Council briefing: Covid-19 – Additional Accommodation Needs

The briefing below outlines how the City of Edinburgh Council is planning to manage any extra demand for temporary accommodation arising from the Covid-19 crisis.

Briefing
This briefing note confirms the creation of a team to which will actively co-ordinate the provision of additional temporary accommodation and support for a range of requirements brought about by the Covid -19 pandemic. The Additional Accommodation Needs Team (AANT) was agreed through the Council’s Incident Management Team on 22 March 2020.

Action
The Council and Health and Social Care partners, through a variety of routes have been offered a range of accommodation from social housing and the private sector in addition to the potential use of university accommodation. To actively manage this, we will:

  1. Send out a Council message to thanks those who have come forward so far;
  2. Advise we will be in touch before the end of the week, if not earlier to gather additional information regarding numbers, costs and support requirements. For example. we have had an offer so far from one provider of a 500 bedded hotel;
  3. We will include in the message a contact e mail for any additional offers to come into -and a response will be provided within 3 working days of receipt.
  4. We are drawing up a checklist of the information we will need to gather form these providers.
  5. We will provide a progress report on, types of accommodation, and approximate numbers to Andrew Kerr and the Cabinet by Friday 27th and then on a weekly basis thereafter. Future progress reports will identify both the level of demand and the properties that we are progressing.

Background
Currently there are in the region of 3500 households in various forms of temporary accommodation in the city. Around 1300 of these spaces are shared accommodation, some with self-contained rooms, some
sharing facilities.

On average there are around 80 – 120 people rough sleeping each evening, although street-based outreach services have indicated that this has reduced over the last 2 weeks.

In addition, up to 70 people use the Bethany Christian Trust Care Shelters each evening, this includes people with no recourse to public finds. This accommodation is accessed on a night by night basis. The shelters continue to operate at the moment and there are no confirmed cases of Covid -19 from people accessing the shelters. Public Health (Duncan McCormick) have been extremely helpful in assessing the arrangements and working practices in place within the Shelter and have visited recently. Public Health will play an active part in this team, providing the necessary advice and direction to ensure safe provision of temporary accommodation in light of Covid 19.

In relation to Bed and Breakfast accommodation we are being guided by advice from public health in relation to individual circumstances and we have also identified some self-contained accommodation for families currently in Bed and Breakfast to move in to and these moves are taking place.

Current Circumstances
To date there have been a low number of requests from health partners to accommodate people who require to self-isolate. However, this is likely to increase and given the projected demand for hospital beds, it is likely a significant number of people who are in hospital, but who don’t need to be, will require alternative accommodation to free ups beds. This could potentially run into the hundreds.

We may also receive increased demands for accommodation in general. In addition, we are aware that the Scottish Government is currently considering the release of prisoners who are nearing completion of their sentences, in order to free up space within Prisons and reduce spread within the prisons.

On Friday, 17 homeless people who were in temporary accommodation were self-isolating, within the properties. These people have been provided with food packages and some have required additional care and support. Whilst these arrangements were made on an ad hoc basis initially, we have developed this team to take a more coordinated approach to the following elements:

  1. Identification of needs for self-isolation and additional temporary accommodation
  2. Collation of the offers of assistance from both the private sector and the social housing offers
  3. Matching need to offers that are viable, and
  4. Identifying and sourcing support packages in the form of both supplies and care support. This will need to include support for those with drug or alcohol addiction problems.

To ensure we are able to access the accommodation we need, manage costs and demand there needs to be a clear line of responsibility. Through the temporary accommodation service manager and our housing team, who have offered a project manager, we have the ability to do this in a coordinated way across the team.

