Labour local government spokesperson Sarah Boyack being interviewed by journalist Bill Heaney; West Dunbartonshire pupils with Cllrs Ian Dickson and Iain McLaren; Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and Dumbarton constituency MSP.

By Bill Heaney

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has said that the destination – good job, no job, bad job, still in education – of school leavers highlights the fact that there is still a class divide present in Scotland.

This follows new data which shows that those from the most deprived areas are still far less likely to be in higher education nine months after leaving school, compared to those from the least deprived areas – an access gap of over 30% remains.

The data also shows that those from the most deprived backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed at the same point in time.

The MSP said:  “This data is confirmation that there is still a very real and devastating class divide to be found in Scotland.

“My constituency has some of the most deprived areas in Scotland – as well as some of the most affluent. It is utterly unfair that children living in such close proximity to each other, face such different future prospects because of their postcode.

“It is important to note that these figures are up to April 2020 and therefore will not show the extent to which school leavers in different economic groups have been affected by Covid-19’s influence on their final days in school. Existing inequalities are likely to have been exacerbated while schools have been closed and the Scottish Government must address this – if it doesn’t, any progress made may be undone.

“Local authorities desperately need additional funding in order to reopen schools safely and implement learning effectively. Additionally, the Scottish Government must provide new and targeted resources to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap – it will not be enough to simply rely on the measures that were in place before the crisis.”

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes was asked three times to use the Scottish Government’s underspend to provide schools with additional resources – and three times declined to answer.

After Ms Forbes delivered the 2019-20 Provisional Budget Out-turn Statement, Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie pressed her on the underspend. Ms Forbes also dismissed further questions on the subject from Scottish Labour local government spokesperson Sarah Boyack and West Scotland MSP Neil Bibby.

Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Given the underspend is £258 million, which is carried forward to this financial year, and Nicola Sturgeon has promised schools will get all the resources they need, the Scottish Government should put its money where its mouth is and allocate a portion of this money to fund the return to schools.

“It is unacceptable for the Finance Secretary to refuse to address this constructive suggestion when it was raised three times by Labour MSPs. Kate Forbes’s triple dodge can’t hide the fact that Scotland is now facing a triple crisis of public health, education and the economy.

“Once again we are seeing a total lack of joined-up thinking from the SNP government. Nicola Sturgeon claims to be on top of the crisis facing our education system, but her government is still in denial about the urgency of addressing it.”

The Back to School road map row – including coming up with a definite date for going back – is still simmering.

Jackie Baillie, whose constituency includes Dumbarton, Vale Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond, has called on Nicola Sturgeon to introduce a route-map and timetable laying out how and when schools will return.

Ms Baillie has been contacted by many local parents who are worried about the education and well-being of their children.

She says that as of yet, no clear plan has been announced regarding when children can expect to return to school.

And she has written to the Scottish Government demanding answers for pupils, parents and teachers both in the local area and across Scotland.

The MSP said: “Nicola Sturgeon and her government managed  to produce an in depth route-map laying out how and when our economy will reopen. Why is the Scottish Government incapable of doing the same for our education system?

“Hundreds of thousands of pupils across Scotland have now gone for months without seeing their teachers and parents have been forced to turn to home schooling – many of whom are doing so while also trying to work from home themselves.

“The Scottish Government has yet to give one straight answer on what the future looks like for Scotland’s school children. Hugely important milestones and educational experiences are being missed and, for many pupils, they will never get that time back.

“Parents, pupils and teachers deserve clarity and a straight answer on what the rest of the year will look like for them. The Scottish Government has a duty of care for these pupils and staff. It must do better.”

Yesterday West Dunbartonshire Council was boasting yet again that every pupil in its schools was about to emerge from the lockdown IT literate.

However, Cllr Jonathan McColl, the council leader, refuses to comment to The Democrat.


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