Labour councillor questions own party’s education priorities

Labour's Scott Arthur. Picture: Contributed
Labour's Scott Arthur. Picture: Contributed
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A LABOUR councillor has questioned the education priorities of his own party after leaders of the city’s ruling coalition unveiled their policy programme for the next five years.

Backbencher Scott Arthur, elected in Colinton/Fairmilehead in May, tweeted his response to the SNP-Labour administration’s 52 pledges officially published for the first time on Tuesday.

And he asked whether expanding Gaelic medium education was more important than tackling the attainment gap in the Capital’s schools.

The coalition pledges include both increasing the number of classroom assistants to “improve attainment and wellbeing” and supporting “continued development of Gaelic education”.

The council is already considering the option of a dedicated Gaelic secondary school to complement the existing Gaelic primary. The education committee agreed on Tuesday to carry out an informal consultation on future of Gaelic medium education in the city.

In his tweet, Cllr Arthur said: “I welcome the publication of the Edinburgh coalition commitments today – it is long overdue.

“This is just the start however. We now must cost and prioritise them – with input from other parties.

“For example, should expanding Gaelic Medium Education be more important than tackling the attainment gap?

“Only ten per cent of kids in Gaelic Education come from deprived homes. The average in Edinburgh schools is over 20 per cent, but many have over 80 per cent. What is more important? These are the decisions we will have to make within the context of probable further cuts by the SNP/Tory governments.”

Labour education convener Ian Perry declined to comment on Cllr Arthur’s tweet.

Meanwhile, Tory group leader Iain Whyte complained the programme included “lots of grand plans and meaningless statements”.

But he said: “It doesn’t solve any of the problems that Edinburgh has had over a number of years and the lack of basic services that work. Meanwhile, the bins don’t get collected properly, the roads are not repaired and we see weeds growing in the streets and they reject our calls for action on these things.”