This approach gives clear and specific roles to colleagues and partners, to ensure that we are as efficient as possible and that the right people, with expertise in their field can provide input in a joined-up way.
The following people have been identified:

  1. Lead Officer
  2. Sourcing and provision of accommodation to meet existing and future demand – An Officer and a project manager, will be required to co-ordinate offers, negotiate prices, ensure that supply meets demand at the correct time and manage the operational process around the allocation of properties.
  3. Alcohol and Drugs support – An Officer, will identify the people who require additional support in relation to drug and/or alcohol addiction including assessment of need and the package of care required.
  4. Care packages (including food) – An Officer, will identify and arrange the care packages including food, required for those taking up accommodation and will be the link to the Health and Social Care Partnership,
  5. Public Heath Advice – An Officer, will provide advice and guidance around the appropriate public health approach that is required for people accessing accommodation and for all homeless people currently in or accessing temporary accommodation.
  6. Procurement – Maggie Deane, will provide professional guidance and support around the purchase of accommodation to meet the Council’s needs including but not limited to waiver requirements, contract standing orders and authority levels.
  7. Legal Services – An Officer, will provide professional guidance and support around all legal aspects related to this project, including ensuring occupancy agreements meet our legal requirements.

These specific roles will allow this group to focus on their area of expertise and minimise the risk of duplication and/or inconsistent messaging.

Further to this, it limits the numbers of people involved in decision making, whilst allowing the leads to seek views from their area of work before reporting back to AANT.

Given the likely acceleration in Covid -19 cases and therefore the requirement for accommodation, care and support to be to be provided quickly and at significant levels, it is proposed that the team will meet on Tuesday 24 March 2020 via Skype to agree a meeting schedule, likely to be at least twice a week to ensure all information is as up to date as possible.

Council Briefing: Council Resilience Centres

Below is a briefing on the Covid-19 “Council Resilience Centres” which should start opening today. The key message here is that residents should use email and other online methods to report routine problems (missed bin collections etc). This will enable Council staff to focus on those most in need. My contact details are above just email me any non-urgent issues you want addressed.

Briefing
Council resources are being reorganised to support citizens in crisis, freeing up officers to provide critical advice and support to those in the most urgent need.

We are doing this to ensure we can support our most vulnerable residents, minimise risk to colleagues and their families and maintain essential services and direct them to where they are needed most.

Our advice line is available for urgent requests, with support for those most at risk and hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak to be prioritised in all circumstances.

We are encouraging members of the public to delay making routine and less urgent requests for as long as possible. Where-ever possible we need people to make those requests via email, webforms or other channels to allow officers to prioritise those in most critical need.

We are also making changes to the way we prioritise and operate services in the locality offices.

From Monday 23 March 2020, Council Resilience Centres will be established at the Council’s locality offices at Captains Road (South East), Niddrie Mains Road (North East), West Pilton Gardens (North West), Westside Plaza (South West). An additional centre will open in Leith at the Kirkgate Centre later in the week. Resilience teams will operate between 10.00 and 16.00 hours initially.

These centres will provide a base for a team of Council officers to work from so that they can target support and advice, manage urgent housing issues, respond to homelessness and provide support vulnerable households.  We are looking at how we can best provide food vouchers through these centres. Further details of this will be released in the coming days.

Access to these centres will be carefully managed to limit the risk of infection and to ensure the safety of staff and residents. There will be no direct access to these centres. A controlled access protocol will be in place to assess risk and requirement on a case by case basis.

The teams will be supported by a small team of professional officers and customer staff and will be managed by an onsite duty team manager. Two teams will be established for each centre to allow them to rotate. Staff currently working at home will be held in reserve and will be available to further reinforce these teams.

Our colleagues in these centres will have to deal with extraordinarily difficult situations in the most difficult circumstances. They will become tired and stressed at times. They will also be affected by requirements to self-isolate for 7 and 14 day periods if they or someone in their household develops symptoms.

I know Councillors will want to support them as much as possible. You can best do that by encouraging residents who have routine and less urgent needs to use the Council advice line and other channels to make service requests. And please wherever possible show your support for colleagues providing essential and critical services. They are showing enormous dedication and determination. Your support is really important to them now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Our member services team will set out arrangements next week for members who wish to make a service request on behalf of constituents. These arrangements will ensure that these requests are assessed and dealt with by the appropriate service.  This will allow the Centres and other front-line response services to focus on the most critical needs of residents.

We will be reviewing the operation of the centres on a daily basis. It will have adapt as we learn and as the issues and circumstances our communities face change.

