Mary Scanlon MSP

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Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

We are trying to look at the budget’s impact on education for this and future generations. However, speaking not only as the deputy convener of the Public Audit Committee but with my Education and Culture Committee hat on, I have to say that I am having some difficulties with that. For example, Audit Scotland has reported:

“There has been no independent evaluation of how much councils spend on education and what this delivers in terms of improved attainment and wider achievement for pupils”

and that

“there is no consistent approach to tracking and monitoring the progress of pupils from P1 to S3.”

I acknowledge COSLA’s comment in its submission that, from next year, it has

“reached a new agreement with Government”

whereby it

“should begin shifting the focus away from input measures such as teacher numbers towards a more useful measure of educational outcomes.”

I very much welcome that—indeed, it is just like the issue of whether having more doctors and nurses in the national health service means that we are all healthier—but I have to say that I am struggling to find the outcomes. According to the Auditor General, there is no defined relationship between how much is spent on education, where it is spent and whether it means more or fewer teachers, more quality improvement, more staff development, more primary teachers or whatever. We just do not seem to have information about the best place to spend the money to achieve a better outcome. I cannot find it and the Auditor General says that you do not have it. Can you help me?



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Mary Scanlon

We have had this Parliament for nearly 16 years. Obviously, over the past 16 years there has been more focus on Scottish education, but I hope that you understand that it comes as a wee bit of a shock when the Auditor General says that we do not know the relationship between spending and outcomes.

On page 3 of its submission, ADES talks about the level of support. It says that

“support assistants, breakfast clubs and study support ... auxiliaries, after-school care, sports, culture and leisure clubs, may well be reduced”

and that

“many ... have already been reduced.”

It goes on to say that

“some will also review their vocational options, course offerings and links with colleges.”

That relates to the Wood commission. It continues:

“The removal of management, development, quality improvement and support posts from central staffing in all authorities has reduced schools’ capacity to respond to curriculum development and multi-agency working”.

There has been an increase in the number of children going to primary school, yet in the past four years the number of primary school teachers has reduced by 12 per cent. There are reductions in all those aspects of spending on education, but we do not know whether that will affect attainment or achievement for school pupils in general. You say that you do not really know the link between spending and outcomes, but a pretty good fist has been made of cutbacks here. How do I, as a member of the committee, know that you are cutting back in the right places and that that will lead to better outcomes?



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Mary Scanlon

Do they have information that we do not have? Do they know what is better and what is not?



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Mary Scanlon

I do not usually walk away from a rammy, but the fact is that I am not really looking for one today. Instead, I am looking for some help in understanding all this and I hope that, as a committee member, I can, along with my colleagues, contribute to some radical thinking. I also want to put on record that we want to work with Government. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: excellent educational outcomes for pupils in Scotland.

A focus on the number of teachers is helpful and important, but it is not the answer to everything. As a Highlands and Islands member, I know of schools that have 11 pupils and one teacher. That might sound wonderful, but the classes that those 11 pupils are in range from P1 to P7, and that one teacher has to cover everything.

I am very pleased that both of you are working up agreements with COSLA, because that is what I am looking for. However, I am a member of both this committee and the Public Audit Committee, and my problem is that, as Audit Scotland has commented in its “School education” report,

“there has been no independent evaluation of how much councils spend on education and what this delivers in terms of improved attainment and wider achievement”

and

“there is no consistent approach to tracking and monitoring the progress of pupils from P1 to S3.”

I am not saying that that is not being done; it is just that the approach is not consistent. Moreover, I ask the ministers please not to think that I am asking for more tests—I am not. I also note that on page 19 of the same report, Audit Scotland has said:

“S2 pupils performed significantly worse against the standard expected ... in numeracy in both 2011 and 2013”,

and the situation is the same for primary pupils.

Finally, I am beginning to get some information about attainment. In the 10 years to 2013-14, 16 local authorities improved while 16 did not. I know that there is no little magic bullet that can deal with all of this, but I want to ask, as a reasonable contribution to the debate, whether you are aware of the areas in education where spending needs to be made. Where should spending be focused to achieve the best outcomes for our pupils?



