Exam row rocks Glasgow

7th May 2004 at 01:00
Education chiefs and parents have come under fire in Glasgow over the city's dire exam results - with one senior councillor complaining about the "crap" teachers have to put up with.

Despairing members of the city's education committee fear the ever-widening attainment gap with the rest of Scotland is seriously hampering attempts to regenerate Glasgow. Councillors also complain of a corrosive culture of low expectations, "no hoper" schools and lack of parent involvement. Some are said to treat school as "a creche".

Their brutally honest assessment is remarkably at odds with that of officials, who are speaking of "significant improvements".

Ruth Simpson, who is also city treasurer, asked: "How do you regenerate a city when the kids aren't achieving? The gap with the rest of Scotland is getting wider."

Her view was echoed by Christopher Mason, the Liberal Democrat leader, who described poor educational achievement as "the biggest single drag on economic and social development and, indeed, on social justice".

What really has councillors gnashing their teeth in despair was the grim statistic showing that 22 per cent of leavers went straight into unemployment last session - although that figure is 3 per cent down on the previous year.

"I find these figures tragic," James McNally commented. "Every year over 20 per cent of our kids go straight into unemployment after 10 years at school. In the past we could have said there were no jobs. That's not the situation now. The jobs are there but unfortunately the kids leaving school are not equipped to take them.

"This council has been ploughing money into education since Strathclyde Region disappeared in 1996, but we are not making any progress at all."

A demand that more responsibility be taken by parents was voiced by Hanzala Malik, the committee's vice-convener. "I have noticed that many parents use our schools as creches rather than as educational institutions," Mr Malik said.

"These days there are huge disciplinary issues with children, even very young children. Our very fine, very skilled, hard-working teachers have to put up with a lot of crap from pupils, and that has to stop. We need the help of parents in this. Parents should take some of the responsibility so that children can compete seriously for jobs when they leave school."

For Patricia Chalmers, a former teacher, the killer factor was the "appalling" lack of expectation in some schools. In her view, too many pupils in Glasgow ended up going to "no hoper schools".

She declared: "We should be addressing the issue of what in fact makes success. We don't have a consistent policy. We can't enthuse the pupils. We can't encourage the parents. We are letting them all down badly."

Senior officials recognised that the issue of school performance was "a key concern" and that the numbers of leavers going into unemployment was "unacceptable".

However, they highlighted "significant improvements" in Standard grade performance and said this could be built on. Attainment in the upper primary continued to show improvements as a result of the "new horizons" programme in literacy and numeracy for P4-S2.

Their report noted "a rate of improvement in attainment and achievement indicators similar to the national rate of improvement" It added, however, that new targets for reading, writing and maths would prove "challenging", although they originated in targets set by schools themselves.

Pupil attendance was also improving, officials reported. A figure of 93 per cent for primary schools last year was only 2 percentage points lower than the national average. There had been a 2 per cent improvement in secondary schools over two years, exceeding the target set for 2005.

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