Briefing – Electric Vehicle Charging in Edinburgh.

Below is a briefing on City of Edinburgh Council’s provision of charging for electric vehicles. The expansion in 2020 will focus on tenemental areas where there is little scope for people to install their own charging point. I have raised concerns about this and the need for charging hubs for heavy users such as taxis.

I have had two people contact me recently who had bought an elecric vehicle without really thinking about where they would charge it. Please consider this if you are thinking of buying one.


Briefing
I can advise that currently, the Council have 43 chargers available to the public, within Council operated facilities, and are about to install another 35 across the city which should be delivered by late spring 2020. The current chargers are based as follows: West Pilton Gardens (2), Captains Road (5), Drumbrae Library (2), Straiton park and Ride (5), Kirkliston library (1), Craigentinny Community Centre (2), Bankhead Depot (4) Russell Road (2), Ingliston Park & Ride (7). Hermiston Park and Ride (3), Westerhailes Healthy Living Centre (2) Murrayburn Cab Depot (3), South Queensferry (5).

The additional 35 chargers will be located at Clocktower, Craigmillar, Saughton Park and Kingshaugh.  Again, it should be noted that all these chargers will be located within Council operated facilities and will be installed separately to the on-street implementation plan.

I can also advise that Charge Place Scotland (CPS) is the current contractor appointed by Transport Scotland to provide a back office function for EVs nationally. This includes monitoring usage of chargers, dealing with faults, promoting free and/or available charging spaces and providing information monthly via CPS software to the Council.  The CPS website provides a helpful link to the EV charging points within Edinburgh and across Scotland and can be found at: https://chargeplacescotland.org/ .  The website advises users which bays are currently available or in use. 

For on-street bays – a detailed Project Plan has been developed along with identifying specific locations for the installation of 66 on-street charging points (including 32 fast chargers, nine rapid chargers and 25 slow chargers) across the city to strengthen the existing network.   The Transport and Environment Committee report from 5 March 2019 entitled ‘Electric Vehicle Business Case: Implementation Plan’ provides further details.  The Project Delivery Plan, included within Appendix 2 of the report, provides details on the commencement dates of the various stages of the plan.

Unfortunately, due to staff restructuring there has been some slippage in the proposed Project Plan. However, conversations are ongoing with Transport Scotland and the energy network operator to ensure that the charging points will be delivered.

The Council is also working with some pioneering research and development firms to introduce vehicle to grid charging and wireless charging which will see an additional 22 chargers installed over the coming year which will free up publicly accessible charge points further.

Understanding the desire to reduce the speed limit on 40mph roads in my Ward to 30mph.

Above and below are the responses to a web survey I set up last year to understand the desire to reduce the speed limit on 40mph roads in my Ward to 30mph. I don’t claim my survey is “scientific” or conclusive, but it does show that locally there is a desire for safer roads.

