Monday 6 April 2009

Timing is everything, and this isn't it

I get a fair amount of email dropping into my inbox every day at work. Some of it is from constituents, some from my colleagues, and some of it is unsolicited and gets deleted after I've had a quick swatch. Late yesterday afternoon, I received a mass email addressed to all Council staff that surprised me so much I had to read it again. Here it is:

I'm sure we all have our own special memories of life at school - some good, perhaps some not so good. But when was the last time you were actually in a school? How much has changed since you walked out of the school doors for the last time?

When you were at school, did you have Interactive Whiteboards, Media Suites, Social Streets? Or are you reading this and thinking "what are you talking about"? Well here is your chance to find out for yourself. A new exciting initiative is being offered to staff in 2009. Education Services are organising a number of 'Back To School' events, open to all Council staff and staff from the Councils' Arms Length External Organisations (ALEO's).

Glasgow's School Estate

The Council has radically improved the condition and quality of its education estate in the past 8 years. Since 2002 the Council has invested approximately £550m to ensure that children, young people and staff have high quality, vibrant learning and teaching environments that support the core objectives of raising attainment and achievement. A high number of schools in Glasgow have been transformed. Project 2002 resulted in Glasgow's secondary schools undertaking the biggest rebuilding and refurbishment programme ever seen in the United Kingdom. Project 2002 underlined the commitment of the City Council to investing in education. The end result of the project was 11 brand new secondary schools and 18 secondary schools totally refurbished, some with major extensions built.

The Council recognised that the reform could not be restricted to the secondary sector and therefore brought forward the Pre 12 Strategy. We are currently in Phase 4 of this project - full details are available at -

Education Services want to increase awareness throughout the Council of the positive impact of the investment in 21st century schools. So we are 'opening the gates' to our schools to allow council colleagues the chance to visit and see for themselves classrooms of the 21st Century. These proposed visits will also allow colleagues to have an increased awareness of the educational opportunities now on offer to our children and young people.

How to Apply for a Tour

Full details of this exciting new project, along with an application form for anyone interested in visiting a school, are available on Connect.

Tours will commence at 10am in specific schools and will finish off just before midday with a complimentary meal in the 'Fuel Zone' - the catering service provided by Direct and Care Services that has revolutionised catering in all primary and secondary schools - This will allow you the chance to compare school meals today with yesteryears delights such as mince, semolina and lumpy custard!

Staff will also have the option of making their own way to the school or alternatively Land and Environmental Services will arrange for transport to and from the school - leaving from, and returning to, Wheatley House on the day of the visits.

This message has been authorised for all Council distribution by Margaret Doran, Executive Director of Children and Families.

For a significant number of Council staff, it's part of their job to know what's going on in our schools. Some Council staff may get access to schools as parents, and will have an idea of what they're like. As an elected member, I'm in the schools and nurseries in my ward on a regular basis and I try to keep a handle on what's going on.

For the rest, I wonder what value a trip round Glasgow's schools will bring.
Will staff will get time off their work to go on this jolly outing? Why not wait for Doors Open Day? The campaigning parents of St Gregory's and Wyndford Primaries certainly didn't need an invitation!

I'm less than convinced that in these times of austerity what is needed is Education spending money on an open invitation to all Glasgow City Council employees to come and wander around school buildings. It sounds like there will also be cost implications to Land and Environmental Services for the minibuses and DACS/Cordia for meals.

The point of this exercise clearly isn't to give staff a true impression of the conditions children are taught in. It's not about nostalgia or letting staff go back to school. The schools that have been selected aren't among the five "Category D for Dangerous" school buildings, or even among the Cs and Ds. These tours won't show flaky paint, leaking roofs, pitted playgrounds, or point out the foliage sprouting from the gutters. Visitors won't get the chance to sit in drafty classrooms with their coats and mittens on to keep them warm.

They'll be visiting these selected schools:

Primary - 22nd April

  • Ashpark Primary
  • Avenue End Primary
  • Castleton Primary
  • Merrylee Primary
  • St Maria Goretti Primary

Secondary - 23rd April

  • All Saints Secondary
  • Drumchapel High
  • Knightswood Secondary
  • St Andrew's Secondary
  • St Thomas Aquinas Secondary

I don't seek to do Glasgow schools down by this post. The effort and high standards of the vast majority of teaching staff in sometimes difficult circumstances is admirable. The new schools Glasgow has invested in are impressive. For older schools, however, basic maintenance has been skimped over years. In some cases, we don't need new schools; we just need to look after what we have.

For me, the timing is pretty tactless. In a matter of weeks, Councillors in Glasgow will decide whether to close dozens of schools and nurseries across the city. This
a diversionary PR exercise, nothing less.


joe90 kane said...

Here's a small post I thought BB
and her legion of followers might be interested in, regarding planned school closures in Glasgow -
Glasgow Primary Schools Occupied
Socialist Unity
08 Apr 2009

SU is a very popular website, to say the least, and is very much into the idea of constitutional reform of the UK - separate governments for Scotland, Wales, England and Cornwall if that what it takes.

all the best!

subrosa said...

I had to read it twice as well. Silly idea but then Dundee when it was labour, came up with the same sorts of jollies. Visitscotland does it too, sends staff on courses about running a guest house. What good is that to the woman who's standing behind the counter in an Information Office?

Sometimes I wonder, then I stop because it's bad for my health.