Time for a More Personalised Approach to Address the Educational Attainment Gap

Last week (Tuesday 17th Feb) in Parliament I was pleased to speak in debate on the attainment gap in education in Scotland.

I welcome the Scottish Government’s investment over the next four years in the attainment Scotland fund. I have no doubt that the Government is sincere in its pursuit of a reduction in the attainment gap and I hope that we can all work together in the chamber to make progress.

However, I do believe that what is needed is a more personalised approach to be adopted in order to address the educational attainment gap.

For me, children who have additional needs—particularly those who have a learning disability and/or a physical disability—sometimes require a different approach from that for other children and young people. It’s vital we take action on this as those children are being left behind and are as a result seeing their life chances diminish in front of them.

I also think it’s really important to invest in more classroom assistants.

They are crucial if we are to achieve any progress on the attainment gap. Without them, our teachers do not have the time to dedicate to those who require the most support. Without supporting such investment, we cannot say that we are truly getting it right for every child in Scotland.

While I acknowledge the importance of adopting a targeted approach to focus on those from deprived backgrounds, I would argue that this approach must not be too reliant upon a person’s postcode rather than their socioeconomic status.

The dangers of this approach were highlighted to me recently when I was told that if the UK Government adopted the same policy as the Scottish Government, Prince George would be entitled to additional support, as his postcode is in a deprived area.

It’s vitally important that we address the attainment gap in education in Scotland and I hope that the Scottish Government takes into consideration some of the points I raised during my speech in order to ensure that we tackle the problems that children and young people are facing.

You can watch my speech in full below.

siobhan attainment speech

Siobhan McMahon MSP Questions Housing Minister on Youth Homelessness

youth homelessness question

Siobhan McMahon has questioned the Scottish Government on what progress they are making on preventing youth homelessness.

The Central Scotland Labour MSP pressed the Minister for Housing and Welfare, Margaret Burgess, at the Scottish Parliament on February 4th.

Ms McMahon cited family breakdowns, addiction issues and mental health problems as the most common reasons for youth homelessness and highlighted the employability challenge for young homeless people.

Ms McMahon said “I was pleased to be able to question the minister on this important issue. In 2014/14 there were over a thousand young homeless people across Central Scotland which is simply unacceptable. Youth Homelessness causes unimaginable grief and heartache for young people and their families and we must to everything we can to eradicate it. I welcome the fact that youth homelessness figures are down in Central Scotland but we cannot afford to be complacent on this issue. It’s important that we continue to provide adequate information and support to those who find themselves in this position.”


Ms McMahon’s question:

Siobhan McMahon (Central Scotland) (Lab):

To ask the Scottish Government what progress is being made on preventing youth homelessness. (S4O-03975)

The Minister for Housing and Welfare (Margaret Burgess):

Preventing homelessness among young people is a priority for the Scottish Government, and the work is overseen by the homelessness prevention and strategy group. Homelessness applications to local authorities from 16 to 24-year-olds have fallen from around 15,000 a year between 2003-04 and 2010-11 to under 9,000 a year during 2013-14, which is primarily due to the person-centred housing options approach that is being taken forward by local authorities. The Scottish Government also provides funding for a range of third sector projects that are working to prevent homelessness among young people.


Siobhan McMahon:

The minister will be aware that family breakdowns, addiction issues and mental health problems are most commonly behind youth homelessness. There is also an employability challenge for young homeless people, as a perceived stigma is attached to homelessness. What housing advice, information or support is being provided to homeless young people, and particularly to those who have been in care, to ensure that their complex needs are being met? What steps is the Scottish Government taking to address the significant obstacles to employment, training and education that young homeless people face?

Margaret Burgess:

Siobhan McMahon outlines very well some of the difficulties that young homeless people face. The purpose of the housing options approach, which is a person-centred approach, is to take into account the individual and all the circumstances around homelessness in order to prevent someone from becoming homeless. That includes providing support on a range of issues—for example, referring people to addiction services, or providing money advice support or support with a new tenancy.

There is a statutory duty on local authorities to provide support and advice services to certain homeless people, and that certainly includes young people.

On young care leavers, we strengthened the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 to ensure that they can continue to get services and after-care services up to age 26. Homelessness teams are also working hard in local authority areas to ensure that young people have a smooth transition from care to settled accommodation. It should be a planned process, through the housing options approach, and young people leaving care should not have to make a homelessness application.

Siobhan McMahon MSP Disappointed With Funding Decision

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has expressed her disappointment at the Scottish Funding Council’s (SFC) decision not to accept the match funding proposals put forward by the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) which would have seen the regeneration of the Hamilton Campus.

The £53m redevelopment plans were reliant upon a £27m contribution from the SFC who indicated that while it was fully supportive of UWS’s vision, capital funding was not available at this moment in time. However, they have stated that the plan would be one of its highest priorities for capital investment in the Scottish Higher Education infrastructure investment plan that is being prepared for the next spending review.

Ms McMahon has previously offered her support for the proposals following a meeting with fellow Labour Party politicians and UWS students at South Lanarkshire Council’s Headquarters.