For Change

  1. I don’t see the need for 40mph speed limit within residential areas. Would love the limit to be reduced on biggar road so I can more easily take the bus to school (Pentland) with my children.
  2. Cars come off the bypass and still go to fast down this road especially with all the new housing 30 would be plenty please also included the slow down sign and also the cost of policing (speed checks) on a regular bases without this people will remain going to fast
  3. This is essential!
  4. Volume of traffic, day car parking, extra houses and junctions and shops, mean this road is becoming more and more dangerous. A 30 limit would help take some of the heat out the traffic
  5. The road is too fast. It’s in a fairly built-up area with lots of parked cars. There’s no need for it to be so fast there -30mph would be more appropriate. I’m really worried about my son and his friends crossing the road when they start at Boroughmuir next year.
  6. The area around the shops at Buckstone is particularly dangerous as the bend in the road means that people do not have good sight lines when crossing, particularly outside the shops where people double park.
  7. There is no need to travel above 30mph in Edinburgh
  8. There have been two fatalities near our house within the last 5 years and many near misses that we have seen, it is against the spirit of road safety to drop the limit to 20 on tiny streets with no traffic and leave thousands of people to cross 40mph roads with loads of traffic, whilst going about their daily business to catch buses etc.
  9. We live on Pentland View, and regularly struggle to pull out of our road safely given the speed of oncoming traffic and difficulty seeing past parked cars outside the Buckstone shops. I also feel vulnerable (especially with my two young children) crossing the main road here due to the speed of the traffic.
  10. The section of road from Fairmilehead to the top of braidburn is residential and as traffic volume has risen so have the incidents of careless driving putting both residents and motorist in greatear danger there is no need for a residential street to be 40 mph
  11. Extremely dangerous roads – especially the charwood grill junction.
  12. As a resident of Winton who has to cross Biggar Road on a daily basis with my children to get the bus, I believe reducing the speed on that road is absolutely necessary to make the passage safer
  13. I fully agree. These roads pass through residential areas, and it would be much safer for everyone if the speed limit was reduced.
  14. I’m a car driver, but I also regularly cycle on the 702 to Fairmilehead, as do many others. It’s a busy bus route, and many school kids getting off the buses and crossing, and a lot of older folks living in the area. 40mph limit here is not appropriate, and it’s common to see cars travelling a lot faster than 40mph.
  15. Recent accidents demonstrate the need to bring the limit down on these roads. It’s also a great opportunity to put some meaningful provision for cyclists.
  16. These Highly residential areas should limited to 30mph
  17. These are far to fast for residential areas of Edinburgh with very close proximity to local schools. All of these roads are used daily by children and families to get to school, 40mph is unsafe and leaves me very nervous to cross . I have lived in the area for under 5 years and in that time I have been aware of at least 5 quite serious road traffic incidents on Buckstone Road alone, most including pedestrians. This urgently requires review.
  18. Yes please. As a cyclist And bus user/walker who lives just off this road we need this badly for safety. Crossings are too infrequent for bus users carrying shopping etc and hard as a cyclist to safely navigate pinch points ( islands) and exit right over 3 lanes of traffic.
  19. I lived on Biggar Road for 21 years, witnessing the speed of cars, still driven at bypass levels or drivers heading south from crossroads accelerating with the down hill & 2 lanes. It is a lethal & frightening road to cross, pedestrians avoid the area, local people use their cars to move around, especially when transporting their children. Reducing speeds would reduce car use, road safety, traffic density & improve local residents quality of life, health & air quality.
  20. Should have been 30 limit years ago (F’head lights to Braid H Hotel). Especially at B’stone shops.
  21. I cycle past the Buckstone shops almost daily and it’s an accident waiting to happen. Vehicles are double parked outside the shops making it even more unsafe for cyclists and other roads users not to mention all the school kids crossing to wait for buses into town. And the cycle lane is a joke, avoid at all costs unless you wanted floored by a opening car door.
  22. I assume the City of Edinburgh accepts that we have a climate emergency? It really is time that pedestrians, cyclists and local bus services are given priority over motorists. The pedestrian crossing helps but as a cyclist you take your life in your hands trying to turn right out of the waterboard estate. Although the speed limit is 40mph many cars/vans/lorries are travelling faster. Please, in the interests of safety, reduce the speed limit to 30mph.
  23. The road from Greenbank to the bypass has no business being 40mph. On-street parking is already a problem and is a significant hazard to cyclists. Parking should be forbidden from Riselaw Place southwards as far as the bypass. Or, create a bus lane. Speed reduction is needed in tandem with removal of hazards.
  24. Please also consider safe pedestrian crossings near Craigdon Mountain Sports, ie of the Biggar Road and of the of the bypass slip roads. There’s a great walking path eastwards from Swanson village and onto the Mortonhall estate but it involves risking life and limb crossing the slip roads and then the A702.
  25. Please – put the safety of vulnerable road users first. Thank you
  26. Traffic volumes and on-street parking (with respect to the the A70) are probably the most significant, but sure: whatever it takes to start a process of making these roads safer.
  27. Crossing this road is a danger cars do not just do 40mph they drive 45mph. There are houses on both sides of the roads and in such a residential area I have no idea why the speed limit is 40.
  28. I would also like to see some traffic calming in Swanston Avenue as it is commonly used as a rat run when traffic builds up around the fairmilehead crossroads – driver speed to make up for their perceived lost time ?
  29. Streets need to made safer for residents.
  30. My main concern is Biggar Road as cars speed up this road after exiting the City Bypass. It’s almost impossible to get out of Swanston Avenue safely! But all the roads mentioned above require the speed to be reduced to 30 mph.
  31. I still think there is a requirement for a Park and Ride at Lothianburn as the volume of traffic is increasing. You just need to look at the volume of cars parked on Comiston Road and side streets to confirm people are driving into that area then taking the bus into town.
