Meetings and discussion on Education with Glasgow Provan CLP and Glasgow Kelvin CLP

SLP policy Education

Discussion with the SEAS at both CLPs considered on two recent Labour Party documents.  Firstly the Party’s First Stage Consultation Papers from the Scottish Policy Forum with a section on education that included culture and the Arts and international development.  Consultation is open till 23rdAugust to contribute views.  Secondly Glasgow Labour Party is issuing a series of policy consultation and their education paper is called “Ambitious Glasgow” and their consultation runs to August too.

SEAS had provided an outline guide to the Policy document and led the discussion with reference to Labour’s vision for lifelong learning towards an inclusive society based on social justice and common decency.

In terms of education there are now significant challenges.  Under SNP, Scottish education is now stagnating and at all levels the system is struggling. The SNP‘s role in passing on Tories austerity cuts underpins this stagnation.

There is now a clear role for investment in education and aiming for coordinated community action to tackle all forms of inequality.   The Policy forum paper set out the range of policy areas across the education service and indicated key developments proposed by Scottish Labour in early years, schools, community learning and development, further education and higher education.

The SEAS also mentioned their advice and priorities as being to invest in early education and  plan and resource inclusive education including learning about equality. A third priority would be to extend the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence and take forward fully Jimmy Reid’s words about education for a wider purpose.   The SEAS mentioned their recent successful motion to Scottish Conference on ending state support to private schools and also in terms of accountability to move from the present system to one of more local accountability at local levels focusing on tackling inequality.

Across the two recent meetings with CLPs there were many common issues raised by Labour Party members.

At Provan CLP discussion began about the importance of equality education in respect of inclusive learning about LGBT issues and positive support was offered for the TIE campaign in Scotland compared to recent events in England where faith groups challenged equality education in their school.  The SEAS sees the need to ensure the success of diversity through embedding equality education across the protected characteristics.

While at Kelvin CLP, teacher workload opened the discussion and reference was made to work issues linked to assessment practices. The recent debate at the EIS conference about the place of examinations in assessment at different levels in National Qualifications was highlighted.  The SEAS is supportive of assessment approaches that trust our teachers rather than imposing more standardised high stakes tests at any stage of education.

The point was made about the need for resources to focus on class sizes and reducing pupil: teacher ratios to lower levels thus allowing teachers to engage in more active forms of learning throughout schooling. The SEAS is more supportive of more adults working in the classroom as a better form of support than necessarily lower class sizes.

In terms of the policy paper the attention to further education was welcomed, as too often it can be a “Cinderella service”.

Questions were asked about the level of state support to private schooling beyond charitable status and tax relief. Mention was made of further support from public sector through Scottish Government civil servants.

The question of early learning, start of schooling, play and national testing were topics that were considered with agreement that flexible start to school is was better, learning and play rather than schooling and tests.  Schools could better from a more permissive approach about learning and play in early stages.

Changes can take place within schools in terms of organising of classes and making full use of the diversity of population in a school, from each according to ability to each according to their needs is now more in line with educational thinking and evidence-based practice in grouping children and young people.

Further debate occurred on the place of Catholic schooling in modern day Scotland with a range of views expressed.  The point was made that we have a faith-based schooling system rather than a secular system.  At Kalvin the need for a secular system was proposed.

While at Provan CLP mention was made that even in our modern Scotland, aspects of hatred and bigotry against those from an Irish Catholic background are still in evidence on our streets.  A discussion centred on the tension between the role and place of Catholic schooling and their approach to equality education and safeguarding LGBT young people.  Many of the markers of inequality apply to LGBT young people as well as other groups subject to discrimination.

Mention was made of the success of local schools serving challenging areas yet demonstrating very positive outcomes.

Thanks were expressed to SEAS for contributing to a very good meetings and discussions and dialogue on education.  Each CLP indicated their willingness to consider a further submission to the policy forum.


A more economic curriculum

Screenshot 2019-05-24 17.43.00SEAS is of the view that we have to build towards amore relevant Senior Phase broadening out beyond the traditional subject diet towards more technical, practical, vocational education.   In our view a more relevant curriculum is necessary for those who find themselves put of place in a narrow academic curriculum serving those heading for higher education. The curriculum needs to serve all young people. The SEAS has long campaigned that schools need to do better by working class children, too many leave school too early without engaging with curriculum that leads to success in national qualifications.

How do we build towards this starting from early stages of schooling? SEAS member Margaret Houston has some suggestions.

All children should be encouraged to see education as a life-long experience.  Other subject areas like economics and political economy need to be give a higher profile.

As regards economics more needs to feature and be taught at Second level with Curriculum for Excellence in primary school.  This could be done in a practical way.  College of Food Technology  (who trained and employed a UK Master Chef) could send out a chef and an economist to assist in a school fund-raising project.  (N.B.  the Masterchef actually set up kitchens in the most deprived areas of the East End of London to encourage single parents how to cook on a very low budget.  Both women and men who attended, loved the classes).

In primary Sschools a good example of economics could be making and selling tablet (forget about dieticians for the moment!).  The Chef would get them to help him calculate how much tablet they would make, and also how to calculate cots and explain profit!  The Economist would show them how to plot the costs on a Supply and Demand diagram, and explain how equilibrium is reached.

When the children are involved in the production of something and encouraged to ask as many questions as they wish, they will lose any fear of the subject, and more importantly the vocabulary of economics will become part of their every day life!!

(Let’s hope the teachers would enjoy this experience too!)

At primary stages, within the Second level of Curriculum for Excellence, every school should receive visits from Further Education and University Heads of Departments.  The Colleges and Universities should have open days for children at this stage for children to visit and learn about the work of different departments, and what subjects would enable them to  be offered a place when they are old enough to attend.  Both the Glasgow School of Art, as well as the Conservatoire should be included.  There should be absolutely no mystery about attending further or higher education.

Once the pupils reach Secondary School  they can be taught about shifts of both demand and supply curves and what the result would be on prices and or quantity demanded and supplied and also on numbers employed( i.e. shift to right more employed shift to the left fewer employed.)

All Secondary School students could be taught a very basic circular flow diagram which introduces the government into the economy.  In second/third year, they could be taught how Government Taxation and Spending can either increase or decrease the circular flow of income.  This is the point when politics comes into play i.e. high taxation with no government spending can contract the economy and unemployment may begin to rise, but high taxation together with government spending can expand the economy (i.e. more jobs are created the economy).

To develop their understanding of how the above works, they can be introduced to a little economic history by looking at a chart of past increases in employment and conversely increases in unemployment and finding out what caused this to occur and explaining how this affects businesses and households alike.

It should also be explained to them that a lot of UK growth came directly as a result of UK membership of the European Union because businesses from all over the world opened offices in London (and some even opened factories n the UK so that they could trade both with UK and European Union free from tariffs).