Iain Gray MSP

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Iain Gray MSP

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Parliamentary Activities

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

The Brock report explicitly pointed out the vulnerability of on-the-radar children to sexual exploitation and cited the Rotherham case. This week, police launched a probe into 14 cases of child sexual exploitation here in Edinburgh. The urgency of the situation could not be greater. It is now a week since Jackie Brock told us that there had been little or no activity since her report. What has the First Minister done in the past week to redouble efforts?



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

It is extremely welcome to hear that the gap in bursary funding is to be bridged again this year, but the reality is that not knowing until now that the money will be available has a real impact. Students are left waiting many months not knowing whether they will get bursaries, and colleges have to spend or overspend their budgets. Instead of doing what it does every year, would it not be better if the Scottish Government just budgeted enough money for supporting students in the first place?



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

The cabinet secretary’s Government has reduced the size of bursaries that are available to students and lowered the income threshold above which bursaries are replaced by loans. How can she come to the chamber and pretend that that is helping students from low-income families?



Education and Culture Committee 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

Although in some ways the discussion has moved on, I want to follow up on the point about the quality of data and available evidence. That has been a theme of the questioning, which is not surprising because the availability of data is a theme of the LSG submission.

Stuart Farmer talked about the SEEAG recommendations on tracking progress in STEM subjects and how they were not accepted. The submission mentions: the collection of establishment and vacancy statistics ending and that there is now no information on teacher vacancies; a lack of information on the level of science qualification of primary teachers and whether they have highers in a science subject or maths; and also the withdrawal of Scotland from international comparisons—the trends in international maths and science survey, as well as the progress in international reading literacy study.

You have talked a lot about the data that is available. Is it fair to say that, when it comes to both inputs and outputs, the data available is reducing—it is not getting better, but worse—that we know less about what is happening in science teaching in our schools, and that that is why you have tried to plug the gap with your survey?



Education and Culture Committee 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Iain Gray

I assure colleagues that my General Teaching Council for Scotland registration has lapsed.



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

The Deputy First Minister mentioned the principle of no detriment and the commentary has made much of how difficult that principle is. Mr Swinney called it a new principle but it is not, is it? Mr Swinney has just successfully negotiated a no-detriment settlement with regard to already devolved taxes. That was a negotiation in which, in the end, the Scottish block benefited more than it was initially thought might be the case.

Does the Deputy First Minister agree that the principle of no detriment is well established, understood and effective?



Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

We all like to think of Scotland as a great science nation, with a proud history of scientific achievements—enough to fill a tea towel many times over. I will illustrate that with a passing reference to one of the greatest shining lights of our scientific past, James Clerk Maxwell, because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Maxwell’s treatise, “A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field”, which is one of the most important publications ever in science. The equations included therein are just as important as the perhaps more famous E=mc2, which came from Einstein later. The foundations of quantum mechanics lay in James Clerk Maxwell’s work.

Maxwell was not just a great researcher and theoretical physicist; he was a teacher, too. He lectured first at Marischal College, which was a predecessor of the unified University of Aberdeen. He also gave pro bono lectures in that city at the local working men’s college.

As well as a proud history in science, we have a proud history in science teaching, and the two are, of course, fundamentally related. I, myself, have a small part in the history of science teaching—it is history—which is not quite as illustrious as that of James Clerk Maxwell, but I started my professional life as a physics teacher. Although that experience and my registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland lie far back in the dim and distant past, my passion for science and the excitement that learning about science can provide for young people remain undiminished.

When the learned societies group published its report back in November, I found the results of its survey of science teaching, of our schools and of their resources quite alarming. That survey—the first in about 10 years—shows that 82 per cent of our schools report that they do not have sufficient resources for science teaching. That is, put simply, related to funding. The survey revealed the fact that funding per pupil of science teaching in our secondary schools is about a third less than it is in England. In primary schools, the situation is worse: the funding is at about half the level that one could expect in a primary school in England. Furthermore, 98 per cent of the schools that were surveyed said that they were drawing on external funding in order to marshal enough resources to teach science, which often came out of the pockets of science teachers themselves.