  32. This reduction in speed should have been implemented YEARS ago. All secondary school children living in Buckstone have had to cross that road to get to the bus stops, putting their lives in danger every day. Since our boys were at high school when we worried every day for their safety, the situation has been improved somewhat by the introduction of two crossing points but we all know that if a bus is coming the children will run. As long as the limit is forty many drivers feel safe to drive at fifty. I used to walk from my house to work at South Morningside primary and I found that quite a number of drivers actually didn’t always notice the crossings anyway! There is also a problem with the twenty mph on Braid Road,where almost no drivers actually stick to the limit. There is a big 20 written on the road but JUST as they come off Comiston Road but it is a very sharp turn and drivers are too busy at that exact point to notice the 20. I think it might help a lot if we could have another big 20 painted on the road maybe twenty metres down Braid Road once drivers have negociated the corner.
  33. Thank you – we so need speed to reduce as volume and speed of cars is increasing. As residents of Pentland view we need a reduced limit all way to green bank to prevent cars from accelerating away from the shops going downhill to green bank. Coming out of PV already is unsafe when driving due to obscured view of traffic from double parked cars, commercial bins etc. Reducing speed would allow my daughter to safely cross the road from taking bus from town without taking her life in her hands. Parking also needs to be enforced in the area and near bus stops so that pedestrians can see when getting off bus and to allow safe crossings of road. I feel particularly for young and old people with current speed limits ( and our area has a very high proportion of families and elderly people).
  34. The Buckstone shops area is an accident waiting to happen and someones child is going to be killed. It is the junction to Pentland primary, a busy nursery at Cranley, playgroup and after school club at St Fillan’s and access across the road for both commuters and high school kids. It needs to be considered urgently for reduction in speed
  35. The current speed limit of 40mph is dangerously high given the numbers of pedestrians crossing, vehicles changing lanes or turning into and out of side roads, and bikes using the road. It gives the wrong signals to cars joining the road from the bypass, that they are still on a ‘fast road’ and that they should drive accordingly and expect others to do so; in practice this means less patience, tolerance and accommodation of other vehicles making manoeuvres, and greater danger for all road users.
  36. A 30mph limit would be more appropriate to the usage of the road, more consistent with the surrounding 20mph roads, and would significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
  37. There is no NEED for a 40 mph limit as at present. It doesn’t serve any purpose and drivers need to be calmed down immediately they come off or cross the by-pass and be aware they are in a residential area and in the City of Edinburgh. I’ve driven for over 40 years and the Fairmilehead cross roads and approaches make me very nervous as everyone seems intent on doing 50mph ‘attitudinally’. Hell for leather is the phrase that comes to mind. If the limit was reduced it would be well served by the illuminated signs that record speed and state the need to slow down to 30.
  38. Every high school aged child in the Buckstone and new Waterfield estate on the previous waterboard ground have to cross the road on Buckstone Terrace on their journey to Boroughmuir or other schools. It is insane given the number of RTA’s in the past that this road remains a 40 (meaning many do above this). The addition of the crossing may have helped a bit but in my opinion should have been lights for the junction rather than just a crossing and would have positioned the crossing point nearer to where Waterfield kids cross. Many kids continue to cross at the islands. The crossroads at Fairmilehead should also be reviewed. Turning right from Buckstone Terrace to Hunters Tryst which is a near blind junction, especially if cars queuing to turn right from the bypass, and is the only approach without a dedicated filter. Lane marking should also be reviewed to make left lane turn left and straight on, and right hand lane turn right only. Same coming from the bypass – 3 lanes should be left only, straight ahead and right only.
  39. commuting by bike on this stretch would be a lot nicer
  40. Parking outside shops at Buckstone Terrace, sometimes vehicles double parked, make it hard to see on-coming traffic travelling south when turning right from Pentland View. Parking restrictions on junction both in Buckstone terrace and Pentland View aren’t enforced. Have lived in Pentland View for 13 years and have never seen parking attendants here.
  41. These are busy cyclist commuter routes with a dangerous pinch points at Buckstone shops.
  42. The safety of vulnerable road users is more important than someone getting to the back of the next traffic queue a minute quicker than they otherwise would.
  43. And A702 Biggar Road (Damhead to City Bypass)
  44. I believe that the Council can not justify a 40mph limit in any residential area where housing is directly on to the road.
  45. As a resident of Lanark Rd the speed of the traffic continues to increase as drivers are freed from the restrictions on the surrounding roads. This can only be addressed by reducing the speed on Lanark Road itself. It is a residential street with family homes on both sides and in my time here I have witnessed accidents involving people (thankfully no serious injuries) and many animal fatalities. The bottleneck on Lanark Road heading into town is created by increased housing in Currie and Balerno and reducing the speed after Gillespie crossroads towards Kingknowe to 30 would have little or no effect on journey time and make a significant difference to the safety of Lanark Road.
  46. Speed limits change from 20mph to 40mph at Buckstone shops.
  47. Large numbers of children need to cross this road to get to school. I’m sure you’re aware of the chances of survival if struck by a car at 40mph, compared to 30 or 20. People driving through see the 40 limit so don’t realise it’s a highly built up area, so very often treat the road as a continuation of the bypass and go even faster. I think it’s unprecedented in the city for a 40mph road to traverse such a densley populated area.
  48. Regular speeding on Buckstone Terrace. 30mph would make a big difference when reversing out into traffic with small children in car.
  49. We have had our vehicles hit twice in the past year, I feel reducing the speed limit to 30moh would make our road much safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
  50. The current speed limits are excessively abused and need to be reduced for safety reasons.
  51. cars travel too fast on this section
  52. Lanark Road traffic has become much faster recently and unless you use it , you are probably not aware of the danger , particularly to children and the elderly.
  53. Essential with so bent youngsters and a nursery in the vicinity
  54. These areas are all very residential and i use Lanark Road in particular for nursery pick up. Drivers go way to fast and am always concerned for the little ones coming out onto such a busy road,40 speed limit is too fast for such a built up area.

