WEST OF SCOTLAND MSP PILES PRESSURE ON SNP GOVERNMENT OVER THEIR EDUCATION RECORD ACROSS THE REGION
Mary Fee MSP has criticised the Scottish Government over their record on education in the West of Scotland. Recent official figures have highlighted a worrying trend across the region with teacher numbers declining and class sizes increasing.
When the SNP were elected in to Government a decade ago, they pledged to reduce all primary school class sizes to 18 pupils, or fewer. However, less than two years later, the SNP reneged on that commitment.
Mary Fee MSP questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, in the Scottish Parliament last week, highlighting that recent official Scottish Government statistics have revealed a worrying trend across the West of Scotland, with teacher numbers declining markedly over the last decade under SNP rule.
In the last decade, teacher numbers in Inverclyde have dropped by 175. North Ayrshire now has 105 fewer teachers compared with a decade ago, whilst in West Dunbartonshire, teaching numbers have fallen by 111 since 2007.
In relation to class sizes, Scottish Government figures have revealed that the percentage of pupils in primary 1- primary 3 in classes with 18 pupils of fewer has also declined across the West of Scotland between 2010 and 2016. This has resulted in bigger class sizes.
In Renfrewshire, the percentage of pupils in classes with 18 pupils or less declined significantly has declined from 33.3%, down to 13.3% In North Ayrshire, the figure fell from 25%, down to 13%. Whilst in East Renfrewshire the rate fell markedly from 32.5%, down to 16.5%.
Mary Fee put the Cabinet Secretary for Education under pressure during General Questions in the Scottish Parliament last week, demanding Mr. Swinney to outline the SNP Government’s plan to address the worrying trend of fewer teachers and larger classes, across the west of Scotland region.
Last week, the SNP came under substantial pressure as new literacy and numeracy statistics revealed the Scottish Government’s failings on education across the country.
In Scotland, under the SNP Government, standards in reading and writing have fallen since 2012. In literacy, the gap between the richest pupils and the rest has not closed, whilst in numeracy, standards have fallen and the gap between the richest and rest has increased.
Speaking from her Renfrewshire based constituency office, Mary Fee MSP stated:
“The recent Scottish Government figures highlight a worrying trend in primary and secondary education across the West of Scotland under the SNP Government at Holyrood.
“The trend of less teachers in classrooms and larger class sizes is concerning, as this results in increased pressure for teachers, whilst reducing the contact time between teachers and pupils.
“Nicola Sturgeon claims education is her top priority – however these figures show that the SNP are failing on education.
“A decade of SNP rule has resulted in standards declining, teacher numbers falling and class sizes increasing.
“This is simply unacceptable. The Scottish Government must take action to reverse this worrying trend.”
LABOUR MSP BACKS RAILWAY WORKERS TO OPPOSE BRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE MERGER
Mary Fee MSP outlined Scottish Labour’s opposition to Scottish Government plans to merge British Transport Police in to the existing Police Scotland framework. The MSP for the West of Scotland region highlighted the opposition from trade unions, railway workers and the British Police Federation to the SNP’s plans and called for the bill to be scrapped.
The SNP Government at Holyrood have proposed to devolve the British Transport Police and merge the organisation in to the existing Police Scotland framework, through the passage of the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.
During a debate this week in the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Labour MSP urged the SNP Government to scrap the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, highlighting that the Scottish Government has no mandate for these proposed changes as no political party at the had a manifesto commitment at the last election to integrated D division of the British Transport Police in to the structures of Police Scotland.
The level of opposition to the proposed British Transport Police merger has been growing in recent months with the TSSA, the RMT and ASLEF, as well as the British Transport Police Federation all outlining their strong opposition to the SNP Government’s plans.
Mary Fee MSP, who is also a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee which has been scrutinising the Scottish Government’s proposed Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill over recent months, outlined her opposition to the proposed merger, stating concerns related to the dilution of expertise and skills among the workforce, and highlighting issues regarding the financial cost of the merger, if it were to go ahead.
Speaking during the debate in the Scottish Parliament, Mary Fee MSP stated:
“The TSSA, the RMT, ASLEF and the British Transport Police Federation all oppose the proposed merger, and for serious and justifiable reasons. Those are the people who know what is best for the security and safety of the staff and passengers of our railways.
“The risks of the merger have been warned of by unions representing rail and British Transport Police staff. Those identified risks cover the impact on cross-border services, a dilution of expertise and skills, retaining the skilled and experienced BTP staff, the potential impact on safety and security, and the unknown costs of training for rail operators and Police Scotland.
“The bill is no further forward on cost and has no support from the workforce. There is no case for the bill and it should be scrapped. If the BTP isn’t broke, why fix it? Why risk making things worse?
“The Scottish Government should listen to the officers on the ground, the railway staff and their unions, the passengers and the rail operators, and scrap the bill.”
 Scottish Government, ‘Table 6.1 Teachers in publically funded schools, by local authority, 2009-2016’, Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland, No: 7-2016: Tables and Charts, http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/9271/downloads.
 Scottish Government, ‘Table 4.4 Percentage of P1-P3 pupils in classes of size 18 or fewer or in two teacher classes with a pupil teacher ratio of 18 or fewer, by local authority, 2010 to 2016, Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland, No: 7-2016 Edition, http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/9271/downloads,