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  1. 10am: Justice Committee
  2. 2.05pm: Topical questions
  3. Next: Equity and Excellence in Education debate
  4. 5.05pm: Through our Eyes debate

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Ailsa Brown

All times stated are UK

That's all folks

And that concludes our live coverage from the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 26 May 2015.

Holyrood at night

Remember you can catch up on business from Holyrood at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live.

Debate concludes

Ms McLeod says there is a need for greater fairness in the provision of allowances for kinship carers.

The minister says the Scottish government got a benefits disregard from the DWP a couple of years to ensure kinship carers did not lose out on benefits.

She says kinship carers face a maze of jargon and officialese when they begin caring, which is why the government are funding CAS and Children 1st.

Ms McLeod concludes saying Through Our Eyes is a "wonderful" book that emphasises the challenges as well as the happiness.

Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)
Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)

The minister says she believes that this book will become part of the body of evidence for practitioners and social work students.

Ministerial close

Children and Young People Minister Fiona McLeod says the Scottish government's preference is for a child to remain with a kinship carer rather than being removed from the family, it it is safe and possible.

Ms McLeod praises the work of kinship carers and says Through Our Eyes is a "delight" as well as a moving read.

BACKGROUND: Children 1st

Children 1ST is developing a comprehensive training, information and support service for kinship carers.

Children 1st
Children 1st
Children 1st

This will include:

  • A telephone advice service via ParentLine (0800 028 2233) with dedicated staff and volunteers trained in kinship issues.
  • Training for kinship carers on issues that they and the children they care for can face, including alcohol and drugs misuse and managing relationships within families.
  • Work to help existing local family support groups or address gaps in local support, as well as the creation of a national forum for kinship carers to strengthen their voice in future policy development.
  • The provision of family group conferencing - a way of bringing the whole family together to find solutions for problems affecting children within a family.
  • Training on the working of the children's hearings system and implications for families.
  • Find out more about Children 1ST services in your local area.

BACKGROUND: Kinship carers' resources

According to the government

Citizens Advice Scotland maintains a confidential helpline for kinship carers, providing assistance with legal and financial matters (including benefits advice).

The Helpline can be contacted on 0808 000 006. Useful information can also be found on the Citizens Advice kinship care webpage.


Advisers at every

Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau can help kinship carers access specialist advice for complex cases. Details of your local bureau are listed in the phone book or can be found on the Citizens Advice Scotland website.

BACKGROUND: Scottish government definition

If a looked after child cannot remain with their birth parents they can be placed by a local authority in the care of family or friends, for either a short or long period of time.

Under the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009, these 'kinship carers' are defined as "a person who is related to the child (through blood, marriage or civil partnership) or a person with whom the child has a pre-existing relationship".

'Essential reading'

Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)
Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)

Ms Grahame says Through Our Eyes is "essential reading", not just for all MSPs but also for anyone with an interest in kinship carers.

SNP MSP Christine Grahme
(C) British Broadcasting Corporation

BACKGROUND: Kinship Carers Midlothian and Through Our Eyes

Kinship Carers Midlothian
Kinship Carers Midlothian
Kinship Carers Midlothian

Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian) was formed in 2005.

The Group is a self-help support Group RUN FOR KINSHIP CARERS BY KINSHIP CARERS.

The Group provides a listening ear, peer support, direction and guidance to Kinship Carers, and in turn to the children they look after, who have found themselves, usually at a moments notice, in a position of raising kin children.

This unique service meets the needs of kinship carers who, in many cases, also have the added burden of conflict with their own children.

Through our Eyes extracts

Ms Grahame reads out emotional and moving stories from Through our Eyes.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame
SNP MSP Christine Grahame

Powerful stories

Ms Grahame says carers who can find themselves raising children at a moment's notice commend the charity's book, Through Our Eyes, which is a collection of stories and poems by individuals telling their unique experience of becoming kinship carers.

These stories include I don't want this, Where do I begin?, It was Only for a Couple of Weeks!, Our Precious Grandchildren, Life Changes, A Long Road Ahead, It's Hard Thinking Back and the many heartfelt poems.

