Thursday, 27 August 2015


Three presentations were made on the subject of 'Closing the Educational Attainment Gap in Dundee'

Dr. Edward Sousa of Strathclyde University argued, what to my mind was a highly questionable proposition, that "Who you are in Scotland is far more important than what school you attend."  He was however making the valid point that parental involvement and encouragement is important - as are 'rich experiences' for children
On 'aspirations and expectations' he suggested that aspirations of parents and pupils across income groups are often similar, but expectations are quite different.
Sara Spencer of the Child Poverty Action Group gave us many insights into their report 'Cost of the School Day' which is to be published on 2nd October.  She illustrated 'cost' barriers to full participation in school life.  Often even short school trips and the small costs of clubs and fun events are impossible for some.  Costs are complex but the Commission agreed that we should be looking at the desirability of increasing the clothing grant.
Paul Clancy of Dundee City Council Education Department outlined some of the initiatives being pursued by the City Council to lessen the attainment gap.  He also spoke of 'placing requests' which have resulted in 1 in 3 children in Dundee attending schools outwith their catchment areas.  When asked what effect the ending of these placement requests might have, he replied, "Dramatic, but it wouldn't be a popular policy!"
If the Fairness Commission is to achieve change then it cannot be afraid of championing unpopular policies.  It must ask of what it proposes, "Is it right and is it fair to those who are least able to articulate their needs?"  In this case we must ask ourselves, "Do we wish to push for an end to parental placing requests?  What benefits would accrue?  What would be lost?"

Friday, 21 August 2015


A selection of headlines from this week's newspapers must make us wonder what kind of country we live in, what kind of nation are we?

In a letter to the Chancellor, the five biggest providers of care homes (Four Seasons Health Care: BUPA; HC-One; Care UK and Barchester) claim that the National Living Wage could result in a catastrophic collapse in the number of care homes.  The companies said that they supported the National Living Wage (put that to music) but efforts would be needed to rescue the care system.  The UK Homecare Association made a similar warning last month, saying services to care for people in their own homes would become 'unviable'.  The Government said, (don't hold your breath) social care 'would be considered' as part of the spending review later this year.  Clearly, the care and dignity of our fellow citizens who are elderly or disabled is valued at no more than the minimum wage that we can get away with.  Shame on us!
The business pages report as 'good news' that the Rank Group has cashed in with a 19% rise in pre-tax profit to £74.1 million in the year to June.
There has been concern for some time over the growth of betting shops in our high streets and the powerlessness of local authorities to do anything about it.  However, in the figures issued by Rank, revenue in betting shops grew by only 2% compared with 21% in digital.  Chief Executive Henry Birch said, "We are particularly pleased that the strong digital growth continues."  Maybe in our concern for the proliferation of betting shops we have had our focus in the wrong place.  At least in betting shops there is company and, hopefully, some responsible staff who might encourage the over-hyped punter to 'go canny'.  But what curbs exist for the person alone in the bedroom at the computer with 24 hour betting available at the click of a mouse?  Heavens above, 'thanks' to in-play betting, at five past three on a Saturday afternoon I could place a bet on who is going to score the next goal for Partick there's a route to throwing your money away!  But I shouldn't joke, the income generated by the gambling industry dwarfs the expenditure on the care of the elderly.  That is wrong.  That is a sin.  Shame on us all!
Speaking of sin, what about the revelations this week that the DWP have been inventing people in an attempt to continue the delusion that the welfare changes are reasonable, fair and welcome.  Far from apologising, the department has come out with some guff about the need to positively promote the worth of the sanctions regime.  To you, me and most folk, they are claiming that its OK for them to lie.  Were a claimant at the Jobcentre found to be giving false information, it would immediately be identified as lying and the claimant sanctioned.  Can the man at the top, the wicked and/or hapless Iain Duncan Smith not be sanctioned?  A withdrawal of his ministerial salary might be a start.