Wednesday, 30 September 2009

East Dunbartonshire Council Review of Primary School, Nursery and Special Schools Estate

a response by Campsie Scottish Socialist Party

In view of the “consultation” on Schools, and taking into consideration the issues raised by the undemocratic and extremely flawed process in Glasgow (see HERE ), East Dunbartonshire Council need to take into consideration a number of points to ensure children have the best educational experience possible. Campsie Branch SSP have, with the consultation of members involved in Education, written this document.

Considerations for East Dunbartonshire Council and it’s current Education policy:

  • The rising population in the country, and indeed the rising birthrate in East Dunbartonshire.
  • The impact of closures on Class size. The need for larger classrooms, more “schooling space” – ie. indoors and outdoors and smaller class sizes.
  • The impact on special needs pupils if forced out of building.
  • The impact on mainstream children’s mental health after separation from their peers and established community.
  • The financial cost of refurbishment/clustering/ sharing resources rather than closure/ building schools with larger populations.
  • The community cost of closure.
  • The impact on parents/children regarding childcare.
  • The impact on implementation of the New Curriculum for Excellence.
  • The impact on children’s journey to schools. Child safety – children should not have to walk/travel far to school. This also affects children’s health, and road safety as those who have cars will tend to drive them.
  • The impact on education workers. The diabolical numbers of newly qualified teachers in East Dunbartonshire, and indeed across Scotland, without work. The numbers of other educational workers who will lose work due to closures.
  • The impact on receiving schools ability to ensure “McCrone” can be properly operated.
  • The impact of the flawed consultations and subsequent 22 closures in Glasgow has already been proven to be catastrophic.


There is at present a real dichotomy in Scotland between the new skills based practices needed and being highlighted by progressive educationalists through publication of the New Curricullum for Excellence and the older, outdated, more conservative practices and cheap class environments wanted by those who want our children to behave like profitable products. Education is a public service – a right, not a market or a business. It should be run according to the needs of the children, not on the basis of how much profit can be made.

The newly built “cost effective”, privately funded classrooms built to minimum standards do not allow movement in the way the Scottish New Curriculum for Excellence calls for. Children in large classes are more likely to spend most of their day sitting at a desk for four hours – or more - of their six hour school day. Crowd control becomes the onus of the schools staff, rather than the children’s learning experience.

The present Government are creating a three tier system – private schools for those who can afford it; and a two streamed system based on the results of outdated tests and teaching practices and financial ability to move schools. Our present strained system and the financial plundering of education, instead of challenging an unequal society, reproduces it, benefiting those pupils and students from well-off families who can push to have their children moved to more “desirable” seemingly competitive schools, and who can then drive their children to these schools far from their homes. Choice is only available to families with the least constraints on their time and finances. This fails to meet the needs of most children in Scotland, especially those from working class families, single parent families and minority ethnic groups.

Competition and Crowd Control

Children, in the present system, learn to step on each other to “win” and come first, and also learn under these cramped, and therefore necessarily regimented crowded spaces, that their opinion is “unnecessary”. In a competitive learning system, there can only be one winner - and the rest of the children are "losers". There are other ways to encourage learning/ life long learning. Schools should be encouraging discussion, debate, critical thinking and peer to peer teaching. Cramped schools, isolated from the communities they serve, do not promote this at all.

New Curricullum for Excellence

If properly implemented, The New Curriculum for Excellence allows teachers to introduce proven, up to date educational methods that raise the attainment of children across the board – ie, those of “emulation” and democratic class and school methods – and these are most effective in smaller class sizes and in classes with less groups. The Government has cut funding for schools with special needs and for children who need help beyond a traditional classroom, but at the same time justify this by calling for “integration” etc. In the competitive classroom practises advocated by successive neo-liberal administrations, this is extremely alienating for huge numbers of disadvantaged, working class children. New, “emulation techniques,” rather than encouraging detrimental competition between individuals, ensures children as well as teachers, learn to pass on skills to their peers. A competitive system creates children who think, “I did better than you… I am better than you,” whereas an emulation system creates children who think, “I know something you may not. Passing my knowledge and skills to you improve the class group/community/society.”

