A listening council - they don't even listen to their own ministers

Monday evening saw a meeting of the City Council's Education Committee. Earlier in the evening Rory Malone from Unison had been given the opportunity to address the council, rightly, as he comes to the end of his term of office with Dundee City Unison. Later on EIS representatives on the Education Committee were not afforded any such curtesy despite actually being members of the committee. Mr Forrest, one of teacher representatives on the Education Committee, was told he should have highlighted his concerns about Curriculum for Excellence when he had previoulsy seen the Convener; so it appears he is meant to shout his views on issues randomly at the Education Convener in whichever context he meets her with the notable exception of the Education Committee where he is a full member of the Committee.

There was a report about the very important issue of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the council's level of preparedness for its implementation in the senior phase of secondary school. This was a very interesting meeting with two head teachers brought to the committee and allowed to speak at length. Much of what they said was very useful and I look forward to the next Environment Committee for example when we might hear from gardeners or gravediggers or waste management operatives. The choreography of the meeting was most interesting with lots of questions from Administration councillors which received surprisingly detailed and well thought out answers. Questions from opposition councillors or the other statutory members of the committee were afforded no such luxury.

The most important issue here is getting it right for every young person in this city and ensuring that when they go forward for national qualifications they are well prepared and that their school and each department in that school is well prepared.

We received a report on the 16th of March which was discussed on Monday evening, I attended a very useful briefing on Curriculum for Excellence on 18th March. The Cabinet Secretary for Education issued a letter to the Scottish Parliament's Education Committee on 20th March (made public 21st March) where he outlined that he had agreed a package of support measures with the EIS on implementation of CfE. This seems to me to merit some consideration but not from the Dundee Education Department, or the SNP Administration ably assisted by the Lord Provost it was a case of heads down keep on going no matter what happens. This is, at the very least doing a dis-service to the young people of our city.

My colleague Laurie Bidwell put forward an amendment which called for the council to take on board what the Cabinet Secretary for Education said last week and called for a report to be brought back in June to satisfy the council that every school and every department in Dundee is ready for CfE.

All of us on the Education Committee want the very best for the young people of Dundee. I think that Curriculum for Excellence is on the whole a good way forward. We do need to stop and reflect for at least a moment on the concerns expressed by parents and by trade unions representing the teachers at what used to be called the chalk-face. These concerns were acknowledged by the Cabinet Secretary for Education last week but are not acknowledged by Dundee's Education Department.

We need to ensure that we work together to ensure that we do our best for the young people of our city. We should not be charging headlong in a particular direction purely on the basis that we don't want to be seen to having been listening to parents, teachers or even the Cabinet Secretary.

Laurie Bidwell's amendment sought to give parents and pupils reassurance. It may well be that CfE is the best way forward for most pupils in Dundee now but if it isn't those who pushed through the out-of-date report at last night's committee will have a moral responsibility for damaging the life chances of Dundee's young people.

I could make political capital out of the Convener saying that Mike Russell was 'misleading' parents but this is far too important an issue to making political capital out of it. I hope that the decision taken last night works out in the best interests of Dundee children, but I do wonder why the council was so convinced that it should not even take the time to review where it is.