Education

By Cllr. James Calder

It has been over 6 months now since I was elected as the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dunfermline South and I have to say it has been very exciting for me. It has been enjoyable to represent the people of Dunfermline South and also to be helping to advance Liberal Values in the Council.

To recap at the election I was one of 7 Lib Dems elected to Fife Council, and the only Lib Dem elected in the West Fife area. As such, for me it has been important that I am carrying the weight of our area of Fife in the Party too.  I was also fortunate that my predecessor in Dunfermline South, Tony Martin, was an excellent Councillor, and I have been aiming to try and keep up his good work in the local area.

Within the Ward I have been working on a number of issues. As Dunfermline has been hit significantly in front-line cuts in staff for Parks, Streets and Open Spaces, I have been fighting for more funds for our Green areas and in particular for staffing, as many have asked me about this. I have also been working to improve the roads locally, and have had some notable successes, including in Fir Grove, the roundabout between Morrison Drive and Masterton Road and it now looks as though there will be resurfacing on Morrison Drive too. I am also seeking improvements to pavements, including within Pitcorthie and Abbeyview. Another issue I have been tackling recently has been Amazon lorries going through residential areas, and I am pleased to say that after discussions with Amazon they will be looking to put signage up both outside the warehouse and on the Motorway to redirect lorries away from the residential parts of town.

I would also like to add that much of these successes also depended on the help and assistance of the local Community Councils, and it has been a pleasure to have been attending them.

Outside of the wonderful job of improving Dunfermline South and Dunfermline as a whole, I have also been fortunate in being made the Fife Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson. In this role I have been taking on a number of issues. I have helped to ensure that children at Masterton Primary continue to go to school in their city of Dunfermline. I have been challenging the Council Administration on teacher numbers, and the Scottish Government on the fact that Fife receives a lower share of Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding than I believe it should be. One of my key successes was getting the Council Administration to agree into looking to make the School Uniform grant for children with lower income backgrounds higher, as in Fife we are both below the Scottish Average and the Scottish Government recommendations.

Overall it has been an exciting time, and I would like to thank the hard work of everyone else who has made this possible, including the local Liberal Democrat team. I will continue to work my hardest as a local Liberal Democrat Councillor.

Following the meeting of the Full Fife Council on the 5th October, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Councillor James Calder has expressed concern over the attitude of the SNP/Labour Fife Council Administration towards schools.

Councillor Calder has commented,

After the behaviour of Councillors in the SNP/Labour Administration in the last Full Council Meeting, I am concerned that they are out of touch with the reality in our classrooms. When I asked a question asking if  they would take action in reducing class sizes for P4-P7 after a shocking rise of over 50% for pupils in class sizes of over 30, I couldn’t quite believe the response.

The SNP Education Convenor stated that this was ‘normal’ and then dismissed the concerns of a teacher I spoke to who stated this often presented a nightmare, claiming that was just the views of one teacher. However I have had similar views articulated by a number of teachers. I would like to see some of these politicians handling classes of this size and I think teachers should be given more support.

Later in the Council meeting I was astonished to hear the SNP Council co-leader attacking opposition politicians for simply scrutinising the Council’s record in education. Claiming we were attacking education as a profession is of course nonsense – teachers are doing a great job despite the SNP.

Of course it is no surprise this attitude has been taken considering that this Administration’s political masters at Holyrood have consistently underfunded education and caused problems with their interventions over the years. We have seen Scotland slide down the Pisa International rankings. Incredibly the attitude of some of the SNP Councillors is rather than to try and fix this, they instead decided attack the credibility of these findings.

The Council Administration has to step up to the plate and take a positive attitude to fixing our educational problems, rather than trying to discredit opposition politicians who are simply holding them to account.

Woodmill High SchoolWith the publishing of The Local Benchmarking Framework Report by Fife Council for 2016/17, Fife Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, Councillor James Calder, has commented this shows the need for Fife to receive a higher level of Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding.

James Calder has said, “With all indications that Fife should be due significantly higher levels of Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding due to the high numbers of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the 2016/17 Local Benchmarking Framework Report has given further signs that Fife schools should be receiving more from the Scottish Government.

“While we are making progress in Fife, we are still below the national average in S4-6 exam performance on all levels of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This shows Fife should be a priority for the Scottish Government’s Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding.

“My question is why does the SNP Scottish Government instead feel Fife children don’t even deserve to be in the top 10 of local authorities when it comes to funding?”