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Mary Scanlon

I have a final question, convener. I take the cabinet secretary’s point about individual support; I welcome the moves that he has highlighted, which I think are important, and I thank him for his positive answer. However, I am concerned by the comment in ADES’s submission that

“the level of support ... e.g. support assistants, breakfast clubs and study support ... auxiliaries, after-school care, sports, culture and leisure clubs, may well be reduced”.

It also talks about reviewing

“vocational options, course offerings and links with colleges”

and removing

“management, development, quality improvement and support”.

I appreciate that there is pressure on budgets, but my concern is that the cutbacks are happening before we know exactly what works—the example that you gave seems positive—and where we should be spending money to get the best outcome. I am concerned about the fact that we are looking only at teacher numbers and not at the activities that I just mentioned. Are we cutting back on the easy options? A lady last week talked about “frills”, but I do not think that support assistants are frills. My concern is that we are cutting back on exactly some of the areas in which we should be increasing investment.



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Mary Scanlon

I read from—



Public Audit Committee 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I want to return to information technology. The committee has talked about IT a huge amount and it seems that lessons are never learned—we are always told that next time round all will be fine.

Case study 3 on page 15 is on “NHS 24’s Future Programme”. It states:

“NHS 24 has delayed implementation as it considers that the new application … developed does not meet … patient safety”.

The original business case was £29.6 million, but the total cost to date is £38 million. The report goes on to say there is

“brokerage of £16.9 million and £0.8 million in revenue funding”

and then a further £2.2 million. The original business case was £29.6 million. How much is this costing at the moment? When is it likely to be finished? Have lessons been learned? What is the final cost and why has it gone so badly wrong?



Public Audit Committee 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Mary Scanlon

I was not aware of that. It is on the record, but can we flick over carefully from that one? I apologise, convener.



Public Audit Committee 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Mary Scanlon

It is certainly worthy of further investigation, so I will watch that carefully.

I appreciate that we are coming to NHS Highland under the next agenda item. However, NHS Highland was being told 15 years ago that it should not depend on non-recurring savings. That was in 1999-2000, but it is now 2014. NHS Highland is not the only one; I mention it because exhibit 3 on page 17 shows that many boards are dependent on non-recurring savings, obviously apart from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and, to an extent, NHS Forth Valley. Why is this still happening when it was a problem 15 years ago? Nothing seems to have changed.



Public Audit Committee 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Mary Scanlon

That could explain why NHS Highland is facing the pressures that it does, but I appreciate that that is for the next agenda item.

I turn to exhibit 5 on page 23. I notice that NHS Grampian has not achieved any of its targets for 2014 and that NHS Highland has achieved only two. No health board has achieved the out-patients target for within 12 weeks. Five out of 14 boards achieved the day-case treatment time guarantee target. Five out of 14 met the accident and emergency target. On urgent referral to first treatment for cancer, the figure is also five out of 14—almost a third. For delayed discharge, it is three out of 14.

The report states:

“Performance against some waiting time targets deteriorated”.

Having read these reports annually, I wonder whether the waiting time targets are too stringent, or is the money simply not there? Why are things getting worse rather than better? Is it a management problem? Is it a financial problem? Is it how we do things? Every time that we come to this, there are a myriad problems, which we are told will all be sorted by next year. Then the next year comes along and we are full of optimism, but things have deteriorated again. Why have most health boards not achieved their targets? I appreciate that there are difficulties with Grampian and Highland, because they do not receive their full national resource allocation committee allocation.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
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YesCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
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YesDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
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NoCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
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YesDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
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NoCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
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YesDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Mary Scanlon
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11627: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11398.1: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11327: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11326: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11145: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10829.2: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 19/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10735: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 05/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10716: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10471: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 24/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10395: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 19/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Mary Scanlon
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23117: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23118: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22998: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22999: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23000: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22995: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22996: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22997: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22994: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22990: Mary Scanlon, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>

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