron has reacted to the needless controversy surrounding the decision by exam boards to move certain popular exams so that they take place before Ramadan with a perfectly sensible, liberal statement:

The idea that this is an attack on British values is ridiculous and depressing. Rather than seeking to divide people by their faith, we should see this sensible move as an opportunity for inclusion and understanding.

 This is a simple rescheduling of some school exams, recognising that a number of students will be observing Ramadan. As a person of faith myself I think it is entirely reasonable and decent to consider such things when planning exam dates.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

Why classroom assistants matter and why the SNP’s pressure on local government harms kids’ education and attainment

US Navy 061026-N-5271J-014 Jennifer Tonder (right), a teacher's aide for a 3rd-4th grade multi-age class, discusses the various books available from the Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) grant given to Sasebo Elementary School with
Scottish Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Liam McArthur has been doing some research into classroom assistant numbers in Scotland and has found some very worrying results. Like many other council services, education has been put under massive pressure after nine years of Council Tax freeze which predominantly benefits those in larger properties – e.g. the richest. The SNP are not so progressive when you put their record under scrutiny.

While some local authorities have increased the numbers of classroom assistants, others have seen huge drops. Aberdeen has lost 92 out of 299 in 2007 when the SNP came to power. In my own council area, West Lothian, 10% of classroom assistants have been gone despite a massive reduction in special needs provision.

I asked a teacher why classroom assistants matter and what impacts such reductions in their numbers have on children’s education. This is what they said.

In the modern classroom, classroom assistants, learning assistant, pupil support assistants, are key to facilitating learning. From working individually with children who, in the past, would have perhaps been taught in a school for children with special needs to supporting small groups within the classroom or being there to allow the teacher to work with small groups/individuals. Active learning is a key part of Curriculum for Excellence. This often involves spreading out of the classroom and using other spaces such as library, sensory room, outdoor classroom etc. This is all the more possible with  classroom assistants rather than having to move 33 kids en masse all of the time.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 11 Comments
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