THE city’s new education leader has said closing the attainment gap is “top of the list” when it comes to his priorities for the next five years.
Ian Perry said increasing the number of classroom assistants is also high on the agenda as part of a fresh effort to reduce workloads and relieve the pressure on teachers in the Capital.
His pledge comes after councillors this week met to consider a number of key proposals being put forward by the new administration.
Cllr Perry is heading up the city’s education brief, taking the helm with more than 25 years’ council experience under his belt.
Born in Leith, the 65-year-old Labour councillor spent his own school days in the Capital, first at Leith Walk Primary School before moving on to Broughton Senior School, which he left at 16.
This was followed by a politics degree at Edinburgh University as a mature student and then around eight years teaching at Stevenson College.
Having become a part-time councillor in 1988 – and full-time 15 years ago – Cllr Perry has now set out his aims as he steps into his latest role of education convener.
Top of the list for the Southside/Newington councillor and his committee deputy Alison Dickie is closing the attainment gap for pupils across the city. He said: “Edinburgh is a very rich city but there’s a lot of poor people here, there’s a lot of people in low paid jobs, there’s a lot of poverty.
“One of the ways you can close the gap is by improving the education system, putting extra resources on the pupils who achieve less and making sure we direct resources into that.
“We need to close the attainment gap and I think that’s something Alison and I will be focussing in on.”
Cllr Perry said planning ahead was a vital aspect of achieving this goal, saying schools in the Capital faced a “unique challenge” thanks to an ever-growing population.
“Edinburgh is growing and what we need to do is make sure education infrastructure matches that growth because we have high attainment in Edinburgh and we don’t want to lose that,” he said.
“That’s why the discussion about infrastructure and new schools is fundamentally important because if we don’t get that right it will affect attainment.”
Also bringing classroom experience to the brief is the SNP’s councillor Dickie, who took the plunge into primary school teaching following ten years at the Scottish Parliament where she worked as a civil servant.
Cllr Dickie, 51, taught at both Ferryhill and East Craigs primaries.
She says her time at both schools means she understands just how much pressure teachers are under.
She said: “It’s one of the most undervalued jobs and we need to start really seeing what teachers do every day on that classroom floor and free them up to do the best for the children.”
According to Cllr Perry, getting more classroom assistants on board is key.
He added: “We are committed in the coalition agreement to put extra resources into that and I think that will relieve some of the pressure on teachers.”