Paying tribute to Schools – Rutherglen Reformer article

1st June 2018

This week I want to pay tribute to the headteachers, teachers, janitors and support staff who run our schools, nurseries and early years provision – and the voluntary Parent Councils who do so much work in supporting them.

We don’t always think of them that way but schools are big business! In South Lanarkshire we have no less than 123 primary schools, 19 secondary schools and 5 additional support needs schools. The education budget is well over £300 million a year – half the Council’s total revenue expenditure.  Stonelaw, Trinity and Cathkin High Schools each have a roll of over 1,000 young people – and growing.  An individual secondary school will have a budget of around £6 million and approaching 100 staff. Local primary school rolls range from around 140 to over 400.

The SNP Government have come under a lot of attack because Scotland has been falling down the international league tables in education. After a decade of falling teacher numbers, they have been forced to put more money into education through the Scottish Attainment challenge and the Pupil Equity Fund – following in large measure the pupil premiums pioneered by Liberal Democrats in the UK government before 2015.

The enthusiasm and energy brought to a school by a cadre of new, freshly qualified teachers is amazing. As a Scottish Education Minister I recall being totally inspired by meeting lots of fresh young teachers recruited when we raised teacher numbers across Scotland to the unprecedented level of 53,000.

So the last thing schools need is more tinkering with the structures – and the forthcoming SNP Education Bill is largely about that. The success of our schools is based on inspiring leadership, committed teachers and supportive and engaged parents, not interference by Ministers in Edinburgh.

Parent Councils also make a huge contribution through fundraising and other school support but also in representing the wider parent body in engagement with their local schools. I am constantly impressed both by their organisational success with galas, fetes and other events and by their knowledge and commitment. They are undoubtedly amongst the most effective organisations in Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

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