After the recent announcement by the Scottish Government that Fife would only receive £1 million in Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding, Fife Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Councillor James Calder has expressed concerns that children locally are missing out. This compares with over £5.6 million for Dundee.

Cllr. James Calder has said, “In Fife we have the third highest number of pupils living in the areas with most deprivation and the fifth highest number of pupils attending schools with high levels of deprivation. This indicates to me that Fife Council should be receiving very high share of the resources required from the Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding.”

“Amazingly despite the indications that Fife should be one of the highest recipients of this important funding to help address the attainment gap, the Scottish Government has decided to see fit that we are not even in the top 10 local authorities when it comes to funding. This seems to be ludicrously unfair and I call on the SNP Government to review their formula in deciding how tis funding is delivered to ensure Fife children get their fair share.”

Woodmill High SchoolWith the long-awaited release of the Dunfermline and West Fife catchment area review, James Calder, Councillor for Dunfermline South, is raising concerns on the impact for both parents and children in the area. Children in the catchment areas for schools such as Masterton Primary would be moved to Inverkeithing rather than go to school in Dunfermline.

Councillor Calder has commented, “Parents and children will rightly be concerned at the proposals. In particular I am worried that children in Masterton aren’t getting to go to their local High School and are being bussed out of town. After so many years of problems with capacity at the Primary School, this acts as a double-blow.”

“We should be seeking to ensure children can go to their local High School. We can surely do better and ensure that all children in Dunfermline can go to school in Dunfermline. For that reason I will continue to make the case at the Council on behalf of local parents and children.”

Willie Rennie and Bryn Jones are campaigning for better education

The SNP have come under fire as Scotland’s schools have recorded their worst ever performance in an international survey of pupils.

Scotland’s scores for maths, reading and science have all declined in the latest PISA figures. Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said, “After 10 years of SNP rule, we are not even as good as England anymore.”

The Liberal Democrats propose a ‘Penny for Education’ to support a Pupil Premium, an expansion in nursery education, reversal of college cuts and stopping school cuts.

Mr Rennie said: “Liberal Democrats have an ambitious plan to get Scotland back on track by making the biggest investment in education since devolution.”

Prospective Council Candidate Bryn Jones brings the campaign to Dunfermline North. Bryn says, “Scottish parents expect world leading schools. As a father and a council candidate, it is my ambition to see Scotland rise up the rankings and be the best in the world.”

Woodmill High School

James Calder will make sure that schools such as Woodmill High School are not overcrowded for a better education.

Over the next few years projected figures have shown that Woodmill High School will be operating considerably over-capacity, as Dunfermline faces a schools crisis. Over the next decade it will find itself under current trends with 500 more pupils than it is currently designed for.

James Calder has commented, “The Fife Council administration has been sitting on their hands too long when it comes to schools in Dunfermline. We are facing the prospect of severe overcrowding in our schools and this will badly affect our children’s education.

We need to see action now from Fife Council to make sure Woodmill High School is not overcrowded. This would be helped if the SNP Government matched the Scottish Liberal Democrat commitment to increase our funding of education to the tune of £500 million a year which they have so far refused to do.

James at the Fife College Campus in Dunfermline

James at the Fife College Campus in Dunfermline

James Calder is backing the Scottish Liberal Democrat plan for a penny in education. This will me that those with the means to afford it will pay 1p in the pound more to boost education funding in Scotland by almost £500 million. After years of underfunding under the SNP Government, James feels this will have a great benefit to schools and colleges in the local area.

James has commented, “With family and friends of mine working in the education sector, I know fully well how badly underfunded these have become as a direct result of the poor funding settlement that our Councils, including Fife, have received from the SNP after its Council Tax freeze policy. College places have been cut, schools closed and there has been increased pressure on those working in the education profession. Something must be done.”

Our proposal is that we will invest in our children’s future by having those who can afford it to pay a 1p in the pound rise in income tax. This will raise the money we need to pay for increased childcare, a Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged pupils, more for our schools and also increased college places. This will pay dividends in the future and ensure a world class education service in Scotland which the SNP have been putting at risk.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and list Candidate for Mid Scotland and Fife Willie Rennie also mentioned, “To be the best again Scottish education needs transformational investment. The Liberal Democrats have been crystal clear about our plans to use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to achieve investment of £475m in our education system.”

You can read more about the Scottish Liberal Democrat Education plans here.