The New Curricullum, regardless of the method of implementation advocated by the teacher/learning establishment/ local authority is extremely difficult to implement in an atmosphere of control/ in a place with little democracy/ in a place far removed from their community and in buildings built only to the minimum specifications in order for the private building company to make the biggest possible profit. Context in education is paramount. Children need friendly, welcoming, local schools with the maximum amount of adults per child possible (20 or less per adult). School closures negate all attempts to implement the very essence of the New Curricullum - democracy in education... and the active, spacious classroom needed in order to do so. Current policy in re-builds delivers the minimum specification possible in order to ensure profits for the corporations.

Outdoor Schooling

HMIE have called for more outdoors teaching – this, for any one adult, becomes difficult with class sizes over 20. It is a dichotomy to call for one thing, but make it near to impossible to implement. Smaller class sizes, plus close-to-home local schools where parents can help out etc can ensure a better learning experience.

Further considerations:

Research on lower Primary Years (P1-3) published in 2003 gives us much more to think of (while being told that because of our tax money being frittered on Bankers debts we must tighten our belts): (Department of Psychology and Human Development at the Institute of Education, University of London, UK.)

In the later Primary years (P4-7), large class sizes meant that, according to this research, “Pupils eligible for free school meals were found to make less progress than those not eligible in both literacy and maths during these years. These pupils were also behind in Key Stage 1 (nursery – P3), and fell still further behind during the later years. Pupils with special educational needs were found to make less progress in both maths and literacy. Girls were found to make more progress in attainment in literacy, whilst conversely boys were found to make more progress in maths.”

The research goes on to say, “Class size effects on classroom processes are not singular but multiple. As the size of the class increases, size and/or number of groups increases, and the management of groups, both in terms of size and number, becomes ever more crucial.
Perhaps the clearest effects of class size were on teaching. Pupils in smaller classes were more likely to be the focus of a teacher’s attention and experience more teaching overall in mathematics, while in larger classes pupils were more likely to be one of the crowd. Many teachers worry that in large classes they cannot meet the needs of all the children in their class.”

Large class sizes are detrimental to our children – and school closures rather than reinvestment in some of the smaller country and urban community schools, ensure our children struggle and have an unhappy school life isolated from their community. Current practise in replacing smaller schools with privately funded super-schools impair implementation of the New Curriculum for Excellence, so disadvantaging our children. The marketisation of Education has disadvantaged many low and middle income families.

read Rich Venton on "Twenty's Plenty in any class!"

Monday, 21 September 2009

Vote 'Yes' in national strike ballot against Royal Mail bully-boys

by Richie Venton - 21st September 2009

Royal Mail workers are currently balloting for a national strike, after several months of local and regional stoppages, both officially balloted-for actions and ‘unofficial’ walkouts.

Full article HERE

Goodbye, safe, friendly community based schools...

Today, the Wyndford Primary School was bulldozed to the ground.

Quite symbolic really as the Government look for further cuts...

We have paid for this crisis with OUR tax money to plug the hole left by greedy bankers. We are paying through job losses; wage freezes and low pay.

Our children are also being made to pay.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


by Ron Mackay

Ron is a tireless campaigner for socialism and against war and the weapons of war.

"All politicians want to be seen as fighting for peoples jobs but the mainstream parties, including the S.N.P., have accepted the primacy of market capitalism with its drive for profit. The market capitalists, or as Iain MacWhirter (Glasgow Herald) called them kleptocracy, plan to turn the public sector over to private enterprise, the very people responsible for the recession. The situation may be bad but its going to get worse. It won’t be helped by cuts, cuts and more cuts, as called for by the mainstream politicians. There are some cuts that would be entirely beneficial – cut the arms budget and the spending on wars; cut the spending on Trident; cut the bonuses and financial perks being paid to financiers and bankers.

However we must defend public spending on things that matter to most people – health, education, housing, social services, pensions, benefits and transport in order to protect living standards. Frank Dobson MP recently made the point that the policy of cuts with its attendant increase in unemployment, actually costs us more than it saves, with every jobless person costing the state £12,000 per year. Maintaining spending in essential public services not only saves jobs but boosts the entire economy.

Basic services are traditionally paid for by taxation. Many problems could be solved by a progressive tax policy – the rich being made to make a much greater contribution with the numerous loopholes closed."

Friday, 18 September 2009

Decent work... pay...! NOT profit!