The SNP MSP commends this book to all involved with the welfare of looked-after children for the insight that it brings to the trials and sacrifices of the kinship carers but more importantly their selflessness and love of the children and young people they find themselves caring for, often with hardly a moment's warning.

Through our Eyes debate

SNP MSP Christine GrahAme is leading a debate entitled 'Through our eyes'.

In her motion Ms GrahAme highlights the invaluable role of grandparents and other kinship carers throughout Scotland but, in particular,

Grandparents Parenting Again and Kinship Carers (Midlothian),, which was formed in 2005 and provides a listening ear, peer support, direction and guidance to kinship carers and the children they look after.

Decision time

The Scottish government motion from the Equity and Excellence in Education debate was passed, with 67 MSPs backing it.

MSPs voting

The opposition amendments all fell.


The minister concludes the attainment for all children must be raised as well as closing the attainment gap.

She says she was once from a poor family and she is very thankful as she was well supported, but also experienced being written off.

Ms Constance says we must have the highest hopes and dreams for all our children.

Attainment Challenge Fund

Ms Constance says there has not actually been a fall in classroom assistants, in fact there has been a 6% rise.

The education secretary says the government will never allow austerity to limit the ambitions of young people.

She says the Attainment Challenge Fund of £100m will benefit 50% of Scotland's poorest children in the first place, but other areas will be looked at shortly.

Challenging college reform

Ms Constance says college reform has been challenging and not without controversy, but colleges are doing more for under 19s now than before.

College students

Government record

The education secretary says under this government we have seen a massive expansion of childcare and early learning.

Ms Constance says the government has done more than any previous administration on this issue.

Government closing

Education Secretary Angela Constance says she has discussed concerns of parents with the SQA, regarding last weeks maths and biology exams.

Education Secretary Angela Constance
Education Secretary Angela Constance

Ms Constance says the SQA has assured her that they have robust procedures in place.

Educational attainment

Young child painting
Getty Images

Mr Griffin says he is glad the government are making educational attainment a priority but says he hopes they will improve their plans by redistributing money to where it is needed.

Labour closing

Labour MSP Mark Griffin says the additional revenue from the introduction of a 50p income tax rate would allow the investment of an additional £25m a year, over and above the government's proposals, to address the attainment gap.

Labour MSP Mark Griffin
Labour MSP Mark Griffin

Mr Griffin says Labour would recruit and retain literacy specialists and increase teacher and support staff numbers.

Deprivation versus attainment

The Tory MSP says the seven most deprived council areas to receive £100m from the Attainment Challenge Fund are not the council areas with the lowest attainment.

Conservative closing

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon says she agrees with much of the government's motion and indeed that there is much to be proud of in our education system.

Ms Scanlon says everyone wants the equality gap to be narrowed.

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon
Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon

She says we need a system which can identify when a child is struggling to keep pace with the rest of the class.

That would allow development needs to be addressed she says.

Bursaries and grants

Graduates in hall

Mr McArthur says the total spent on bursaries and grants is barely half in real terms of that when the SNP came into office.

Lib Dem closing

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur says progress is not being made on closing the attainment gap, in fact we could be going backwards.

Mr McArthur again stresses the importance of the early years and early intervention.

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur

He calls for an improvement in early learning and childcare.

The Lib Dem MSP says the area based Attainment Challenge fund risks missing out on two thirds of Scotland's poorest children, by focussing on the seven most deprived council area.


SNP MSP Chic Brodie says education outcomes have improved in general.

SNP MSP Chic Brodie
SNP MSP Chic Brodie

Mr Brodie says closing the attainment gap is the number one education priority which can only be buttressed by attending to inequality of income.

'Cut, cut and cut again'

Ms Lamont says the funding of higher education is funded at the expense of further education.

She says the poorest children have less support than the rest of the UK.

Labour MSP Johann Lamont
Labour MSP Johann Lamont

The Labour MSP, who was a teacher for more than 20 years, says the further education sector has been, "cut, cut and cut again".

Chinese proverb and an American senator

Labour MSP Johann Lamont says parents must be supported to learn as well as children.

Ms Lamont begins with two quotations:

  • "Vision without action is a day dream." A Chinese proverb.
  • "Don't tell me what you care about show me your budget." From an unnamed American senator.

