11/12/2013 Newsnight Scotland


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Class sizes for primary school children are creeping up. Is the


policy to cut class sizes the right one? 18 pupils per car lasts was the


SNP manifesto promise in 2007. Now 25 is the statutory upper limit but


only for primary one classes. I believe that we have had a


Scottish Parliament now for eight years and it is time we had a


Scottish Government as well. The promise could not have been


clearer. The measures that we care about and have not been delivered by


the current illustration but must be delivered now. Lower class sizes for


primary is one to primary three. Every single piece of major


educational research demonstrates that the early years, early


intervention, is crucial. Four years later the SNP returned to the


subject. There was also an acknowledgement that there was more


work to be done. The aspiration was rewritten with a new promise of a


limit of 25 on class sizes in primary one which has now been put


into law. Scottish Government statistics published today shows


that has been almost met. Just 600 primary one pupils are being taught


in classes of over 25. But the number being taught in classes of


fewer than 18 has fallen. Average class size is have gone up. The


number of teachers have gone down my daughter is in a class of 25. That


seems a lot. It is a small classroom. They are crammed in. It


is not great. I know there is a 25 student limit. 25 is a good limit. I


would not want to see it go over that. They are already quite high. I


did not know that they were rising. I suppose it is down to how the


school managers and how the teachers manage their classes.


Political opponents have been piling into accuse the Government of


letting children down. It is embarrassing for Mike Russell. In


2007 the SNP promised that all primary one to primary three classes


would be 18 or fewer. Less than 20% of the classes now heads that figure


up the Education Secretary visiting a high school today took the chance


to trumpet Government success. The number one priority is to make sure


that the schools are renewed. We have two maintain teacher numbers.


Those are all important things. It is a question of priorities. We are


doing well in class sizes. We are not getting to the lowest level I


would like to see. That has not been possible given the financial


squeeze. But Scottish education continues to improve. But there is a


warning that the statistics reveal a reduction in resources for preschool


children. The financial constraints make it all but inevitable that they


will be focused on things that they have two do, rather than things that


are aspirations. At the impact is wider than just on


baby schools. The Scottish Government has made clear its


determination that there should be access to a nursery teacher for


every nursery age child within Scotland. It has made clear his


determination that the entitlement should increase. If that access is


not provided through nursery teachers then the service moves


towards education -- away from education towards care. This issue


matters because trust is important for politicians. Parents will not


forgive or forget if they think their children's feature is being


put at risk. Earlier I asked Mike Russell that


the child entering primary one this September will be in a larger


lasts. Some children will be but not all children. These have been tough


financial times. We have still got lower class sizes than anybody


thought we could achieve. We have got a legal maximum for primary one.


The tables you could use in your own document today show that the average


class size in primary one, primary two, and primary three have gone up


since you took office. That is not strictly true. Class numbers in


primary one remain lower. These are marginal increases we have seen in


these sets of figures. What we have got is continuing improvement in


Scottish education. We have been able to secure it in difficult


financial times. We report twice per year on educational figures. We are


continuing to make progress. We are closing the attainment gap. They are


difficult times. But progress is being made. Just to refer to your


own data, . Those numbers are making progress. 22.8 in 2007, 20 3.7 more


recently. You said class sizes have not gone up. I have quoted figures


from your own documents that show the opposite of what you have said.


I do not think they do. We have made progress over the last seven years.


Would I like to have made more progress? You are working on some


weird feeling of suspects. I am not working on a weird really. I am


working on the reality of Scottish education. I am setting the legal


maximum. There is a basic question about the openness of opticians. I


have quoted your own document showing the opposite of what you are


seeing. Instead of addressing that you are saying, it does not say


that. We can argue this all evening. I was quoting your own document that


you produced this morning. We have had four minutes and we have not got


to the substance of this. We need to have continued drug arrest in


Scottish education. We have got lower class sizes than we have had


in a long time. -- we need to have continued progress in Scottish


education. We have managed to continue with progress. I would like


to make data progress. After you gave up on the original target, the


next one was that you had an agreement that 20% of primary one


students would be in classes of 18 or under. Not only have you not


achieved that, but the proportion has fallen sharply. But what you


have got to look at is the agreement we made was to do with ratios. There


have been lots of pressures. We have tried to maintain ratios. We have


not totally managed to keep that in terms of teacher numbers. The deal


after that was to keep the ratios the same. You have not managed to do


that either. I am afraid we have. The ratio is the same as last year.


The figure is the same as last year. That is the headline figure in the


report. Not-for-profit mini one, primary two and primary three. The


local authorities have said today they are glad they have been able to


honour that. We have been able to maintain teacher pupil ratios. I was


like to see us make further progress in class sizes. One of the things I


did in 2011 was to try and set a legal maximum. That is what we did


for primary one. We are a long way from your original promises. It was


not journalists like myself that the big fuss about class sizes. It was


not educational experts. It was the SNP. It was you that said this was


the most important thing. You have failed in every target you have set


yourself. Now you try to pretend that the statistics in your own


document at either wrong or irrelevant. I do not want to pretend


anything. We have made some progress. Would I like to make more


progress? Yes I would love to make more progress. Can we make more


progress? That'll depend on resources. Having made an agreement


about maintaining ratios? Yes we have. Can we do more? I hope so. How


does this relate to education? It was you that made it an issue, not


me. Have you not created a rod for your own back cushion Mark would not


be better to say that class sizes are not important, let us be framed


the discussion? You have been going on about it. What I have been trying


to say was the connection between class sizes and attainment. It is


one of the factors. All the evidence now shows there are other factors.


We are now working on more data. We are working on making sure there is


better leadership. We are making sure there are partnerships in that.