Andy Bowden speaks about youth unemployment - and his own experience of it. It's not the crisis thats to blame... it is the greedy bosses...

Richie Venton speaks about how the bosses are piling their debt blackhole onto the workers and how they are saving their millions by casting workers into the misery of long working hours, low pay and ultimately, unemployment.

Richie elaborates in these articles HERE and HERE

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Missed last Saturday's Cuba discussion?

Have a watch at the introductory presentations...

In the first video, Brian Pollitt, drawing on experience inside Cuba and involvement in academic study of the Americas over the past 50 years, speaks about the challenges and successes of the Cuban Revolution. Brian is an SSP member and Secretary of Scottish Medical Aid for Cuba.

Dorothy Sharkey of Scottish Cuba Solidarity on the US. blockade, the Miami 5 and Solidarity Brigades. More information HERE

Kevin Carroll, from the Scottish Socialist Party and Scottish Cuba Solidarity, explains how he became interested in, and describes some of his visits to, Cuba.

Brian on Cuba HERE
Brian on "Che, the People's Revolutionary" HERE
Article on Che HERE Brian Pollitt comments on it:

It is acutely frustrating to read Che's concluding thoughts which are quoted so approvingly:

"...the plan as an economic decision by the masses, conscious of the peoples' interests.... The masses must decide which share of production will be assigned respectively to accumulation and consumption. Economic technique must operate within the limits of this information and the consciousness of the masses must ensure its implementation."

As an implicit critique of the "top down" Soviet model of planning this sounds all very well. But the Soviets, the Chinese and the Cubans all claimed to have a "top-down-top" planning system whereby the planners framed a draft plan which was taken down to "the masses" via the Party and in discussion with the Trade Unions, and then, accompanied by their critique, went back up again to be reformulated by the central planners. Whether and how this happened in practice is quite another matter but the difficulty with Che's formulations is that absolutely nothing concrete is said about how "the masses" make their wishes known; through what organised and representative fora do they make their decisions on accumulation versus consumption in the plan; and how does the masses "consciousness" ensure the implementation of their democratically expressed will? It all sounds fine but doesn't withstand close inspection as to its organisational meaning, does it?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

DIAGEO: time for action

By Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser

The Diageo bosses have booted their workforces at Kilmarnock and Glasgow right in the teeth. These profit-hungry capitalists have spat in the face of mass public opinion – expressed through 20,000 marching in Kilmarnock, and 500,000 email protests to Diageo shareholders – by confirming closure of the 200-year-old plants. And they didn’t even pretend to consult; they announced this on day 71 of a 90-day consultation period.

The Scottish Socialist Party has from day one warned that multi-nationals like Diageo have only one care in the world: profit! They don’t give a toss about chucking 900 workers and their families on the scrapheap, virtually closing down the town of Kilmarnock in the process. And we have equally warned that any belief that such greedy profiteers can be persuaded by arguments into saving the plants was dangerously delusional – that the only language they will listen to is decisive action that wallops their wallets.

With this callous, arrogant announcement that they are forging ahead regardless, the time is rotten ripe for the unions to lead workers in a campaign of industrial action, to hit Diageo’s profit margins.

This could be accompanied by a truly international appeal for a mass consumer boycott, which would potentially have a devastating impact on a company that relies overwhelmingly on overseas markets, and its overseas image.

Already the campaign of protest emails and online petitions has garnered widespread support in the likes of the USA, one of Diageo’s prime markets, and the Teamsters’ Union has offered to support action by UNITE the union.

A tremendous publicity campaign has been conducted over the summer, on the streets, at football matches, and at golf and other sporting events sponsored by the world’s biggest drinks company. But unless the national union leaderships give confidence to workers to hit back with action that damages the production of profits for Paul Walsh and his cronies in the boardroom, there will soon be nothing left to fight back with.

Diageo’s chief executive Paul Walsh has just had another obscene boost to his wealth, at precisely the time he struts the world stage handing out redundancy notices to families who face a future of not knowing where the next meal will come from.

His ‘wage’ actually went down last year compared to 2008 – when he took home £5.1m. That previous income should help cushion him from having to exist on £3.5m in the year up to 30 June 2009 ... the very day before the closure announcements!

