Revealed: the cleaning crisis in Edinburgh schools

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A number of schools in Edinburgh have such poor levels of cleaning that it is “compromising health and safety standards”.

Unite, the trade union representing cleaners, have taken testimony from a number of members who tell of cleaners being shipped from school to school in the space of only one afternoon, potentially jeopardising standards.

This news comes on the day that council leaders meet to discuss how best to cut £33 million from the council budget.

Following Edinburgh city councils budget cut of an estimated £250 million in the last five years, cleaners have reported a shocking neglect of both staff and resources, forcing a supervisor to contact her union.

It has been noted that one individual employed by a major high school in Edinburgh was forced to visit several other community buildings to ensure the school did not run out of essential materials.

In another case, prior to complaints regarding a lack of cleaning materials, teachers were seen bringing in baby wipes to work to ensure the tables were clean for students to work on.

Mary Alexander, Unite’s Deputy Scottish Secretary, has labelled the situation as “ridiculous”.

She said: “Unite has heard numerous stories from cleaners across the city highlighting the lack of cleaning materials, and staff due to council cuts. Cleaners are in some instances being transported around schools to address the lack of provisions. The situation is compromising health and safety standards”.

It is estimated the Edinburgh City Council will face at least £41 million worth of cuts in the next year as well as a further £106 million in the following three years.

Midlothian council “fly in the face” of the Scottish Government by axing all music tuition for school pupils

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Midlothian council will be the first in Scotland to scrap musical tuition for all school pupils who are not participating in Higher or National five exams, a move that “flies in the face” of Scottish Government guidelines.

The recent council proposal, denying all pupils below S4 the right to study a musical instrument outside of school hours, is expected to be announced before the boards budget meeting on the 12th of February.

The cuts are set to be introduced after a campaign was set up last year, actively criticising multiple local authorities who implemented high pricing for musical lessons. Midlothian council currently charge £205 a year for instrumental lessons and are the only board in Scotland enforcing charges for pupils who sit exams in music, raising concern amongst parents who have been questioning the authority on their child’s right to a free education.

Scottish policy dictates that no parent should have to pay any form of tuition if their child is sitting SQA examinations in that subject.

However, elsewhere Moray council has revealed plans to increase musical tuition to £699 a year, making it the highest in Scotland.

An experienced Edinburgh based instrumental teacher and union representative who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity claims the recent cuts contradict the Scottish Governments attitude towards free education.

He said; ‘It means that only the better off will have access to private tuition and the range of instruments will be limited. It flies in the face of recent Scottish government guidelines that tuition should be free.’

A spokeswoman for the council claims the cuts are an inevitable measure given an £11.5 million shortfall in the councils budget this year.










Scottish school attainment funds announced by government

Scottish Ministers have announced funding plans for a governmental scheme in a proposal to raise attainment.

The Scottish government is set to launch additional funding to schools across the country in 2018. Ministers are planning to divide £120m between the institutions.

The list reveals that 2,513 primary, secondary and special schools will benefit from the scheme and it is predicted that over 100,000 pupils will reap the advantages.

Funding will be allocated according to how many children are entitled to free school meals throughout primary school and the first three years of secondary.

Dalmarnock Primary in Glasgow will receive £278,400 from the fund.

Speaking to the BBC its head teacher Nancy Clunie said the money would make a “huge difference” to children at the school.

She added, “We already do a lot of work with our partners to put on activities involving parents to improve the health and wellbeing of the whole family, as less stressed children make better learners.”

“For example, we have a weekly family meal and homework group and a summer club during the school holidays. The Pupil Equity Funding will enable us to expand these activities.”

With money being directly given to head teachers, it will be the responsibility of individual schools to spend funding on whatever they acknowledge will help to raise attainment.











Spy kids: Are we trying to normalise surveillance for the next generation?

Schools have began to monitor computer use and web browsing on their computers. In over 1000 secondary schools across England and Wales, “classroom management software” is being used to monitor the screens of students from the safety of a teacher’s desktop. This software, revealed by a freedom of information request is running on over 800,000 computers, laptops and mobiles in schools, tracking the historical and real time web activities of students.

Unveiled in a report by Big Brother Watch (BBW), the reasons for such surveillance is unclear. BBW speculate the schools have been under pressure to install the software as part of anti-extremism strategy ‘Prevent’ or the recent ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ programme. The systems can alert school administration of students exhibiting ‘bad’ behaviour and signs of ‘radicalisation’. It is also presented as a way to fight cyber-bullying, prevent teen sexting and identify ‘at risk’ pupils who might be suicidal.

There is further controversy with gaining the consent of the pupils the software is used on. Only 15% of schools provided an “acceptable use” policy to sign to confirm their allowance of computer surveillance, and only 10% mentioned the software, in basic terms without explanation of the full extent of scrutiny. It is a breach of data protection law, which will likely be clamped down on by an incoming 2018 EU regulation, which will force any organisation gathering data on individuals to explicitly inform them why their information is being gathered, needing to gain informed consent from the person.

This software on the surface looks as though it has good intentions, to protect children from the dangers of the Internet. It stores personal information about children and has potential to use the invasive software in ways that gravely breach privacy. The 2010 case of Robbins v. Lower Merion School District shows how surveillance software in the hands of IT techs and school administrators can be used to spy on kids in disturbing ways. Two high schools revealed that they had secretly taken more than 66,000 images through remotely activated macbook cameras, only revealed to the public when they suspended a student for “behaviour in the home” accusing him of drug dealing.

Children in today’s climate have less freedom than ever before when it comes to communication technology, as applications are now widely avaliable to track children’s communications and internet presence. The UK government and it’s educational bodies have not learned from the Robbins case. Perhaps they will need a similar scandal to see the danger in normalisation of widespread surveillance of children, but also the quiet delegation of spy tools to regular people who have little experience complying with data protection.

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