That is progress. Would I like class sizes to be smaller? Yes. Can we


make progress in education? Yes they are making progress. I enjoyed no by


the general secretary of the EIS Larry Flanagan, and by expert in


primary and early years education. Actually, should we just give up


with this session about class sizes, because as far as I am aware, the


research shows that while it might help it is not the be all and end


all. It is not a signal to -- significant factor on its own. It is


a factor along with a whole load of others, like the teacher


relationship, the class behaviour, the environment in the classroom. I


would not want to see it set aside because I think to have an ambition


for reduced class sizes is an ideal and we have to hang onto those


ideals. But I also think that this is a relative concept, and in


knowing I was coming on to talk to you this evening I was looking at


the English statistics as well, and they capped at 30. We capped at 25,


and I think that capping in 2011 has had a significant shift in what


local authorities are attempting to do in keeping class sizes from


escalating. Do you mean both England and here? So it is not the levels of


the argument, it is about statistics? It is a good argument to


have to keep yourself on the right track? The cap is helpful and it is


in the best interests of children that we have a smaller figure in


Scotland than in England. Most teachers will say, give me a smaller


class and I can be more flexible and effective. Do you agree, Larry


Flanagan? Should we stop obsessing with class sizes? I think class


sizes are crucial to attainment across the board. One of the reasons


there is difficulty with the backward train in the classroom


sizes is because we have failed to maintain the teacher numbers which


were promised two years ago. There were cuts in the education budget.


If you do not have the teachers in place, you cannot control class


sizes. We are talking about the local authority that is replacing


nursery teachers with non-teachers. It is not only class sizes that the


Government has pledged, it has pledged to improve access for


teachers in nursery education and that is not being met and it has


been reversed. There are significant concerns about the failure of the


Scottish Government to deliver its policy objectives. If we are looking


for other factors, Aline-Wendy, what should be looked at? For example, it


is often cited that in Japan's schools there are systems of groups


where the more able pupils help the less able. That happens in Finland


as well. Is it that sort of thing we should be trying, to change the


culture of angry schools rather than just obsessing about how many


students they have? The countries that do well on these statistics,


the evidence is strong, but it is not so much the class size as the


quality of the teacher, and I think we are actually doing a good job. I


hear what Larry is saying about teacher numbers and budgets and that


is a serious issue and the question of who worked in nursery education


is dear to my heart as well but I do think... Aren't we addressing that?


Aren't the new rules coming in about the qualifications that you need to


become a primary school teacher in Scotland? The qualifications have


remained the same. The competencies have shifted. There is a BA at my


own university which is a new and exciting focus on teacher education.


But in terms of preschool education, it is a teacher from the age of


three upwards in Scotland. Everyone training for primary school has


preschool experience. We have done a great job in the last... Since 2008


since raising the qualifications. But it is the teacher who leads a


class in primary school and it is a mixed group of professionals in the


preschool sector. Larry's point about access to a teacher is


incredibly important. He was talking about preschool, so we will come


onto that in a second. Larry Flanagan, there does not seem to be


much hard evidence that class sizes in primary school, the lower they


are, it might help. There does not seem to be much hard evidence that


they are quite as crucial as you are suggesting. I accept the point has


been made about teachers' professionalism, and we need to


develop the skills of the teacher because that is crucial, but that is


not mutually exclusive to the issue of class sizes. It was interesting


introduction... All the parents that you spoke to instinctively realised


that if their children are in smaller classes, there will be more


one-to-one attention, and those who teach a class understand that. If


you have a smaller class size, you get more individual attention.


Picking up on some of the issues you mentioned, using tables to support


each other, Curriculum For Excellence, that is much easier and


more practical with smaller class sizes. What do you make of this


issue that Larry Flanagan referred to about access to teachers for


preschool children? I think it is a Fort concept and it has not been


defined properly in Scotland at all, so that access could range from


maybe use the a teacher once a month or went a week or maybe you have a


full-time teacher in your setting, in some local authorities. So there


is a disparity for children across Scotland. We need to address that.


Humming back to settings where a teachers employed, we know that the


quality of education for children rises, but we also know that degree


qualified people, and we have many in Scotland, make a really important


contribution. You have to look at what it is... You are still talking


about preschool? I am talking about preschool. What do you think the


frequency should be? You have talked about how the access is varying... I


started teaching in preschool education in an era where you had


one teacher for 20 children, and I think that would be absolutely ideal


if we want to make a difference for Scotland's children, but what is


quite different now than when I started teaching so long ago is the


fact that the staff that teachers work with, the wider teams, are all


extremely well qualified now. We have to leave it there. Thank you. A


quick look at tomorrow's front pages. The Scotsman. RBS pays out


?61 million to the US for sanction breaking. Lloyds is fined ?20


million. And there is a picture there of the funeral of WPC Kirsty


Nelis on the front, who was killed in the helicopter crash. The Daily


Telegraph, Cameron threatens to axe MPs' a watchdog is the lead story.


The Independent, GCSE results are majorly determined by the NA.


-- by the NA. That is it for tonight.


Goodbye. File may be a problem again across


the Southeast first thing on Thursday morning. A few of us will


be affected by that fog in the morning. Look at these temperatures.


A very different picture really compare it to what we will have seen


on Wednesday. A sunny day. Thursday will be mostly cloudy across the


bulk of England at least. In Scotland, also cloudy. Similar for


Northern Ireland. The best chance for prolonged sunshine is the very


far North of Scotland. Friday, the wind continues from the South or


Southwest Musso stained mild but some rain through the country.


Writer later on in Northern Ireland but essentially an unsettled day.


For the weekend, stormy and potentially quite stormy across the


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