That means a ‘salary’ of £67,300 a week! And if that is not vomit-inducing enough, his pension pot more than compensated for the “fall” in salary: it rose by £3.4m to £11.7m during the past year. So if this arrogant prat decides to retire, he stands to draw a pension of £637,000.

Walsh assured the SNP government-led Task Force – in an interview on BBC Scotland – that, “I will be very open-minded when I look at the content” of their alternative business plan. But in real life he didn’t wait even the derisory six days that elapsed between receiving the governments’ proposals and publicly shattering the fate of these workers who have given a lifetime to creating his obnoxious levels of wealth.

Within a couple of hours of declaring his “open mind”, Walsh was in the midst of a conference call to his cohorts in the USA, where he boasted: “A lot of the restructuring we’ve announced over time will help gross margin. They may invoke some letters to our shareholders, as we close plants in Scotland. But it’s the right thing to do for the future, and we have firmly grasped that nettle in order that we do not see gross margin slippage.”.

This arrogant contempt buries all the hopes of the SNP government, Ayrshire and Glasgow councils, and some in the leadership of the unions that – as Alex Salmond put it – “we are looking for something that reconciles Diageo’s financial objectives with Scotland’s social objectives.”

They are irreconcilable! Diageo has just announced another 4 per cent rise in their profits, to £2.6billion. But that is still not enough for these greedy parasites, so they want to cut back from three to two bottling and packaging plants in Scotland, chucking 900 families into despair, to save themselves £42m a year.

And if they get away with this butchery without a real shot being fired, how long will it be before they try to ship whisky across the high seas to be bottled in India or China by slave labour, closer to one of their huge markets?

Whilst the unions need to build members’ confidence for swift industrial action, and appeal for supportive consumer boycotts internationally, the government should drop it’s grovelling pleas for Diageo to accept public money and save maybe half of the 900 jobs; it’s not going to happen! Instead, they should seize the assets that have been built up by two centuries of workers’ skills and labour, supplemented by public subsidies to Diageo in the past, and turn them into public property, sustaining all jobs, embracing the know-how of workers in creating a genuine alternative plan for a publicly-owned drinks and food industry.

The time for action has arrived. Vast public support exists for the Diageo workforce in their plight. That could easily be channelled into a movement to halt the closures, with calls on the governments of Edinburgh and London to step in and bail out these workers, the way they were both so keen to do for the bankers who wrecked the economy in the first place.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Cut Hours... not Jobs or Pay

by Richie Venton

One of the most perverse contradictions in a system riddled with cruel absurdities is that of the working week.

Whilst unemployment leaps upwards, with a scourge of redundancies and closures, the length of the working week for vast hordes of workers increases.
Whilst employers lay off workers, cutting their hours and pay, others demand overtime of their workers – and obscene proportions of this is unpaid overtime.

Long Hours Culture

The UK suffers a notorious ‘Long Hours Culture’. And after a few years of decline (in the years 1998-2006), the hours worked is rising rapidly again.
Figures from December 2008 show that full-time workers in the UK put in an average of 42.1 hours a week - although that is acknowledged to be an under-estimate, not including undeclared hours on second jobs.
Beneath this average lies appalling levels of drudgery for a big minority: one in eight works over 48 hours a week!
And for male workers, the figure is 19.7 per cent exceeding the 48 hour week.
Put another way, in Scotland alone, 260,000 workers are on over 48 hours; 3.3 million across the UK. The latter figure is an increase of 180,000 compared with 2007.

A breath-taking 460,000 workers clock up over 60 hours work a week (54,000 of these in Scotland) - leaving little else time for family or social life after travel to work time and sleep is accounted for!
Long hours at work lead to increased illness, including stress.
It also lowers productivity levels, and reduces Health and Safety for the workforce, as tired people are a risk to others as well as themselves in many jobs.

21st Century Drudgery

So why do workers in Scotland and the UK put in such back-breaking, mind-boggling hours at work in the 21st century?
One of the most obvious causes is low hourly rates of pay. This country is one of the lowest-waged economies in the advanced world. Workers are frequently compelled to clock up the hours to get a half-decent income for themselves and their families – through hours that lead to neglect of family life and increased family break-ups.
But there is also a more naked form of exploitation that explains the Long Hours Culture: unpaid overtime. An absolute majority of the workers on long hours get no extra pay for their overtime. Last year, 5.24 million workers in the UK (425,000 in Scotland) worked unpaid overtime, to a total value of £27billion.
That is the highest toll of unpaid labour since records began in 1992.
It is the equivalent of working for absolutely nothing from 1st January to 27th February last year.
It means these workers gave their bosses an average of £5,139 worth of work without getting a single penny in pay.

