What follows is my column to this week’s East Lothian Courier, which tries to address a pressing issue for our local school pupils and their education.
Last week East Lothian Education Committee met for the first time this academic year since September. After two recent efforts had failed as inquorate, it met last week. The reason given for this huge 7-month gap? “No business to consider”.
Last June Audit Scotland published its School Education report. Its Exhibit 10 shows East Lothian to be the 2nd-worst (of 32) councils in improvement over 2004-15; its Exhibit 9 highlights EL with the 2nd-worst (of 32) disparity between best- and worst-performing schools in its care.
Also last June, the Wood Commission published its Education Working for All report. It is laced with insight and ideas how education might better prepare our young people for the real world. Its Summary says: “(throughout secondary), young people should be exposed to a wide range of career options. This can only be achieved by schools and employers systematically working together in meaningful partnership”. East Lothian has achieved no such thing.
Fire alarms on this scale should demand reports and decisive action. A year on, the chair (Cllr Shamin Akhtar) has yet to do either. The two policy papers that were considered on April 21st didn’t mention—let alone address—either report, despite having had a year to do so. The decision taken? That members note “attainment in East Lothian has improved 2009-2014”.
By SQA yardsticks, East Lothian has fallen (by 1.5%)—behind comparable authorities like East Dumbartonshire (up by 15%) Disparity within the county has actually grown but Labour shies from publishing data for individual schools and, by aggregating, can boast we’re around national average.
Comparing 2004 SQA statistics with 2014 is very revealing: NBHS results +15%; Knox +9%; Dunbar +3%. Good so far, but: PL -6%; Ross -7%; Musselburgh Grammar -9%. These latter are poor figures, suggesting our three largest high schools have lost ghround: they are WORSE than a decade ago.
And looking at where school leavers wind up shows similar disparities. So-called “positive destinations” averages 89% of EL’s 1,043 leavers, compared to 91% nationally. Our poor average conceals over half ‘non-positive’ results leave from just two schools (43 out of 82).
Yet Audit Scotland and Wood are ignored. This Labour administration declines to hear any alarm bell ringing, let alone the need to discuss solutions—so smugly comfortable with inaction are they that deaf must mean there IS no alarm.
Meanwhile, pupils in half EL’s high schools are offered raw deals instead of careers.