Gina Davidson: Don’t deprive kids of P7 glory

Memories of primary school get fonder the older you get. Picture: Getty
Memories of primary school get fonder the older you get. Picture: Getty
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THE further you get from your school days, the more carefree they appear.

The time spent at primary is especially rose-tinted, when the stress of examinations and the grown-up world seems so far away that it might never happen. Your only concerns are if you can swap your play-piece, the chances of winning British Bulldog and whether you were going to skip or play “two balls” at lunchtime. By primary seven though, there was the added worry about whether you’d be asked to the quali.

Halcyon days indeed. But let’s not get too distracted by nostalgia. After all this is a city in which our politicians and officials have long put away the things of childhood. So much so, that they are seriously considering the idea that youngsters, possibly as young as ten, should be at high school. And then perhaps 
cleaning chimneys at 14.

The idea is that shifting the P7s to high school a year early would stop desk-blocking at primaries and free up more space for the increasing numbers coming in at P1. Our primary sevens appear to be regarded as the educational equivalent of the well elderly stuck in hospital beds as there are no care homes into which they can be moved .

Of course the idea might never come to fruition, but the fact that it’s up for discussion says a lot about the current mess that Edinburgh’s education department is in. And it’s a mess of its own making.

Six years ago, council officials had a hit list of nursery and primary schools it wanted to close. It amounted to 22 places of education and caused a massive outcry among 
parents and pupils.

No-one ever wants their local school to close, but sometimes there are actual proper reasons it has to happen – the roll is so diminished it’s affecting the education being given, the place is falling apart, a new, bigger, shinier school is being built and merging two primaries into one makes sense.

The only reason for the list of 22 was apparently the first. The argument was that rolls were dropping so rapidly it made no sense educationally or financially to keep them open, especially when there was capacity in nearby schools for displaced children.

The list was vastly reduced because of the public pressure, otherwise the then LibDem/SNP administration would have gone ahead and shut the lot at the officials’ behest. And where would we be now if that had happened?

Already this administration is building extensions at the schools which took the children from those which closed, because it would appear that school rolls can go up as well as down. Who knew?

You’d have hoped the officials in the education department would have known before schools were shut – and some demolished.

Shifting the blame for this lack of foresight onto primary sevens is rather lame. And it’s laughable that putting them into a secondary school environment a year before they’re ready (and many 12-year-olds are not even ready) would be done for sound educational reasons.

I wouldn’t want to be the education convener who decided to take away a vital part of childhood, who never gave children that feeling of being top of the heap in their school, of becoming a prefect, of looking forward to that quali dance.

Would you Paul Godzik?

A sentence like this won’t help make roads safe

THE Court of Appeal has decided that 300 hours of community service, a five-year driving ban, and a retaking of the driving test after that, is punishment enough for Gary McCourt, a man who has the deaths of two cyclists on his conscience.

Despite appearances I’m sure he must have one. Even though he pled not guilty when charged with causing the death of 75-year-old Audrey Fyfe by careless driving. Even though he also killed 22-year-old George Dalgity 27 years ago by driving recklessly. It’s an assumption I’m basing purely on his lack of triumphalism over the judgement not to increase his sentence.

The Crown had hoped to up it to include prison time – though most campaigners had seemed more desperate that he would at least be banned from driving for life. That would have sent a signal to all drivers to be more aware of the more vulnerable users of our roads.

Instead the appeal court believed that while Sheriff Scott was wrong in suggesting the lack of a helmet contributed to Audrey’s death (an incredibly insensitive, callous, and blatantly wrong implication by him in his original judgement) the fact that this time McCourt was driving more slowly than when he caused George’s death, is proof that he’s learned some kind of lesson over the intervening years.

But what everyone else has learned from this decision is that being “momentarily inattentive” while in charge of a car, an inattention which results in a death, will not see a driver jailed or banned from being behind the wheel for life.

Sentencing powers desperately need to be strengthened if our roads are to be made safer.

I’m warming to Ed’s energy plan

I HAD an interesting conversation with an energy firm call centre worker the day after Ed Miliband’s “we will freeze energy prices” Labour Party conference

announcement.

She’d called to offer me the chance to see whether her firm could beat my current tariff. Sadly it couldn’t but as she was on I asked her what, if any, had been the reaction at the company to Ed’s pledge. “We’ve been briefed,” is all she would say on that, but added “but they forget we’ve got gas and electric bills too. I’d vote for it.”

However “socialist” it’s painted, I think he’s on to a winner with this. The big six energy firms made £3.74bn in profits last year. Remember that next time you weigh up the cost of turning on the heating.

Tempted by a bargain

IT’S no surprise nine out of ten people ignore the connection between counterfeit goods and organised crime. Cheap goods will always be tempting when money is tight whether they’re from Poundland or the guy in the pub.