Scottish Labour have effectively raised the issue of poor performance in Scottish Education this week. Questions asked at by Kezia Dugdale at First Minister’s Questions and public statements have centred on the “attainment gap” and underachievement in state schools, particularly amongst students who face financial and social challenges. The Teflon comments of Angela Constance, that local councils must “own their attainment gap”, have been rightly criticised.
I am pleased that the Scottish Labour Party leaders are highlighting these issues. However, I think it must be only one aspect of Scottish Labour’s response. I want to propose a way forward for members and supporters. This model should, as far as possible, be a guideline on how we approach campaigning, and rebrand Scottish Labour as “doers”, under the heading “Scottish Labour – Transforming Scotland”. This campaign would be “Scottish Labour – Transforming Scotland’s Education”.
Scottish Labour members need to be the change we want to see in Scottish education. Constituency Labour Parties should identify schools in their areas where students are under performing. They should identify educationalists amongst their members. The members and supporters could create teams of volunteer tutors, preferably members whose trade or profession relies on numeracy or maths competency. These teams would then offer to provide after school tutorial assistance to S2 students in maths and numeracy. We have until August to propose a course outline but the first task will be to take a snapshot of the actual numeracy skills. This will provide us with a base line. Then the course must commence. At the end of the year we must assess the students again and see if the intervention has been successful.
Secondly, Scottish Labour needs to champion the case of students who feel the Scottish Higher maths old-style exam was unfair. If students fail maths because a different exam was set to the curriculum, this is unjust. If students fail or receive a low Grade in maths it can have a knock on effect in that their further education choices are narrowed. Students need maths to enter medicine, engineering, the sciences, etc. If they don’t get the qualification, they can’t enter the profession. Scottish Labour needs to quickly lend its voice to these students before the results are received.
In these ways, Scottish Labour can show that they are relevant, committed, results driven, positive and people focused. We can show that we see giving back to the community a cornerstone of what it means to be Scottish Labour.
Whilst the Scottish Labour Party message should be consistent, I see this initiative as being best served if it is constituency driven and if members encourage non-members to become involved.