Neil Bibby MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 General Question Time and First Minister's Question Time : Thursday, October 30, 2014
5. Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s position is on concerns regarding the impact that charging for Scottish Qualifications Authority exam marking reviews could have on students. (S4F-02351)



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 General Question Time and First Minister's Question Time : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Neil Bibby

The First Minister will be aware that charges introduced this year mean that pupils from private schools can pay up to £39.75 to appeal any exam result. However, in the state sector, there is not only variation from council to council in whether the school or local authority will pay for such appeals; there is concern from parents and anecdotal evidence that those charges are acting as a disincentive to appealing for our pupils.

This week, the Educational Institute of Scotland said:

“pupils from private schools have an unfair advantage and that is not something that should be allowed.”

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council has said that it is an “uncomfortable situation”.

Given those concerns, will the First Minister agree to contact the SQA and ask for an investigation and review of the fairness and the charges that relate to the new system?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
8. Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what it considers the skills needs are of the west of Scotland economy. (S4O-03618)



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Neil Bibby

Does the cabinet secretary agree that skills needs vary across Scotland and that we need to ensure that regional skills needs are being met? We have had cuts of 140,000 college places across the country, so will she agree to analyse the impact that those cuts in training opportunities has had in places such as Renfrewshire and other areas in the west of Scotland?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

I welcome this debate, which the Scottish Conservatives have brought forward. We can support the Government amendment on the basis of its recognising the challenges that we face and on which we must work together, but that will not deter us from raising those challenges in the debate. I know that Liz Smith raised a number of challenges for the Government.

Addressing the educational attainment gap and educational inequality is one of the biggest issues that the Parliament and the country face. This is an opportunity for us to put forward suggestions as well as to scrutinise the statistics, the research and the Government’s record since 2007. However, before we propose solutions, we need to analyse and identify the problems, as there is a huge amount of work to be done to address the attainment gap in our education system and the inequality that it creates.

As Liz Smith said, the statistics show that there has been a small reduction in the attainment gap of pupils from the least and most deprived areas, but none of us can claim that there has been a significant or meaningful reduction in that gap. There is still a substantial attainment gap between pupils in respect of average tariff score, positive follow-up destinations, and literacy and numeracy levels.

Scottish Labour agrees that there needs to be a focus on the early years and literacy and numeracy, and we believe that that is something that all parties should prioritise and which all parents can support. The 2013 Scottish survey of literacy and numeracy showed that there is a substantial gap in literacy, and the most recent 2014 report, which focused on numeracy, highlighted that numeracy rates for primary 4 and primary 7 pupils were lower than those in 2011, which is worrying.

The inequality of opportunity is no better demonstrated than in the statistics that relate to looked-after children. The most recent Government research showed that only 2 per cent of looked-after children initially went to university, compared with 36 per cent of all school leavers. I do not pretend that that is an easy problem to fix. Improvements to aftercare support were made in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, but we will also need to improve the standards of support that looked-after children can expect during their school education.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Neil Bibby

I think that there is a mixture of both. I definitely accept the member’s point.

For our part, the Scottish Labour Party is developing a strategy to deal with the attainment gap, which includes reducing the gap before children start school through increased and improved pre-school provision; removing barriers to young people’s opportunities and learning at school; and supporting families directly through initiatives such as family centres.

In May this year, Scottish Labour published our “Mind the Gap: Tackling Educational Inequality in Scotland” challenge paper, which set out 12 policy priorities in the area, including focusing on the crucial early years of a child’s life; building relationships between families, schools and communities; expanding wraparound care; and removing barriers to inclusion, such as the cost of school trips and after-school activities.

