Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson takes a stab at education, she says the 'Comprehensive school system to blame for education failures', the problem lies with the kids, if they see no value in education, you have to ask why, her idea of tinkering with the ‘system’ won’t solve their problem.

Dear All

It seems that in her quest to re-define a unique 'Scottish identity' for her party north of the border, Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson appears has stumbled on a less than novel idea.

Copy the English Conservatives.

For over 30 years, the Scottish Conservatives have gone nowhere politically except backwards, not unsurprisingly, they wish to change their fortunes; unfortunately swimming against the tide of public opinion doesn't work, either physically or mentally.

Ms. Davidson has been looking at the vast gaps between the number of children gaining top grades from rich and poor backgrounds.

And, she has come up with what she says is 'the problem’; Scotland's comprehensive school system is to blame.

She is of course wrong!

Ruth Davidson says she has never understood why 'the body that takes out your bins, councils, is in charge of teaching our children.'

This begs the question do pupils from poor backgrounds do badly because education is controlled from Councils?

The answer is no.

So, what do poor pupils not have?

Hope and aspiration based on the fact we live in a corrupt country.

They also don't have access to money to hire private tutors like the rich kids who I see sitting at the local library getting private tuition after school, but it is not just money, but quality of the teachers.

Would giving more powers to head teachers solve the problem?


There is no evidence from what I see to justify a change of that order, just as teaching standards vary between teachers, so does standards between head teachers.

For Davidson to climb onboard Michael Gove's controversial free school model, provided it can be proved to work in England isn't a Scottish solution.

And that is what she has to come up with, the Scottish National Party, the party of 'cut and paste' aren't doing very well at present, does she want to copy failure and 'cut and paste' other people's ideas without the benefit of learning?

Who knows?

New figures which revealed vast disparities in grade achievement between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds!

So, what is the solution to this problem, well, George Laird, sometime ago, proposed the idea of community colleges.

Community colleges would be a way for children to get extra tuition at night; these colleges would be run out of schools. For example in a wider context, languages, if a family likes to holiday overseas, then the entire family could learn a foreign language together as a group at community college. Another aspect of community colleges could be cramming sessions, specifically for kids, such a concept isn't new; the Japanese have done this for decades. There would a framework needed for community colleges, that is just details to be fleshed out but the idea is sound.

In education, the most important thing is attendance, wanting to be there, good teachers are essential, it is not just understanding their subject but also having the ability to impart knowledge at various levels, not everyone learns at the same speed, some people take longer.

What is also missing is the ability to analyse, along with another essential item in education........ Patience!

"In ma yoof a spent a number of years doing teaching.... no what a mean mate!!!!"

Needless to say, I was brilliant, however I met others more educated who were not brilliant, in fact you could say they were kidding themselves on as well as doing a disservice to their 'trainees'. One day, a PhD graduate assistant, Anne McPhail asked one of my trainees:

"Why do you go to George Laird and not one of us for weight training"?

My trainee replied:

"George is like a proper instructor".

Anne McPhail, graduate assistant, PhD student and international athlete couldn't compete with someone whose first job at Glasgow University was 'taking out the bins'.  

Although looking at other models is fine and should be encouraged, and Ms. Davidson rightly points that the education figures obtained by freedom of information laws are a "disgrace" under the Scottish National Party Government, her suggestions appear to favour diluting the "disgrace".

She asks:

"Why aren't we looking at vocational and technical collages in Japan? Why aren't we looking at the free school model in Sweden? Why aren't we looking at charter schools in the United States, so we can have real and genuine reform?"

The SNP has put the government on pause, I hope this addresses the question, plus, they aren't interested in helping the poor.

Will vocational and technical colleges make poorer kids get the same results as rich kids?


What it will do is funnel the poor kids into less inspirational careers, thus raising the level between the rich and poor in an apparent narrowing of the gap.

Gerrymandering the figures.

Some people might be tempted to opine that is really about massaging the figures, what about late bloomers, kids who develop later? What happens to those shunted off to vocational and technical colleges, if they find themselves less than satisfied? They would be stuck; therefore, everyone should complete their education to at least fourth year.

Then of course, there is the issue that there aren’t the structures in place. 

Ms. Davidson added:

"We need to have greater autonomy within our schools, our head teachers need to have more power over how we teach pupils, because not all children learn the same and not all children are taught the same."

That won't change by devolving power down to head teachers from Councils, like kids, adults learn at different rates as well, even those with a teaching qualification. Ms. Davidson needs to focus on improving the learning experience for kids rather than trying to change something where the benefits and learning outcomes are in doubt.

Last month Ms Davidson tried a Tory revival.... again, this time she urged her party to reach out to "the everyday grafters of Scotland".

As I understand it, she was saying everyone is 'working class' who works with their hands.

The rather obvious flaw in her strategy was that there was no working class "everyday grafters of Scotland" as MSPs in her party. I am thinking about the old saying about practicing what you are preaching, leading by example etc etc etc. Plainly it isn't enough to 'talk the talk', you have to also 'walk the walk'.

The Conservative MSPs are either rich or university educated or rich and university educated. Needless to say that idea of 'we are all working class' quickly died a death, I don't even know if they are continuing with it.

The majority of people in Scotland are working class, what does it say that zero percent of her MSPs are not ordinary working class?

Does Ruth Davidson want to broaden the Scottish Conservatives' appeal and attract working class voters?

Yes, she wants their votes, perhaps she should realise that this isn't a something for nothing society, her failure on the bedroom tax, didn't lose her any ground; the ground wasn't there in the first place. She just reinforced the concept that she still doesn't get it concerning the working class.

A Scottish Tory spokesman says the party is supporting allowing schools to "opt out" of local authority control and was looking at four or five different education models – including that of free schools – from across the world.

Awhile ago, the Scottish Conservatives did a revamp of their brand, that didn't work. They even changed their logo from a tree to something that looked like something based on the British Flag.

Ms. Davidson needs to grasp the nettle and face the truth, unless she can deliver for working class Scots at the bottom of society, she will not be reviving her fortunes of that of the Scottish Conservatives anytime soon.

Although she has recognised a 'problem' her solution leaves a lot to be desired, she has gone off at a tangent and failed to address the problem, to recap, the problem is the lack of kids who attain three or more As at Highers, this is less than one in 30 from the poorest areas.

The question for Ms. Davidson is, can you solve this problem so that poor children can achieve the same standards?

This has two possible outcomes,

Option A, she can solve the problem (not by vocational and technical colleges), in which case, what is the answer from her and the Scottish Conservatives.


Option B, she can't solve the problem because she doesn't understand the question.

Education is a tool, if young people in poor areas see no value in it, then it doesn't matter how the 'system' is tinkered with, it won't make people want to learn.

When I was teaching at Glasgow University, sometimes people who saw me teach would ask me, 'why do you let people talk shit to you in the gym’? I explained that once they got that out of their system and failed doing it their way; we wouldn't have to worry about that later on, getting rid of their baggage early, then they can be educated. It wasn't just enough that they learn, they also had to have the ability to teach in order to have a greater understanding. Several years later, Glasgow University put in place a scheme were young students would go teach kids.

Finally, although gerrymandering the figures to close the gap is a "solution", it is the wrong solution.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University    

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