Jenny Marra MSP : Scotland's Children

Speech in the Scottish Parliament debate


26 February 2014

I support Scottish Labour’s motion, which voices significant concerns from teachers, unions and parents about the readiness of the curriculum for excellence and the changes that it is bringing in Scotland’s classrooms.

I put on record my support for Neil Bibby’s call for the Scottish Government to conduct an independent review of what it and its agencies have done to prepare teachers for the new national 4 and national 5 exams and for a plan of action to address the on-going concerns of the SSTA and others.

It is clear from the speeches so far in the debate that those concerns are being felt in classrooms throughout Scotland, not least in my home city of Dundee.

This morning, the local Dundee Courier reported that Dundee City Council is one of nine councils in which the consultation process has failed to happen.

I hope that the minister will address that issue in his concluding remarks.

I would like to address a couple of issues in Dundee and Angus that deeply concern me.

I am concerned that, in 10 to 12 years’ time, pupils will not be ready to sit their exams, because there have been some significant developments.

Over the past few days, The Times Educational Supplement has reported that

“By the end of the summer, Angus Council hopes to have transferred all its nursery teachers to primary classrooms ... to save”  £120,000.

The ministers know as well as I do that the curriculum for excellence is a learner’s journey and that it starts at three years old.

I hope that they share my concern that taking nursery teachers out of schools is absolutely the wrong way to go.

Early years expert Professor Aline-Wendy Dunlop warned this week that there is a danger that nursery teachers will disappear from pre-school education altogether across Scotland unless the Scottish Government changes the law to protect them.

She has recommended legislation to address that.

The figures are quite shocking: only 6 per cent of pupils in the whole county of Angus have regular access to a nursery teacher, which is not even a regular nursery teacher every day. T

That is the lowest proportion in Scotland.

However, nursery teachers are coming out of nurseries across the country.

The EIS has called for the Scottish Government to protect nursery teachers.

I ask the ministers and the cabinet secretary this: is the Scottish Government concerned that they are entrusting the curriculum for excellence in the early years to staff with lesser qualifications?

I would really like to hear the cabinet secretary’s opinion on that.

It was only a day after I raised concerns about early years practitioners being removed from 22 schools in Dundee and the lesser qualifications of the staff who will assume some of their duties that the Scottish Government announced a review of the pre-school workforce and their qualifications.

Perhaps the cabinet secretary will commit today to bringing the findings of that review to the chamber for debate when they are published, and to consider legislating in order to protect nursery teachers with the force of the law.

I am sure that the cabinet secretary and the ministers hear my plea that the teachers for the early years must be properly qualified if the journey on the curriculum for excellence is to be successful.

I hope that they will consider that suggestion.

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