The early years is a key focus of our work, but we also need to examine whether our primary and secondary school education system is well enough equipped and resourced to face the huge challenge of closing the attainment gap. Despite the hard work and professional commitment of teachers, parents and pupils, the Scottish education system is being stretched. That is through no fault of theirs. We all know that teachers in Scotland are facing significant workload issues, and surveys by teaching unions indicate that the Government is failing to address them. Not only are teachers still teaching new courses and preparing pupils for new exams, but there are far fewer teachers in our classrooms. Given those circumstances, how can we seriously reduce the attainment gap?

Since 2007, we have seen a cut of nearly 4,000 teachers under the Scottish National Party Government. That matters because teachers and parents regularly tell me and others that they feel that the more time teachers can spend individually with pupils, the better. As a response to the teaching unions’ concern, the cabinet secretary said recently at the Education and Culture Committee:

“As for teacher numbers, I am very keen to maintain and, if possible, expand them.”—[Official Report, Education and Culture Committee, 7 October 2014; c 27.]

Yet just two days later there was no mention from John Swinney in his budget statement of resources for maintaining teacher numbers, let alone increasing them. I hope that that issue will soon be addressed.

The number of teachers is one issue, but the issue of inequality is also linked to the increased reliance on private tuition. In March this year, a Holyrood magazine survey exposed that there had been a 300 per cent increase in the use of private tutors in the past year alone, with 95 per cent of those using them coming from state schools. Some families who were worried about their children passing their exams were found to be spending £1,900 a year to get an hour a week of extra tuition. Parents have to do what is right for their children, but it is concerning that we are seeing such an increase in the reliance on private tuition. Families from the most deprived areas cannot afford anywhere near £1,900 a year for private tuition. If that trend continues, it will only entrench and widen the attainment gap. I hope that the Scottish Government can look at that issue and respond specifically on that point.

Another issue of inequality in our education system—



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Neil Bibby

—that has been highlighted this week—I am sorry that I do not have time to talk about it—is charges for exam appeals. The judgement on an appeal should be based on the opinion of relevant teachers and not on the pupil’s or school’s ability to pay. The Scottish Government should urgently review what is happening in that regard.

I hope that the minister and the cabinet secretary will address those issues today. There are of course many other challenges, which Liz Smith and others will raise, and I hope that we will be able to discuss them in this debate.

I move amendment S4M-11304.2, to leave out from “delivering maximum” to “headteachers” and insert:

“reducing the gap before children start school through increased and improved pre-school provisions, removing barriers to young people’s opportunities and learning at school, closing the attainment gap for all children with a particular focus on looked-after children”.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

At the Education and Culture Committee meeting on Tuesday, Mike Russell said:

“As for teacher numbers, I am very keen to maintain and, if possible, expand them.”—[Official Report, Education and Culture Committee, 7 October 2014; c 27.]

That was a bit surprising, given that Mr Russell and the Scottish Government have cut teacher numbers by nearly 4,000 since they came to power. The Educational Institute of Scotland has described those comments as a highly significant development—



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Neil Bibby

—in the same week that the Scottish Parent Teacher Council raised concerns about a shortage of teachers. I therefore ask Mr Swinney to give us a clear answer: how many more teachers will the budget provide, and will those teachers be in classrooms next August?



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

On the implementation of the new national qualifications, we have teachers who have never been so angry and parents and pupils have been worried and stressed. Yesterday, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning told the Education and Culture Committee that he has made mistakes. When people make mistakes, the normal thing to do is to apologise for them. Will the minister do what Mike Russell did not do yesterday and apologise to teachers, parents and pupils in Scotland for his Government’s mismanagement of the curriculum for excellence, or is he, too, happy to hide behind everybody else?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

 
YesDefeated

 
NoDefeated

 
YesCarried

S4M-11304.3 Michael Russell: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to mo
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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
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NoCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Neil Bibby
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11304.2: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11034: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10830: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10147.3: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09963.2: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09815: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09312: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09140: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08081: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07893: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Neil Bibby
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03654: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02351: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03618: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22424: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22214: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22045: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03367: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21685: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21684: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03301: Neil Bibby, West Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/05/2014 Show Full Question >>