Michael Russell MSP

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Michael Russell MSP

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  • Member for: Argyll and Bute
  • Region: Highlands and Islands
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Michael is a member of the following Committees:

Michael is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Michael Russell

Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Michael Russell)

The University of Dundee and the University of Strathclyde offer, in alternate years, a two-year master of science in educational psychology. Educational psychology students are eligible to apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland for a £3,400 postgraduate tuition fee loan for each year. In addition, from 2015-16, Scotland-domiciled students who undertake the course will be eligible to apply for an additional loan of up to £4,500 each year to help with living costs.

I met students from the University of Strathclyde cohort on 1 May this year to discuss their experience of the course, the levels of support available and the work that they want to do as educational psychologists.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Michael Russell

Two issues need to be considered. Mr Stewart has addressed both of them helpfully—I say “helpfully” because that is the case. We have rehearsed the issues in the chamber before, but I will explain them briefly. The first is the recruitment and retention of educational psychologists. The workforce planning that is undertaken for that indicates that the numbers that are being trained are adequate for the jobs available. As long as that is the case, it would be foolish to increase the number in training. If at any stage the workforce planning indicated that more were required, I would take that seriously. There is no shortage of students applying for the courses; they are high-quality postgraduate courses and high-quality students go into them. Of course I am happy to meet students and MSPs to discuss individual cases.

The second issue is postgraduate support. There was a very varied map of postgraduate support and there were two problems with it. One was that it had many inconsistencies, which arose from previous shortages and the money that was put in to address them. The second was a decline in the number of Scottish students undertaking postgraduate study. Yesterday, I announced that Bryan MacGregor, vice-principal of the University of Aberdeen, will undertake a review to look at the map of postgraduate provision and support for it and to see whether the prescribed list of courses for support should be changed in any way and how we would do that. I would welcome input from MSPs on that.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Michael Russell)

Between 2007 and 2010, the number of teaching posts fell by 3,077. Almost half of those posts—48.3 per cent—were lost in just eight Labour councils, and one in five of those posts was lost in just one council, Labour-run Glasgow City Council.

Since 2011, we have had an agreement with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to maintain the pupil teacher ratio, which has remained at 13.5 in publicly funded schools, and the number of teachers has stabilised at around 51,000. That agreement remains in force for this year, and we are discussing future years with COSLA.

Despite that, Glasgow City Council has continued to cut the number of teachers, including by 146 in 2013. Therefore, the real question is perhaps why Labour keeps cutting the number of teachers.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Michael Russell

The facts speak for themselves, and I gave Mr Bibby the facts. Glasgow City Council has continued to cut the number of teachers, but we have stabilised the number of teachers owing to an agreement that I secured with COSLA—I think, yet again, without the support of the Labour Party, which never supports any reasonable actions to ensure that our schools operate well. If Mr Bibby would like to continue to support me in ensuring that COSLA members do not cut the number of teachers, I would welcome that support. The first thing that he could do is go and speak to Gordon Matheson and tell him to stop cutting the number of teachers.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Michael Russell)

We attach great importance to the delivery of a high-quality music experience for all children, including those in primary schools. Every school pupil is entitled to a broad general education within curriculum for excellence. That includes specific experiences and outcomes in music education in the expressive arts curriculum area.

The provision and delivery of education services, including music, is for each local authority to decide based on local needs, circumstances and spending priorities. The Scottish Government has invested a total of £107.5 million in the youth music initiative over the past 12 years.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Michael Russell

I hear noises off, which seem to be arguing that all education should be entirely run from the centre. That was the burden of Mr Bibby’s question and is the burden of the muttering that I heard from Labour members when Mr Crawford asked his question. If that is the Labour members’ position, let them advance it. If it is not, let us acknowledge that, when local authorities make their decisions, they are subject to review and, sometimes, criticism.

I am aware of the proposal. It is disappointing, particularly given the work of David Green, which was supported across all parties. Indeed, part of his report was launched at an event sponsored by a Labour MSP. A priority should be given to music education and I am sorry that the cut is back on the agenda. [Interruption.]

I hear Labour members still shouting about it. If they want a centralised service, let them call for it. If they do not, let them come up with an idea—any idea, because there are usually no ideas from Labour.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Michael Russell

There are so many answers to that that I almost do not know where to start. Let me start with the Dunfermline by-election, in which the Labour Party argued that it had invented the council tax freeze. Now, apparently, Labour does not even want to acknowledge it.

The reality of the situation is that local authorities make their decisions on education in the context of a budget that has been protected by this Government. This Government has worked incredibly hard to protect that budget, but—and this is a big but—actions have consequences. Some months ago, Dr Simpson argued that we were better together. Let him prove it, because it looks to me as if, in financial terms, that simply is not true.



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Michael Russell)

Thank you, convener. Derek Mackay will set out the broader context of the budget, and I will speak about the progress that we are making and the decisions that we face if we are to realise our ambitions for Scottish education.

Since 2007, there has been constant improvement in our education system, supported by appropriate change. When this Government came to power, curriculum for excellence was running aground, standards were slipping, our programme for international student assessment scores were drifting and a high proportion of our school buildings were in poor condition.

