Ken Macintosh MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Ken Macintosh (Eastwood) (Lab)

I welcome some of the steps that the Scottish Government has taken, but can Mr Adam tell me why Scotland has the lowest percentage of university entrants from the poorest backgrounds and the lowest proportion of entrants from state schools in the whole of the UK?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Ken Macintosh (Eastwood) (Lab)

I, too, thank Liz Smith for securing the debate. I cannot tell members how pleased and relieved I am to be discussing not only a subject that does not mention constitutional change once but a policy that is entirely devolved and always has been and where, if there are any problems, they are at least partly of our own making and, if there are any solutions, they lie entirely in our own hands. I am also pleased that the motion asks us to face up to the challenges in our schools and not simply those that have dominated recent political debate around early years and tertiary education.

There is much in our school system to be proud of, not least the achievements of our pupils and the high standards maintained by our teachers and staff. There are political achievements, too: from the advent of the Scottish Parliament and the first incoming Labour-Liberal Administration, we moved to restore teachers’ pay and to rebuild the crumbling school estate. Those achievements, among others, have helped underpin the fundamental public confidence that exists in both the quality and the fairness of our comprehensive system, findings that were borne out in our national debate on education.

That said, the Tories are absolutely right to point out that, no matter the undoubted equity of our school system, it does not manage to overcome the inequalities in our society. The OECD findings on Scottish education a few years back still hold true: despite the best efforts of our best teachers and the fairness of our school system, the most accurate predictor of, or rather the key determinant in, a child’s academic success is their socioeconomic background, a point just made by Christian Allard, as well as by several other members. To put that another way, a more tabloid report that I heard last month said that the chance of a child going to university is directly related to the number of books to be found in their household.

We should not be surprised by those findings. Even our school-age children spend only a fraction of their lives in school—not just Anne McTaggart’s by the way, but probably mine, too—and are constantly open to the influence or the obstacles created by family, friends and often unfortunate circumstances. However, we are disappointed by that and by the fact that this equitable system of ours does not produce more equitable outcomes. Realistic or not, we set the highest expectations on our schools and our teachers.

What can we do about the issue? I have said that I have a lot of sympathy for the Tory analysis of the problems or challenges facing our schools. At first glance, the remedy that they propose looks attractive, too. After all, who could disagree with increased choice, greater diversity and stronger leadership? Unfortunately, most of us in this chamber suspect that those words are code. When we hear the Conservatives talk about choice, I usually ask, “Choice for whom?”

Increased choice often means only increased choice for some. Greater diversity as promoted by the Conservatives—certainly in the past—might sometimes be better described as greater division, and the strong leadership and full autonomy for headteachers that they aspire to is at the expense of accountability to democratically elected local authorities. In other words, having identified the problems of inequality, the Tories proposed solutions that may inadvertently or otherwise make matters worse. There is little evidence that people in England shared Michael Gove’s desire to hark back to some idealistic vision of the 1950s which, frankly, never existed, and every reason to believe that most people in Scotland would be utterly opposed to that desire.

Do not get me wrong: I want greater choice and greater parental involvement. We know that the more we can involve parents, the better the outcomes for their children. I want more choice in the state system, but I recognise the limits of that choice. Therefore, I believe in greater plurality, so I want far more science, sports, music and drama schools. Institutions such as Steiner schools could be part of the state system and, if I thought it ever existed, I, too, would reject a one-size-fits-all approach.

However, we have to recognise that some parents are better able to take advantage of the choices that exist. The answer cannot be a consumerist approach. Schools are not a product on a supermarket shelf; they are a taxpayer-funded investment in our children not only as individuals but as part of society. Our belief in equity and fairness means that, where possible, we want the same range of choices to be available to all.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Ken Macintosh

Indeed. That is not dissimilar to some of the suggestions that the Labour Party is already putting forward, which I hope to refer to, although I doubt that I will have time.

We need to address the attainment gap between schools, but there is an equally big attainment gap within schools, often for the same socioeconomic reasons—it is the same list of obstacles and challenges that can hold youngsters back—and one of the weaknesses of the Tory approach is that creating a pseudo market between schools does nothing to address that.

Those challenges, which are the subject of the discussion that we are having this afternoon, were one of the key motivating factors for the introduction of the curriculum for excellence. It was designed to get away from an overly strong focus on attainment at too early a stage in school and to put a far greater emphasis on learning, achievement and self-development.

I was always a big supporter of the schools of ambition programme. As I am the son of two headteachers, members might not be surprised to hear that I have come across some great school leaders, both the charismatic and the collegiate.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Ken Macintosh

I believe that there should be room in the system for that leadership and that individuality to develop the unique ethos of a school community. Most schools now have little or no control over their own budget, but the schools of ambition programme gave key schools £100,000 of their own, which gave them the freedom to do something different—something inspirational.

There is more that we can do to remove the barriers to opportunity that Mark McDonald’s point was about, not just in the classroom but in the extracurricular activities that we offer.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Ken Macintosh

At my oldest daughter’s parents evening, she had a procurator fiscal, a hospital consultant and a lawyer. That should be available to all schools.

16:11  

Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Ken Macintosh (Eastwood) (Lab)

Laura, you have experienced both systems. What was your experience of the old system, and how does it compare to the new system?



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Ken Macintosh

You were not asking for crisis support—you were asking for furniture.



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Ken Macintosh

The old system was administered by the Department for Work and Pensions but the new one is administered by the local authority. Is that right?



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Ken Macintosh

And you find the local authority more supportive.



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Ken Macintosh

That is good.

Lana, you did not sound so encouraging. What happened with 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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YesDefeated

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

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

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

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

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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NoCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
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NoCarried

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

Search for other Motions lodged by Ken Macintosh
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11340: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11310: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11273: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10819: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10766: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10023: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09878: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09633: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08406: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07580: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/09/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Ken Macintosh
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-22961: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22960: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22959: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03619: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22901: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22900: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22898: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22899: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22896: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22897: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>