Glasgow City Council unfairly picked on

Gordon Matheson

On two occasions in less than a week, Scottish Government ministers have publicly criticised Glasgow City Council education services. These criticisms are inaccurate and unbecoming of ministers.

First, Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, expressed "disappointment" that we weren't making as much progress as other local authorities in reducing class sizes. With respect, she is wrong.

In 2007-08, 19 local authorities had an average P1 class larger than Glasgow. Glasgow's current P1 classes average 20.6 children, against a national average of 21.1. Our P2 class sizes are also below the Scottish average. We additionally provide 58 very small nurture classes for those children who need most support.

If the Scottish Government is serious about redeeming its manifesto pledge of a maximum of 18 pupils in P1-3, it will have to increase funding to local government significantly to meet the substantial capital and revenue costs. Councils of all political hues have been making the same point for over a year, but the Scottish Government is deaf to these representations.

Secondly, the junior minister Adam Ingram last week attacked Glasgow's record on teacher numbers in early years. In fact, every Glasgow City Council nursery is headed by a teacher, all of our nursery classes have a teacher in charge and we provide peripatetic teacher support to 67 of our partner nurseries.

Of all three and four year olds in the city, 80 per cent either permanently have a teacher in their class or have regular access to one. This compares very favourably with a 65.6 per cent Scottish average. Glasgow also provides 15 hours of free pre-school education for three and four year olds, a situation the Scottish Government aims to achieve across the country by 2010.

Glasgow's schools and early years establishments are making notable strides forward, as evidenced recently in a number of excellent HM inspectorate reports. We face great social and educational challenges, but we are up to the task and know where we are heading. Like Glasgow as a whole, our education service is on the up.

Gordon Matheson, executive member for education and social renewal, Glasgow City Chambers.

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