Living Streets Edinburgh – COUNCIL SLATED FOR CREATING OVER 1,000 NEW CITY CENTRE PARKING SPACES

Below is a press release from Living Streets Edinburgh on a FOI request they made regarding an expansion in city centre parking.

COUNCIL SLATED FOR CREATING OVER 1,000 NEW CITY CENTRE PARKING SPACES

It has been revealed that the City of Edinburgh Council is planning to boost city-centre car-parking spaces by 12%, despite the local authority’s supposed aspiration to cut traffic levels across Edinburgh. The local walking campaign, Living Streets Edinburgh Group [1], has discovered through a Freedom of Information request by one of its members [2] that the Council plans to introduce 1,206 more parking spaces on city centre streets. The campaigners say that this will undermine confidence in the ability to deliver a safer, cleaner city, its Convenor, Don McKee, commenting:

 ‘We’ve been strongly supportive of the Council’s visionary plans for a more walking-friendly city centre. But this revelation – adding the equivalent of 5.5 kilometres of car parking space on our streets – is either breathtakingly hypocritical or it suggests that the Council’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is trying to do.’

‘Extra parking takes valuable public space away from walking, cycling and buses – and it means more traffic on the roads, directly conflicting with the Council’s stated vision. Yet walking is designated as the top priority in the Scottish Government’s planning policies [3]. It’s time for the Council to properly recognise this in its programmes and projects for the city. ‘Business as usual’ – with the car as king – is simply not an option when we’re trying to tackle the climate emergency.’

