Stick to the facts on Glasgow

26th August 2011 at 01:00

I read with dismay Brian Monteith's article on Scotland's East-West divide (12 August), which used the University and College Union survey as its source. Yet again, we have a political commentator jumping on the bandwagon of "if only" with respect to Glasgow.

Mr Monteith makes a fairly substantial leap of faith from the not particularly solid evidence base of the UCU survey to statements such as: "The problem that the east of Glasgow faces is that the number of unqualified adults is so high that it is normal to know hardly anyone who has a Higher or even a Standard grade."

How on earth does he know this? Has he forgotten that examinations were not universally available for those who are now over the age of 40?

In fact, we know from our statistics that more than 90 per cent of young people in the north-east of the city leave school with at least five Standard grades. In the Carntyne area, more than 95 per cent have left with these qualifications for the last 10 years or so. More than a third leave with at least one Higher, a fifth leave with at least three. I would suggest, therefore, that it would actually be fairly easy for our young people to know someone with Standard grades and Highers.

I don't want to diminish the challenge we face. It is true that there continue to be families where there have been generations of worklessness. Forty-two per cent of our children live in the 10 per cent most-deprived postcodes in Scotland (compared with around 12 per cent in Edinburgh).

It is true that we need to continue to raise the aspirations of young people and their families and develop a "can-do" attitude for all. This is challenging when so many families are living in poverty. That's why it is so important to focus on what we are achieving as a city and build on those strengths, rather than reinforcing the negative which is the soft option.

There is some great work happening across the city to raise aspirations. As a result, the following are improving year on year:

more young people than ever are achieving qualifications such as Standard grades and Highers;

more school leavers are going on to further and higher education - in the last few years more than half;

exclusions have reduced by more than half since 2007;

in each of the last two years, Glasgow has won more than a quarter of the available Scottish Education Awards

I would like to invite Mr Monteith to visit Glasgow to see for himself what we are achieving, as it is always better to base opinion on fact rather than fiction.

Maureen McKenna, executive director of education, Glasgow City Council.

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