Dundee SSP

Scottish Socialist Party branches from Dundee

Twenty’s Plenty in any class!

Posted by alangdundee on 2nd October 2009

by Richie Venton – Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign organiser

Several developments on the provision of schools and education in recent weeks have exposed the rotten stench of New Labour’s hypocrisy, the backsliding of the SNP in the face of the recession, and the truth of the predictions and policies of the Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign, consistently championed during our mass struggle against school closures since January.

At the heart of the matter is the key issue of class sizes.

In ferociously fighting 25 primary and nursery closures by the Labour-run Glasgow City Council, we countered their excuses about falling school rolls dictating closures by demanding cuts to classes of 20 maximum, for all age groups – as a means of protecting and creating teachers’ jobs, improving the attention given to individual children and therefore the quality of their education.

We coined the slogan Twenty’s Plenty in any class, popularising the policy of the teachers’ union, EIS, and the Scottish Socialist Party.

We welcomed the pledge of the incoming SNP government to reduce classes to 18 in Primary1-3, as a radical step in the right direction. In the SOS Campaign’s official meeting with SNP Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop in June, I argued the case that her government’s reliance on the ‘Concordat’ between Holyrood and local authorities – whereby they appealed to councils to retain teaching staff levels whilst school rolls fell as a means of implementing P1-3 classes of 18 – was being ripped to shreds, incapable of achieving its own goals, and that surely the government should pass legislation to enforce smaller classes. That point was repeated in writing to her. No reply was forthcoming, oral or written.

Campaigning works!

However, the pressure of our campaign has played some part in two important recent steps in the parliament. The Public Petitions Committee recently agreed to seek the written responses of the government and several councils to the issues raised in our petition to the parliament, in which we demanded a public inquiry into the effect of school closures on class sizes, educational standards, jobs and other social impacts.

And now, under the pressure of parents and campaigners in revolt against school closures, plus legal cases enforcing larger class sizes in popular schools through placement requests, Fiona Hyslop has announced plans to legislate to enforce maximum classes of 25 in P1.

New Labour has unleashed the dogs of war against Hyslop, barking out accusations of betrayal, of desertion of the pledge of 18 maximum for a cap of 25.

Labour gives hypocrisy a bad name

Such accusations from New Labour stink to the high heavens. They give hypocrisy a bad name! This is the same New Labour who openly, publicly denounced smaller class sizes as unworkable in Glasgow – and whose Labour Lord Provost accused me of a middle class agenda(!?) for promoting classes of 20 maximum at public consultation meetings, telling me with a perfectly straight face that smaller classes don’t work for working class kids!

It’s the same New Labour whose Glasgow city council arrogantly dismissed our repeated arguments that the school population was set to rise again, with a 4 per cent growth in live births in recent years, and our dire warnings that their closures would lead to bigger classes and worse education – as well as job losses.
Well who was right and who was wrong? Average classes of 21 in the schools closed have leapt up to classes of 25 and more in the schools the kids have been shunted into this term. Only one in seven qualified teachers have got a full-time teaching job. Over 200 Glasgow teachers only heard which school they were working in the day before term started! And in an incredible, but shameless admission last week, Glasgow city council leaders conceded that actually there are more children in Glasgow than we had been expecting. In an ominous threat of further cuts and closures, they whined that this meant £2m less in savings through closures than projected.

So criticism of the SNP government from New Labour holds absolutely no water; and Labour pointedly says not a word about what they would do about cutting class sizes!

SNP backsliders

However, severe criticism of the SNP is richly deserved. They are backsliding on their election promises, whilst trying to disguise their cowardly retreat with headlines, smoke and mirrors. Alongside this miserably small step on reducing class sizes, they are slashing the intake to teacher training, as a perverse solution to the lack of permanent jobs for newly qualified teachers.

Of course any parent or teacher will welcome the legal limitation of P1 classes to 25 next year, in place of the current legal limit of 30, introduced in 1999. Of course if that was extended to P2 and P3 in later years it would be a painfully slow, gradual step in the right direction. And those of us who have fought a high profile battle for smaller class sizes, demanding legal measures to enforce them, as opposed to relying on the (non-existent) goodwill of councils, can celebrate making some impact on government policies.

But a ceiling of 25 for P1 is pathetic compared to the SNP manifesto pledges, and would only have a paltry impact in real life. Just 6 per cent of kids in Scotland in P1 are in classes above 25! So for 94 per cent of them, this has no effect – apart from the welcome protection against future increases as Labour, Lib Dem, Tory and SNP councils pass on cuts.

Twenty’s Plenty

And why restrict it to the first year of school? At present, P4-7 and the first two years of secondary school are only restricted to a maximum of 33, with a limit of 30 for the final four years at secondary.

