Labour's secret cull;Letter

4th June 1999 at 01:00
SUCH IS the feeling of betrayal over student tuition fees, arguably the one issue in the Scottish election campaign that set the heather alight, that the media are likely to focus on that one issue in assessing how well Henry McLeish does in his new Scottish executive post.

However, as minister for "lifelong learning" Mr McLeish, widely rumoured to be less than keen to return to the schools front at a time when industrial action looks likely in the autumn, now has a problem affecting almost as many students across Scotland.

I refer to Labour's "sleight of hand" in carrying out a cull, not seen in a generation, of academic classes as part of the pound;260 million cut in the education budget since 1997. Such classes were a soft target in that the public was probably unaware of their demise.

In autumn 1997, my own modern studies evening class, which had run since 1982, was terminated on an evening when 21 students were in the room. They were largely people on benefit, the unemployed, single mums, pensioners, the disabled and some students who could not attend the subject in school due to a subject clash.

However, in Labour-run local authorities, what now counts is not "bums on seats" but whether or not a minimum of 10 students have paid a fee of about pound;86. As few are in full-time jobs, classes collapse, as did mine. In the two years since I have actually continued to teach my class, unpaid, outwith school.

If "lifelong learning" is to mean something, Labour must put real money into education and stop silly sloganising.

John Lloyd Strathbeg Drive Dalgety Bay West

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