Unpaid Labour

As socialists as far back as Karl Marx in the 1840s have explained, profit is the unpaid labour of the working class.
Two of the several means by which the capitalist class boost their profits are by intensifying the amount of production a worker provides during the hours of work, and by lengthening the working week.
Certainly in recent decades bosses have extracted more work out of fewer workers as a means of piling up their profits. But the growing trend of unpaid overtime is one of the most glaring forms of profiteering. And it is likely to rise, as the recession bites deeper; fear of being made unemployed gives the employers a powerful weapon to pressure people into unpaid hours of extra work.
All this, whilst the number of people with no hours of work – the unemployed – rockets to levels not seen in years.
And meantime many employers – including in sectors as varied as the car industry, steel, the finance sector – are putting workers on reduced hours with equivalent cuts in pay; prolonged shut-downs with savage pay cuts; ‘sabbaticals’ as an alternative to outright redundancies – all to preserve profit margins at cost to workers’ pay packets.

Open Secret Company Accounts

Instead of feeding the philosophy that there is nothing can be done about all this – and specifically about job losses – it is high time the leaderships of the trade union movement spearheaded an aggressive campaign to ‘cut hours – not jobs’, to ‘cut hours – not pay’.

Every time some employer demands layoffs, redundancies or outright closures, the first demands of the trade union movement and its allies should be for public inspection of all the secret company accounts, to expose where all the profits have gone – and in many cases where all the public grants and subsidies have gone. And this should not just look at the current year’s accounts, where bosses may be able to demonstrate loss-making during the recession – but also the accounts for previous years of piling up profits.
Such an exercise would provide plenty of ammunition to challenge the employers’ ‘justification’ for job losses or closures.

Cut Hours – not Jobs or Pay

But regardless of whether companies and public sector employers are announcing job losses, they should be challenged by a generalised campaign for a shorter working week – without a penny being lost in pay.
As an immediate initial step, the battle-cry for a 35 hour maximum working week across the board, but crucially without loss of earnings, would rally workers and their families around an eminently rational measure in this crazed, profit-motivated system.
Such a shorter working week would vastly reduce stress levels and other illnesses, help improve health and safety at work, and actually boost productivity from less tired, more motivated workers.
It would greatly improve the family and social lives of working people – a real measure to enhance the much talked about ‘work/life balance’.
And crucially, it would create at least a couple of million jobs across the UK!

Challenging the Profit System

The demands to ‘cut hours – not jobs’ and ‘cut hours – not pay’ would of course challenge the central motive of capitalist employers: profit.
They impose long hours; unpaid overtime; pay cuts through prolonged shut-downs and reduced hours; closures and redundancies…. all to secure the maximum profit levels at the expense of workers’ lives being made a misery.
By cutting the working week, but protecting the level of income of workers, a greater share of national wealth would be distributed in wages, a lesser percentage in profit.
This fight to share out the work, without loss of earnings, needs to run in tandem with the campaign for a living minimum wage, a safety net of at least £8 to £9 an hour, based on the formula of two-thirds median male earnings.
Many who work day and night at risk to their own health are on dirt cheap wages – a system encouraged rather than eliminated by the pathetic level of Labour’s current minimum wages.
There are alternatives to long hours of work alongside no work for millions, a rational alternative to the slaughter of jobs in pursuit of profit margins.
The potential power of the unions and the communities they are rooted in needs to be combined with the sharp weapon of fighting demands that would share out the work rather than share out the misery.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Discussion on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.


Brian Pollitt, Scottish Cuba Medical Aid
Kath Campbell, Scottish Cuba Solidarity
Kevin Carroll, Scottish Socialist Party
Details here

Friday, 4 September 2009



Cut hours of Work – not Jobs or Pay


Monday 14th September
Piper Bar, George Street, Glasgow

Speakers: worker from Vestas factory sit-in; Diageo worker; Royal Mail worker; Scottish socialist Youth member; Richie Venton (SSP Union Organiser)