Analysis of the FoI reply indicates that parking spaces in some streets will be boosted far beyond the 12% average – examples being Grove Street (30%), Mayfield Terrace (34%) and Blenheim Place (38%). Full street-by-street details can be found here: http://bit.ly/3bm3yq3

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

[1] Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local volunteer arm of Living Streets, the national charity for ‘everyday walking’, see: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk

[2] The Freedom of Information request asked, in relation to Traffic Regulation Order TRO19/29 for detail of (i) number of parking spaces added and removed per street, and (ii) distance in meters of parking space added and removed per street. See: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/traffic_regulation_order_tro1929?nocache=incoming-1511839#incoming-1511839

[3] Paragraph 273 of ‘Scottish Planning Policy’ states that: ‘Plans should identify active travel networks and promote opportunities for travel by more sustainable

modes in the following order of priority: walking, cycling, public transport, cars. The aim is to promote development which maximises the extent to which its travel demands are met first

through walking, then cycling, then public transport and finally through use of private cars.’ See: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-planning-policy/

A personal perspective on the plans to remove trained teachers from Edinburgh’s nurseries.

The Scottish Government has forced £590m of new commitments on to Councils, but have given them only £495m to undertake the work. Edinburgh has a £35m black hole to fill.

It is heart-breaking that the poorest people in Edinburgh will feel the impact of this most.  The Oxgangs area of my Ward alone will see:

  1. Over ninety-thousand pounds slashed from school budgets;
  2. A threat to nursery teacher posts;
  3. Community policing cut,
  4. Local library opening hours cut; and,
  5. The unfair Council Tax will rise by almost 5%.

Many of these cuts were proposed last year, but were blocked. With regard to removing nursery teachers, I did manage to help win the argument against it. This year, however, it is proving tougher. Below is a message I received from a nursery teacher regarding what she feels the impact will be in attainment.

From a nursery teacher:
I am writing to you regarding the Early Years Service and Management Reform proposals as stated in the City of Edinburgh Council’s Finance and Resources Committee document, to remove/redeploy nursery teachers and nursery headteachers from their posts in the City of Edinburgh Council nurseries/Early Years teams. 

Edinburgh has a long and proud tradition of providing quality nursery provision within the city.  Nursery teachers and headteachers, supported today by a growing team of professionals in modern-day settings, are the reason for this internationally respected tradition.  Links to the work of nursery pioneers, supported through courses at Edinburgh University, continue to inform, direct and inspire teachers today.  As a nursery teacher and current student taking part in the Edinburgh University Froebel course, I can see the lasting positive impact highly trained, and educated teaching professionals have had on my own experience of attending St. Mary’s nursery in Leith, my practice as a teacher both in Scotland and internationally, my nieces and nephews education and the children in my care.

Removing highly trained and educated teaching professionals from nursery/Early Years teams may provide a short-term economic gain; however, the longer-term impact on future social, academic and financial issues will continue to be felt for years to come. 

The Scottish Government’s ambition is for Scotland to be the best place to grow up. One way they wish to achieve this is to raise attainment and reduce educational inequity across Scotland.  In order to accomplish this, more highly qualified teachers are needed to work with children during the most crucial periods in their development.  The Scottish Government document, The Early Years Framework, states that the most critical time in a child’s life is during the pre-birth to three years period in ensuring favourable future life chances.  The second period is three years to seven years.  It is during these critical times that early intervention can support children and families in breaking these cycles of poor outcomes.

The Effective Provision of Pre-School Provision project has found that outcomes for children who attend high-quality settings before starting school achieved higher literacy and numeracy levels than those who did not.  These findings are similar to those of the Field Report.  The Effective Provision of Pre-School Provision project also found that:

  1. quality was higher in settings where care and education were integrated,
  2. settings with staff with higher qualifications had higher quality scores and the children made more significant progress,
  3. having a trained teacher as manager and qualified teachers on the team led to more positive, warm relationships with the children,
  4. where education and social development were viewed as complementary and equal in importance, children made more considerable progress,
  5. teaching approaches such as ‘sustained shared thinking’, effective and appropriate pedagogy and instructive learning environments all extended learning,
  6. children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefitted significantly, from good quality pre-school education.