Those pockets are neither deep nor numerous. Not long after the learned societies report was published, the Institute of Physics produced a report that examined the careers of physics graduates. The institute’s survey demonstrated that physics graduates who had become teachers were the poorest-paid section of those who had been surveyed. As a result, there is now an impending shortage of physics teachers. That is not helped by the fact that other parts of the United Kingdom are providing financial incentives for trainee teachers in the STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths—subjects and we are losing trainee teachers to the rest of the United Kingdom. That does not just concern teachers. Local government cuts, which we have just heard about during the budget debate, have meant that the budgets for technicians in school science departments have also been cut.

There are other concerns around science teaching—they are not just about resources. Science teachers have come to me with concerns about an unintended consequence of the introduction of curriculum for excellence—which we, of course, support. The way in which course choice is being applied in our schools has led to a squeezing of science and maths subjects. There are now real fears that the number of pupils who choose those subjects will reduce.

That is not helped by the results of the first new national exams, which show significantly lower pass rates in science subjects than in some others. There is a real fear among science teachers that pupils will therefore be discouraged from choosing those subjects because of the long-standing belief that they are somehow too hard. The result will be a reduction in classes.



Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Iain Gray

There are two points to address in that intervention. First, I have made it clear that the evidence is, at the moment, anecdotal. I will come back to that issue at the end of my speech, but I point out that the evidence has come from teachers. Secondly, I was not suggesting for a moment that teachers are discouraging students from taking science subjects, but that some of the ways in which school administration works are making it more difficult for young people to choose one, two or three science subjects.

The minister mentioned standards. There is also a problem with them; for example, the Scottish Government’s own numeracy survey, which came out last year, showed a fall in numeracy attainment in our schools. Of course, numeracy underpins the STEM subjects. There were significant falls in primary 2 and P4, and something like 34 per cent in secondary 4 did not achieve the required numeracy rates. That is another significant difficulty in our schools that will have consequences for the ability of pupils to study STEM subjects.

In many ways, therefore, this is a perfect storm. We have underresourced science teaching: we face not having enough teachers and, potentially, not enough pupils choosing STEM subjects, and we have a lack of, or dropping, standards in the fundamental skills that pupils need to succeed in the subjects. That all threatens not just our future as a science nation but our economy. Colleagues who attended the Institution of Engineering and Technology event a couple of weeks ago will know that its report suggests that by 2022 we will need 147,000 engineers alone in Scotland to have the kind of growth in the economy that we want.

I am not for one moment suggesting that the Scottish Government is not committed to quality science teaching in our schools; I am simply using this evening’s debate to draw attention to various interlocking reports that suggest that problems are developing around science education in our schools. Now is the time to take action. Next week, our Education and Culture Committee will have an evidence-taking session on this matter, but the truth is that the problems need more than a one-off evidence session. We need a plan for action to turn around the problems of resourcing teachers and any unintended consequences of curriculum change on course choice, and we need it before it is too late. That will allow us to hope for—and, indeed, to expect and see—the creation of more James Clerk Maxwells in the future to maintain our reputation as one of the world’s leading science nations.

17:12  

Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Iain Gray

Will the minister give way?



Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Iain Gray

It is, really. The minister’s point is well made. The sample was small, and the report says that. Surely the response to that should be not to dismiss the report’s findings but to consider a wider sample that would give us a clearer picture and more evidence on whether what the learned societies group found is or is not the national picture.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
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AbstainDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
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YesCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
AbstainDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
YesDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Iain Gray
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11626: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11368: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11301.1: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10769.1: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10507: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10261: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10256: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10255: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10101: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09927.1: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Iain Gray
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03900: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02508: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03376: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21460: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21295: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21296: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21288: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21291: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21290: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21289: Iain Gray, East Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Question >>

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