The former teacher says resources are needed to address the issues facing our education system.

Making progress

Education Committee convener Stewart Maxwell says the issue of poverty has not been caused by a single government.

Mr Maxwell says closing the attainment gap has been a major focus of his committee.

Education Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell
Education Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell

He says he firmly believes the government is making progress on the issue.

'Miss out'

Mr McArthur says choosing only the seven most deprived council areas to benefit from the Attainment Scotland Fund means those living in poverty surrounded by plenty will miss out.

'Eye of the ball'

Mr McArthur highlights the lack of progress on closing the attainment gap.

The Lib Dem MSP says the Scottish government has "rather taken its eye off the ball".

Young children with hands up

He says the government has failed to get to grips with the issues over the last eight years.

Mr McArthur says since 2007 teacher numbers are down by well over 4,000 and class sizes are not at the 18 pupil level but closer to 23.

Early years

If equality and excellence are to be available to all, the Scottish government must consider its approach to education funding from the early years through to student support, Mr McArthur says.

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur

Loss of college places

The Lib Dem MSP views the loss of 130,000 college places, which has hit female, mature and part-time learners hardest, as a regressive step in the drive for educational equality and excellence.

He criticises government's failure to deliver on its promise to 'dump' student debt, with loans having more than doubled while bursaries have been cut.

Lib Dem amendment

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur uses his amendment to emphasise the importance of the early year's of a child's life thus the importance of quality early years education in closing the attainment gap.

Mr McArthur says targeted funding for school-aged pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in the form of a 'pupil premium' should be explored in Scotland as a means of giving disadvantaged pupils a better chance of reaching their potential.

He says targeted funding should be available for students from cradle to college to ensure equality of opportunity regardless of background.

Excellence demands free thinking

The Tory MSP says she is not in favour of comprehensive schooling throughout a child's education.

Ms Smith says excellence demands free thinking and she hopes the government will do so.

Educational policy from the SNP government is very centralised, she says.

Catchment areas and schools

Ms Smith says there is real scope for change, that means challenging catchments as the only means for deciding where a child goes to school and indeed having a variety of types of school.

Radical change

Conservative MSP Liz Smith says radical change is coming whether the politicians like it or not.

Ms Smith says the changes in further and higher education are happening rapidly and the fact our schools are not making progress on numeracy and literacy and closing the attainment gap has been highlighted.

Excellence and greater equity

The Tory MSP says in order to achieve both excellence and greater equity in education, there has to be much more focus on tailoring the learning experience to the best educational interests of individual children.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith
Conservative MSP Liz Smith

This in turn, demands greater diversity in the school system, one which allows full autonomy for head teachers and is more responsive to parental choice.

Conservative view

In her amendment, Conservative MSP Liz Smith highlights the persistent failure to close the attainment gap and the declining standards of literacy and numeracy.

Ms Smith accuses the government of failing to introduce more rigorous testing of these basic skills.


Mr Gray says 140,000 students have gone from our colleges, these are the people who had a second chance but now do not.

He says we all have a sacred responsibility to make sure no child is left behind.

The Labour MSP says the government has failings over the past eight years.

Specialists call for

Mr Gray says Scotland must double the resources devoted to closing the attainment gap.

He calls for specialists in numeracy and literacy where they are needed most and keep teachers in classrooms more.

Back to school written in chalk
Getty Images

The Labour MSP says the attainment gap will not be addressed by reducing teacher numbers and increasing class sizes.

Mr Gray says that is why the Labour party will introduce a top rate for income tax of 50p.

BACKGROUND: Attainment fund

In February Nicola Sturgeon

unveiled plans designed to bridge the attainment gap between pupils from poor backgrounds and those from wealthier households.

The first minster's proposals will draw on schemes with a proven track record, including the London Challenge.

nicola sturgeon in dundee
Nicola sturgeon
The first minister, on a visit to a school in Dundee, said the barriers to learning must be overcome

The scheme will be backed up by a new Attainment Scotland Fund which will provide £100m of investment over four years.

It will be aimed at boosting literacy, numeracy and health and well-being in some of Scotland's most disadvantaged communities.