The Scottish Government understands the importance of having highly qualified and educated teachers working with children in a measure to reduce the attainment gap and has invested in the Additional Graduate Programme.  The City of Edinburgh Council proposal suggests replacing degree-qualified teachers, some with postgraduate and Masters level education, with Early Years Practitioners.  The difference in qualification, educational pedagogy, training and perspective between these two very different jobs is significant.  Early Years Practitioners are trained to SVQ3/HNC level, which is SCQF level 7.  A degree is SCQF level 10 with subsequent postgraduate levels of 10, 11 and above.  Several Scottish universities are now only offering initial teacher training at Masters level, in a bid to raise attainment and outcomes for future generations.

Recent Care Inspectorate findings show that 4 Scottish local authorities who do not have teachers in nursery are performing well below the national average, and significantly below the City of Edinburgh Council level of 81% (West Dumbarton (32%), Moray (55%), Borders (58%) and Highland (70%)).  Dundee council are increasing their numbers of nursery teachers with the aim of closing the attainment gap.  Removing teachers and nursery teachers will likely remove the City of Edinburgh Council’s sector-leading status as quality nursery providers and reduce the Care Inspectorate gradings. 

It is essential that children build stable and consistent relationships with their caregivers as a strong attachment is paramount for their cognitive development.  Close working relationships between professionals are also crucial in ensuring a consistent, supportive approach.  This will also be harder to develop and nurture if the teacher is not always on-site as part of the nursery team.  The example from East Lothian Council has shown that peripatetic teams are not successful, as many teachers leave to work in nursery classes, leading to instability and constant change. 

The aim to close the attainment gap while supporting all children is an enormous challenge.  Ensuring that the youngest children have access to motivated, qualified and educated teachers will help in realising this challenge.  I feel it would be a false economy to remove nursery teachers and headteachers from nurseries as it is here at the beginning of a child’s life that the most positive impact can be made.

UPDATE – City of Edinburgh Council Budget

The Evening News headline claiming the Council Tax rise would be used to fund new schools in Edinburgh (Report, 10.02.20) is nothing more than a cynical piece of spin.  The reality is that Council Tax is going up and school budgets are going down due to Scottish Government cuts.

The Scottish Government has forced £590m of new commitments on to Councils, but have given them only £495m to undertake the work. Edinburgh has a £35m black hole to fill.

It is heart-breaking that the poorest people in Edinburgh will feel the impact of this most.  The Oxgangs area of my Ward alone will see:

  1. Over ninety-thousand pounds slashed from school budgets;
  2. A threat to nursery teacher posts;
  3. Community policing cut,
  4. Local library opening hours cut; and,
  5. The unfair Council Tax will rise by almost 5%.

The cuts in schools kids in my Ward attend are roughly as follows:

  1. Bonaly Primary – £17,000
  2. Buckstone Primary – £18,000
  3. Colinton Primary – £7,000
  4. Juniper Green Primary – £13,000
  5. Oxgangs Primary – £10,000
  6. Pentland Primary – £14,000
  7. St Mark’s Primary – £4,000
  8. St Peter’s Primary – £15,000
  9. Boroughmuir High School – £75,000
  10. Currie High School – £45,000
  11. Balerno High School – £45,000
  12. Firrhill High School – £70,000
  13. St. Thomas of Aquin’s High School – £45,000

A cut to libraries is a cut to education and well-being, and will only increase social isolation. When I was elected in 2017 I pledged to voters in my ward that I would protect library opening hours, and I don’t see that changing. 

How can the head-teacher at Firrhill High School in my Ward raise attainment when Scottish Government cuts will mean his budget is cut by £70,000?

The SNP Government must think again. Please write to your MSP and ask him/her to block this budget. For people in my Ward, that’s Gordon MacDonald MSP and he plans to back the cuts.

The draft Council budget overview is here.