And as any teacher at primary or secondary schools will testify, even a cap of 25 would still present them with the task of crowd control in many classes, rather than being able to devote time to the individual needs of kids’ learning.

The demand for no more than 20 in any class, right throughout school years, is justified, proven to be right by numerous academic studies, would transform kids’ learning experience and secure jobs for new generations of teachers, reducing the stress of the job in the process.

The Scottish Socialist Party will persist with this demand, alongside other parents and teachers, whereas the mainstream parties put cash before kids, whether in periods of recession and/or rampant profiteering for the few.

Posted in Education, Public Services, Save Our Schools, Schools | No Comments »

Save Our Schools Petition

Posted by alangdundee on 2nd July 2009

An appeal to sign the Glasgow Save Our Schools petition today calling for a Government inquiry into the impact of school closures on education, class sizes and democracy

From Richie Venton, Glasgow Save our Schools Campaign organiser

Please take 2 minutes to sign the e-petition for the Scottish Parliament; help fight for smaller class sizes and greater democracy in decision-making.

Dear friends and fighters,

We have been fighting the Glasgow Labour council’s closure of 25 primaries and nurseries since January. We have built a mass movement, using every conceivable method of struggle.

Now we have taken the battle to the Scottish parliament and the Scottish government, demanding they take a clear stance in opposition to the closures and their consequences – especially the regressive increase in class sizes.

Our massive efforts saved 3 of the 25, but the rest are now closed, with horrendous consequences for kids, families and communities.

The Labour Council cynically calculated that since there will be no Council elections until 2012, they would ride the storm, hope people forget, and save themselves £3.7m a year at terrible cost to communities in working class areas of the city. We are determined to make them pay for these crimes – and in the process, stop the threat of 34 further potential closures!

If you want more background information, just go to the Glasgow Save Our Schools website

At the heart of our battle now is that for smaller class sizes. Our Campaign has persistently demanded cuts to class sizes of 20 maximum for all ages. That would improve education and protect and create teachers’ jobs.

That is also the official policy of the teachers’ unions. And the Scottish government claims to aim at 18 maximum in Primary 1-3.

As one important strand of our ongoing campaign, we have lodged this petition in the Scottish parliament Public Petitions system.

In case you are not aware, the Scottish parliament allows the public to submit petitions to a committee of MSPs to consider, with the option of inviting representatives to address this Public Petitions Committee to justify the case, and the power to then lodge the issue as a matter for debate in the full parliament and its sub-committees.

So we need vast numbers to add their names to this petition online, to add pressure to the MSPs in favour of inviting us to address them when they meet again in September. We have a limited few weeks to maximise the numbers signing the petition online.

It is straightforward – just click here to sign the e-petition for the Scottish Parliament.

And you have the option of adding a comment on the discussion board to help add weight to the debate; but at least please add your name to the list of signatures today.

And when you’ve done that, get others in your family to do it; and others in your trade union or community group. Then forward this email to everyone on your list of email addresses, to encourage them to sign up as well.

Thanks for your help – sign up and spread the word!

Yours in struggle and unity,

Richie Venton

Posted in Campaign, Glasgow, Petition, Public Services, Richie Venton, Save Our Schools, Schools | No Comments »

Sit-in at Wyndford Primary continues – they need your support.

Posted by alangdundee on 2nd July 2009

Sit-Richie Venton, Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign organiser, spoke to parents inside the sit-in.

Parents have occupied Wyndford primary school in Maryhill since Friday 26th June, as the doors were slammed shut by Glasgow Labour council at the end of the school year.

This audacious action has thrown the arrogant council leader, Steven Purcell, who expected all to go quiet over the summer holidays, hoping that by the time of the next council elections in 2012, everyone would have forgotten about their dirty deeds against kids and communities across the city.

The council has made no pretence of negotiations with the sit-in. They have just fired out statements that the sit-in is pointless, the school is shut, end of story.

Yet despite all their arrogant strutting, the same council has thrown sops towards the local community in the form of proposals for a new Family and Recreation Centre, based in the neighbouring school (also shut), St Gregory’s.

This is a crude attempt to buy off the anger in the community, generated by their brutal closures, which leaves the Wyndford estate a desert in terms of facilities. None of this would have happened without the ferocious battle mounted by local people, through the Save Our Schools Campaign. And it is too little, too late.

I spoke to several of the parents staging the occupation, inside the school, about their aims and feelings.

I would appeal to everyone reading their comments below to:

  • (a) contact them with messages of support on 0778 350 8740
  • (b) try to visit the sit-in at Glenfinan Drive , near Tescos in Maryhill Rd – if possible with supplies of food and water
  • (c) build attendance of adults and kids at the sit-in’s Water Festival, Thursday 2nd July at 1pm – in response to the council’s dirty tricks department – who today (Tuesday) cut off drinking water supplies under the disguise of checking an imaginary gas leak.