We have turned that around. Curriculum for excellence has been rolled out as the way in which we do education and it is producing ever better outcomes. We have record exam results and a record number of school leavers in positive destinations. We have halted our decline in the PISA tables, we have reinforced our international standing in education and we have more new or refurbished schools. Four hundred and sixty-three school building projects have been completed since this Government came to power, which is 135 more than were completed under the preceding Administration.

There is also progress on early years, free school meals, attainment and vocational education. Across all the main measures, across the whole area of education, what exists now is better than what existed in 2007. That is the reality.

However, we cannot and should not rest on our laurels. We should do more. We should work across the political divide, with the unions, with parents, with pupils and with local authorities. That is how we will achieve the best results for Scotland. I made that case to the committee in April and I make it again.

Of course, with the powers that come with independence—the powers of a normal state—we could have used tax, welfare and labour market regulation to bear down on the real enemy of educational progress, which is poverty. In the event, Scotland did not vote yes, and there are consequences to that decision for this budget and future budgets. We now have to find a way of getting better results with the money that we have.

The first thing that we should do is be true to the tradition of Scottish education, while always seeking to improve outcomes. We will not do that by chasing the latest fad or misrepresenting the improving reality of Scottish education. We will not do it by imitating approaches that are failing elsewhere.

The Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg, who is now teaching at Harvard and whose students are studying for a masters degree in international education and looking with approval at what Scotland is doing, describes much of what is taking place in other countries as being infected by GERM—the global educational reform movement.

I will be happy to explain the perils of GERM at greater length, if I am asked to do so. I want to reinforce some key points, because we are trying to use them to improve Scottish education. Successful, well-rooted education systems that are not part of GERM have high confidence in teachers and principals as professionals, encourage teachers and students to try new ideas and approaches—in other words, putting curiosity, imagination and creativity at the heart of learning—and regard the purpose of teaching and learning as being to cultivate development of the whole child.

I want Scotland to remain GERM free and I think that the vast majority of Scottish parents and teachers want that, too. I want a system that has high confidence in teachers, which is open and creative and regards Scotland as the best place to grow up in. Such an approach encourages innovation. That is why, for example, the week after the referendum I announced that we would convene a children and young people’s summit. At the first planning meeting yesterday, I was bowled over by the ideas and aspirations of Scotland’s young people.

Instead of being fixated with structures, we are focusing on closing the attainment gap and creating greater equity. Ours is an outcome-based approach with local authorities, which is the best guarantor of educational stability and progress. We should be placing young people, teachers and teaching at the heart of improving outcomes for our children and young people.

Let me make this absolutely clear to the committee: we cannot drive up attainment and improve outcomes with fewer teachers. We are committed to working with local government, with the engagement of parents and trade unions, to reach agreement on better educational outcomes. Those discussions have commenced and have not concluded. Teachers are at the heart of achieving the very best outcomes for our children and young people and are a top priority for Government.

The progress that we are making in Scottish education, the hard work that we have put into curriculum for excellence, the inspiration that we are drawing from the improvement partnerships and the emphasis that we place on developing Scotland’s young workforce must all be taken forward in a time of ever-greater financial insecurity.

The time is right for detailed reflection by all players in Scottish education about what should come next and how Scotland can continue to improve. We must press on and build on the progress that we have made, and we will do so, through our strong Scottish approach to innovation as well as our proud history as the oldest system of compulsory schooling in the world. I am very open to discussions with people about how we do that and I look forward to those discussions.



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Michael Russell

No, I hope that that will not be the case. Scottish Government funding to local government is set to increase from £10.6 billion this year to £10.8 billion in 2015-16. As the minister indicated, it is for local authorities to decide how to spend the resources that have been allocated to them. Ring fencing has virtually disappeared. I see no reason for such cuts. However, there is a strong argument for imagining and putting in place better ways of delivering. For example, I know that the committee has talked about shared services and such issues with various witnesses. Local authorities could become ever more effective in delivering by taking those routes.



Education and Culture Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Michael Russell

We do not deny the challenging economic position, but we have made our position clear that the decisions that local authorities have to make are for them to make, within a budget settlement that is as generous as we can make it. My colleagues Mr Swinney and Mr Mackay work constantly with local authorities in that regard.

Of course, nobody could deny the pressure from Westminster on Scottish Government budgets, from the austerity measures that we have had and those that are, allegedly, still to come. If you read today’s press, you will see that the Treasury has apparently been asked for £30 billion-worth of further cuts. We are not immune to that pressure. However, we have taken a deliberate approach, first, to remove ring fencing from the massively greater part of the budget, at the request of local authorities, to allow them to make their own decisions. Also, we have ensured that the educational priorities are clear but have allowed local authorities to interpret how they deliver those educational priorities in their own way, which is the Scottish model. I think that that has been the right way forward.

There is more that local authorities can do to reimagine the delivery of education and to work across boundaries to make sure that it is delivered as effectively and as efficiently as possible. That is what I would encourage them to do.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

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

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

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—
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
YesCarried

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
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Michael Russell
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11304.3: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10645: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10643: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07108: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06843.2: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06059: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/03/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-05652: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/02/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-05506.1: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/01/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-04914: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/11/2012 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-04787.2: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/11/2012 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Michael Russell
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S1W-34795: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34790: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34794: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34796: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34793: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34797: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34791: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34792: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34798: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>
Question S1W-34799: Michael Russell, South of Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2003 Show Full Question >>

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