Gordon MacDonald MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Gordon MacDonald (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

The Conservative motion begins with the statement that

“the greatest challenge facing Scottish education is the existence of the significant pupil attainment gap between different schools and different communities”.

However, a 2007 report by the OECD indicated that parents’ socioeconomic background mattered more for children’s attainment than their school.

At yesterday’s meeting of the Education and Culture Committee, we had the opportunity to question Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People on his organisation’s annual report. On page 8, the report states:

“Child poverty is the single most negative factor in too many of our children’s lives and the eradication of it is the single most significant influence in the better realisation of their rights.”

It also states:

“There is persuasive and disturbing evidence of measurable gaps in social, emotional and cognitive development evident in our youngest children. These are amplified as they grow up. In other words, despite our efforts, remedial actions do not counter the destructive impact on children born into families living in poor circumstances.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report of May 2014 entitled “Closing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Education” stated that children from low-income households in Scotland do significantly worse at school than those from better-off homes. When the report was issued, one of its authors, Sue Ellis of the University of Strathclyde’s school of education, said:

“Children who grow up in poverty tend to do less well in education because of factors in their home background for example having parents who are more stressed, less able to help them with their school work. To meet the needs of such children, schools need to dovetail their systems, curriculum and teaching to ‘bridge’ between home and school so that children living in poverty experience success in education and can use it to lever themselves out of poverty.”

I believe that the Scottish Government has the right policies in place to enable pupils from poorer backgrounds to achieve that success in education to an increasing extent so that they can lever themselves out of poverty. The Scottish Government’s access to education fund is specifically aimed at improving the attainment of children who grow up in poverty. Schools can apply to the fund to provide support to pupils and their families for school materials, trips, uniforms, information technology, coaching and mentoring, and parental engagement programmes. The underlying principle is that pupils should not have to miss out because they cannot afford other activities that will enhance their learning.

In addition, unlike the Government south of the border, the Scottish Government has maintained the education maintenance allowance, which supports young people from the poorest families to remain in education.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Gordon MacDonald

No, thanks.

Curriculum for excellence is about supporting young people in being successful, confident, responsible and effective learners. In its paper “Raising Attainment, Improving Life-chances in Scotland’s Schools”, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland said about curriculum for excellence that

“innovative teaching practice, increased collegiate time to discuss standards, increased emphasis on pupil choice and enjoyment and the radical overhaul of the senior phase curriculum are strategies likely to improve educational outcomes for young people.”

That builds on the trend identified by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. When it examined attainment at age 16, it found that the proportion of S4 pupils who had not achieved at least five awards had been reduced by 25 per cent over the five years to 2013. It went on to state:

“The proportion under-attaining fell every year between 2008 and 2013, whereas between 2000 and 2007 the numbers remained fairly constant.”

In training, the number of new modern apprenticeships has increased to more than 25,000, which is 60 per cent higher than 2006-07, and the Scottish Government is committed to further increasing that figure to 30,000 in the future. Young people who choose to move on to further or higher education will find that it is based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay, saving them the substantial cost of tuition fees.

All of that is designed not only to reduce the attainment gap between pupils from different socioeconomic backgrounds but to ensure that we have the best educated population in Europe.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Gordon MacDonald

No, thanks.

However, we have to recognize that, although we are making progress in reducing the attainment gap, we can go only so far in mitigating the damage caused by Westminster policies. The UK Government’s allowing of zero-hour contracts, its failure to keep the minimum wage in line with inflation and its further cuts in welfare will result in an additional 50,000 Scottish children living in poverty by 2020—and that is before the next round of cuts due in 2017-18.

If the Tories seriously want to tackle the pupil attainment gap in Scotland, they should accept the evidence from the experts that poverty is the main barrier to attainment. They should also support the Scottish Government’s submission to the Smith commission that Holyrood should have full responsibility over welfare powers to ensure that this place can tackle the underlying reason for underachievement, which is poverty.

16:17  

Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Gordon MacDonald (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

The minister talked about the problems associated with the funding of temporary accommodation. Last week, we heard a suggestion by ALACHO that there could be a shortfall of as much as £25 million. We also heard that, even if there is no money to pay for temporary accommodation, there is still a duty to provide it. What is the Government doing to address that potential huge problem that we face?



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Gordon MacDonald

On trying to save costs, one of the witnesses last week highlighted that it is not unusual for people to spend a minimum of six months in temporary accommodation, and that it can be up to a year. Is the Government doing anything to address the situation and reduce the amount of time that people spend in temporary accommodation?



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Gordon MacDonald

I also wanted to ask about housing options hubs, of which there are five in Scotland. The Scottish Housing Regulator has pointed out that not all hubs are effective, that they are still in their early days, that everyone is still learning and that best practice needs to be shared. What support will the Scottish Government give to the development of the hubs in future?



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Gordon MacDonald (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

Will the cabinet secretary confirm that the number of people studying for HNCs and other recognised qualifications has increased, which boosts the chances of our young people getting work?



Education and Culture Committee 07 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Gordon MacDonald (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

I want to ask about the culture change required in the teaching profession in order to ensure that curriculum for excellence is a success. There are three quotations that I want to read to you, all from last week’s evidence session.

Dr Janet Brown of the Scottish Qualifications Authority said:

“One of the fundamental principles of curriculum for excellence was that it should allow teachers to take back ownership and to use their professional judgment in creating a culture and a curriculum that is interesting and tailored to individuals.”

However, Richard Goring of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association said:

“The majority of secondary teachers have had the content, the syllabus and all that stuff there for them over the years, but suddenly they have to reinvent a lot of it themselves. That is not the experience that they had in the past and it will take time to change that.”

Finally, Ken Muir of the General Teaching Council for Scotland said:

“We still have some way to go with teachers’ understanding—and headteachers’ understanding, in some cases—of the basic philosophy of what curriculum for excellence is trying to achieve.”—[Official Report, Education and Culture Committee, 30 September 2014; c 6, 15, 23.]

How will the Scottish Government ensure that the cultural change required to meet the aspirations of curriculum for excellence is fully embedded in Scottish education?



Education and Culture Committee 07 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Gordon MacDonald

You said that culture change does not take place overnight. I am keen that we understand the position in the short term. The SQA, prior to the introduction of the set of qualifications, had 390 events across Scotland supporting thousands of teachers. Do you see that being replicated over—



Education and Culture Committee 07 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Gordon MacDonald

Thank you.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11332.2 Jenny Marra: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
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NoDefeated

S4M-11332.1 Gavin Brown: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11332 Fergus Ewing: Supported Business—That the Parliament recognises the economic and social va
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11304.3 Michael Russell: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to mo
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11304 Liz Smith: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament believes
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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YesCarried

S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
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YesCarried

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11116.1 Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-11116 in the name of Jo
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Gordon MacDonald
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11270: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10546: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10755: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10578: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10420: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09920: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08711: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08447: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08041: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07976: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Gordon MacDonald
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03506: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03435: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03332: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03323: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03142: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/04/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03064: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02884: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/01/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02704: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2013 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02613: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/11/2013 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02550: Gordon MacDonald, Edinburgh Pentlands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2013 Show Full Question >>