On the left Christine Grahame, SNP MSP and Michelle Ballantyne, Conservative MSP
Local MSP Christine Grahame has called the Conservative’s position on this year’s exam results “rank hypocrisy” – after the UK government was forced into U-turning on their decision by qualifications watchdog Ofqual.
In Scotland, Education Secretary John Swinney instructed the SQA to award pupils their predicted grades after admitting the moderation mechanism in place was the wrong thing to do. Today, it was confirmed that Ofqual would now award predicted grades to pupils in England after the UK government failed to take ownership of the issue.
Ms Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale (SNP) said:
“Despite calling for resignations in Holyrood, the Scottish Tories have been completely silent in calling for their UK bosses to be sacked.
“The Tories are guilty of rank hypocrisy on this issue, and voters will see them as the opportunists that they are.
“As a former secondary teacher myself, I fully recognise the real distress the exam process caused students this year which is why the Cabinet Secretary, John Swinney, took quick action to rectify it when the reality became clear. This has been the first time an exam diet has been cancelled in 130 years – challenges were likely, but I’m glad the Scottish Government listened to students and teachers to resolve it.
“Unfortunately despite this the Tories and Labour continued to play petty political games in calling for the Cabinet Secretary’s resignation in the middle of this crucial time regardless of the resolution. Indeed we had Michelle Ballantyne MSP saying on 10th August that “It’s clear John Swinney does not have the public’s confidence… It’s clear that [he] has to go”
“Gavin Williamson MP, the UK Education secretary, was meanwhile refusing to learn lessons from Scotland ahead of the English results being announced and chose instead to take a cheap pop at the SNP, claiming the restoration of teacher estimated grades was “rampant grade inflation”.
“Now that the Tories in England have been forced to U-turn on this by Ofqual after protracted uncertainty for students, the Tories silence in calling for Mr Williamson’s resignation is frankly deafening.
“It only goes to show that as far as the Tories are concerned it’s one rule for the Scottish Government and another for the UK Government, dependent on what suits them politically – it’s nothing to do with students best interests.”
Midlothian View asked Michelle Ballantyne MSP to respond Ms Grahame’s comment.
“Education is fully devolved in Scotland as Christine Grahame is all too aware. I was focussing on ensuring that pupils across Midlothian and the Scottish Borders got the results they deserved, not the results handed to them by the SNP Government.
“It is completely disingenuous to suggest that John Swinney took quick action to rectify the shambles he helped create.
“Despite protesting pupils and the concerns of parents, he refused to listen until his job was on the line in a no confidence vote. Only then did he take action.
“Christine Grahame also fails to recognise that this has been yet another disaster for John Swinney, adding to the long list during his time as Education Secretary – that is the crux of why I believe the confidence in him cannot be recovered.”
“This has been an extraordinary year for assessing our pupils across all parts of the United Kingdom and mistakes have been made in all four nations of the UK. This does not excuse the SNP Government’s attitude towards the situation and it certainly does not qualify John Swinney for any credit for his handling of this mess.
“Policy makers in all parties clearly have lessons to learn when it comes to developing these grading systems, and that’s why I will not take any lectures from Christine Grahame when it comes to standing up for our pupils on what is a completely devolved issue.”
Michelle Ballantyne is the Conservative 2021 candidate for Christine Grahame’s parliamentary seat in Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale
Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Kirstie Topp
A national child protection charity has made a 40 per cent increase in referrals to police and local authorities in Scotland during lockdown.
NSPCC Scotland has revealed that in April, May and June its helpline made a monthly average of 161 referrals compared to an average of 114 in the three months prior to lockdown.
Following Deputy First Minister John Swinney’s plans for young people to return to school fulltime in August, the NSPCC has urged the Scottish Government to ensure the recovery plan addresses the full range of children’s needs.
This includes ensuring schools are ready to help all children who need it, particularly those who may have suffered abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences during the lockdown, and investing in children’s social care.
During the past three months, the helpline has heard from more than 22,000 adults across the UK concerned about the wellbeing of a child.
This is an increase of almost a third (32 per cnt) on the monthly average for the three months prior to lockdown, with May seeing 8,287 contacts – the highest number ever made to the adult helpline in a single month on record.
During lockdown, the main issues confronting NSPCC child safety experts were parental behaviour, physical and emotional abuse and neglect.
Around 40 per cent of the total contacts received were referred on to local authorities or the police for further action.
Commenting, Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland head of service, said: “The increase in referrals from our helpline during the lockdown highlights how some families have been driven to crisis point and the home has become an increasingly unsafe place for some children.
“It is vital that children are now supported to help them recover from any mental and physical harm that many will have suffered these past few months.
“Government’s role is crucial, and it must put in place a detailed recovery plan that makes sure children and young people can receive the expert help they need if they have had difficult or damaging experiences.
“Putting children at the heart of recovery planning and taking this action quickly will mean the crisis of the last three months does not scar the childhoods of a whole generation.”
Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson
Owen Thompson MP will be working with Midlothian based Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) to answer Covid-19 questions from young people in a youth-led Q and A session.
Owen is participating in an hour-long virtual question time session on Thursday May 14th from 2pm which is open to any young people in the area.
“We know the pandemic has had a massive impact on the lives of young people, although sometimes this can be overlooked as we focus on protecting the most vulnerable and older generations.
“The closure of schools, colleges and universities has had a devastating effect on the education of thousands of young people. Many are still struggling for support and understandably worried about what happens next. Some may be in difficult home situations or struggling financially as they lost their jobs and don’t qualify for support from universal credit.
“The lockdown has taken away liberties and shut down social lives – this will be fiercely felt by the younger generation and will undoubtedly affect people’s mental health and wellbeing.
“With normal lives turned upside-down, sometimes people don’t know where to turn for guidance. As a local politician I want to find ways to be as accessible as possible during the lockdown and make sure young people’s voices are not lost.
“For this reason, I’m teaming up with Midlothian Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to take part in a Q and A, led by and for young people. I will be there to listen to the concerns, answer any questions that are put to me and take forward any issues where I don’t have the answer.
“I invite any young people in the area to get in touch and join us on the day.”
For more information or to take part contact Owen (owen.thompson.mp@parliament.