Bring the kids, bring water pistols, bring supplies.

Tell the Council that the school occupation won’t get dirty like the Glasgow Labour Council!!

What the occupiers say:

We want a school in the community. We have nothing. We are waiting for a Judicial Review on the issue of nursery parents not being consulted on the closure of the primary.

We don’t want a school – we need a school in this community!

The other schools offered by the council are too far away, along dangerous routes.

On 23rd June the council put a proposal to make St Gregory’s primary into a Family Centre, and to turn the existing Recreation Centre into a power station for the Wyndford estate.

So if St Gregory’s is good enough for a Family Centre, it’s good enough for a school. All we are asking for is one school in the estate, we’re not even being greedy, asking to keep both St Gregory’s and Wyndford primary.

Family Centres can be built anywhere, so why compromise a school for it? And the Glasgow council are only offering this because right throughout the campaign we shouted that we have nothing, no facilities, from one end of Maryhill to the other.

Our fear is that the council want to demolish the school building – possibly to use the ground for a part of the Family and Recreation Centre. CMI, a demolition firm, has already been in twice to inspect the building, for asbestos before demolition. That’s another reason we’re holding the sit-in, to stop demolition.

Since we occupied the school last Friday afternoon we’ve not seen the Council. No talks or negotiations. Then today (Tuesday) they sent along a council worker pretending to be looking for a gas leak, cutting off the water to the school. And it seems it’s just the drinking water they’ve cut off. Well that won’t shift us either.

In reply we are organising a Water Festival on Thursday (2nd July) at 1pm – a bit of fun for the kids, with paddling pools and water pistols. Our message is ‘join us – don’t let the school occupiers become as dirty as Glasgow city council!’

The community is still united. St Gregory’s parents have been in to help us occupy Wyndford, and they have helped stage the barricades on the gates to stop the Council getting equipment out of the building.

On Saturday they sent in 30 vans. They loaded up with school furniture and equipment. But because parents, kids and supporters refused to budge on the gates, we forced them to unload again and have the vans inspected by us before they went away!

On Monday they sent two vans to pick up the safe and photocopiers, but pickets on the gates appealed to them, sat down on the road, and the drivers turned away empty-handed.

We’re appealing for support and supplies – including food and water – from the local community and people from other areas and schools. We’ve had parents and grandparents from as far away as Barmulloch, St Gilbert’s and St Agnes schools here supporting us.

As Barmulloch parents we think it is great what Wyndford are doing. We are happy to help in any way we can.

We’re not moving until they give us a school; they can turn off whatever they want. Our message to the council is ‘you’ve shut our schools, but we’re still here, we’re still in your face’.

Posted in Campaign, Glasgow, Occupation, Public Services, Richie Venton, Save Our Schools, Schools, Scotland | No Comments »

Wyndford Primary and St Gregory’s Primary Schools occupations

Posted by alangdundee on 7th April 2009

Local people, activists from other schools fighting closure, socialists and trade unionists marched on Saturday in support of the continuing occupations of Wyndford Primary and St Gregorys schools in Glasgow.

Posted in Campaign, Glasgow, Media, Public Services, Save Our Schools, Schools, Scotland, Video | No Comments »

Glasgow Save our Schools

Posted by alangdundee on 4th April 2009

Occupation

Save Our Schools parents and education workers are occupying Wyndford Primary and St Gregorys in Maryhill. People living near by are asked to go to the school with food supplies and messages of support. Text messages of support to:

Wyndford: 07894 123721

St. Gregory’s: 07776 396152

Demonstration in support of schools occupations today (Saturday 4th April) at 12 Midday

The Glasgow-wide Save Our Schools Campaign is appealing to people from the local community and across Glasgow to join a demonstration in support of parents occupying Wyndford and St Gregory’s primary schools today at 12 noon.

The support event is at Wyndford and St Gregory’s schools, Glenfinnan Drive, at the back of Maryhill Rd Tescos.

SSP on the Save our Schools campaign

Posted in Campaign, Demo, Education, Glasgow, Occupation, Public Services, Save Our Schools, Schools, Scotland | No Comments »

Save Our Schools in Glasgow

Posted by alangdundee on 21st February 2009

We like to occasionally report on activity going on around the country.

In Glasgow the Scottish Socialist Party have been involved in a campaign to save a series of schools from closure and merger.

Photos from the Save our Schools Glasgow demo.

A report on the campaign Save Our Schools work can be found here

Posted in Campaign, Education, Glasgow, Public Services, Save Our Schools, Schools, Scotland | No Comments »

 

Promoted by Kevin McVey on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party, Suite 370, 4th Floor Central Chambers 93 Hope St, Glasgow G2 6LD.