Ms McMahon said “I share the disappointment felt by the staff and students at UWS over this decision. This would have been a fantastic development not only for Hamilton, but for all of Central Scotland, bringing economic benefits from the construction phase onwards. I remain fully supportive of the universities plans and I’m pleased that they are looking at alternative approaches to improve the facility.

“While the decision is disappointing, I’m pleased that the SFC have indicated that the Hamilton Campus will be high priority in their next spending review which is expected in 2016. I will continue to do everything I can to make sure that these proposals become reality.”

Siobhan McMahon MSP Disappointed by Tesco Job Losses

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment Siobhan McMahon has written to the Scottish Government to ask what assistance they are providing to those workers affected by the closure of the Grangemouth Tesco Metro store.

This follows the announcement by Tesco that they will be closing the store in Talbot Street resulting in the loss of 68 jobs. Other stores to be shut include those in Kirkcaldy, Troon and Edinburgh.

In her letter to the Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Enterprise & Tourism, Fergus Ewing, Ms McMahon highlighted the “devastating effect” this will have on those hard working Tesco staff, in particular for those who are unable to be redeployed, along with local customers and the local community.

The Central Scotland MSP said “This is a devastating blow not only to those who will be losing their jobs but for the wider community. I hold regular surgeries in Grangemouth and know that these are valued jobs that will be sorely missed.

“I have therefore written to Fergus Ewing to ask what assistance the Scottish Government will provide to those workers affected by this announcement.  I also asked him to confirm whether or not a local Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) team shall be deployed to the store in order to discuss the support that can be provided to those affected employees.

“I welcome the fact that the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) have started negotiations with Tesco aiming to keep job losses to a minimum and I hope that whatever the outcome, the relevant support is given to all affected staff.”

Siobhan McMahon MSP – “Waiting Time Figures Show Crisis in NHS Lanarkshire”

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has today called for the Scottish Government to take urgent action to halt to the crisis in A&E departments in Scotland’s NHS.

Ms McMahon made her calls following the publication of official figures on A&E waiting times which showed that NHS Lanarkshire had the worst results in Scotland.

The figures showed that fewer than half of Scotland’s health boards met the target of A&E patients being seen within four hours. The percentage of patients being treated in A&E in four hours or less dropped from 93.5% in December 2013 to just 89.9% in December 2014.

However, NHS Lanarkshire had the worst average figure over the period at 85.5%, with the figure at just 83% during the month of November.

In advance of tomorrow’s Budget vote in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour has set out a plan for a £100 million Frontline Fund for our NHS. This would be used to make more NHS services available at evenings and weekends.

Scottish Labour’s first General Election pledge is also to use the proceeds from a UK-wide Mansion Tax on homes worth more than £2 million, 95% of which will be raised from London and the South-East of England, to fund an extra 1,000 NHS nurses in Scotland.

Ms McMahon said “These figures expose the crisis that NHS Lanarkshire is in under the SNP. The Scottish Government’s own target for A&E departments is for at least 95% of patients to be seen within four hours. The fact is that this fell to less than 90% in December and it’s simply not good enough.

“It is deeply worrying but sadly not too surprising that NHS Lanarkshire has the worst A&E waiting time results in Scotland. The health board has faced repeated problems and it’s the patients in Lanarkshire and the hardworking and dedicated staff who are paying the price.

“We have heard some of the recent horror stories coming out of A&E departments across the country and something needs to be done to relieve the pressure on our fantastic but under resourced NHS staff who are struggling to cope with the ever increasing demand on their services.

“I would therefore urge the Scottish Government to adopt our £100 million Frontline Fund. Only radical action will be enough to avert the crisis in our NHS and only Scottish Labour has this vision.”


Further Information:

Official figures published today show that fewer than half of Scottish health boards met the 95% four hour waiting time target. The national average for December 2014 was 89.9%. This is a significant drop from the 93.5% performance in December 2013.

When the SNP Government launched their referendum campaign in May 2012, the number of patients being seen within four hours at A&E was 94.7%, compared to just 89.9% in December 2014.

Today’s figures confirm that A&E waiting times in Scotland are now worse than in England.


Month England Scotland
September 94.7% 93.5%


October 93.76% 91.8%


November 93.45% 91.8%
December 90.2% 89.9%


Scottish figures – http://bit.ly/1D8FC3Y

English figures – http://bit.ly/1iksxg0

A&E target background

A&E departments in hospitals across Scotland have a target of treating 95% of patients within four hours. The target was introduced in April 2013. In data published for that quarter 93.6% of A&E patients were seen within four hours.

When waiting time figures were published previously in September 2014, the average figure for Scotland was 93.5%.

The 95% target was originally intended to be temporary and was due to rise to 98% last September. However, it was reported at the weekend that this target has now been abandoned by the SNP.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-31062418


Scottish Labour’s Frontline fund 

Our NHS faces pressure by squeezing treatments into a 9-5 schedule.

Scotland has 22 hospitals with full front facing A&E provision; Scottish Labour’s Frontline fund would be used to support spreading elective surgery over more days to avoid the weekday congestion, this would help both scheduled and unscheduled care.

A Frontline Fund would target £100m for the incremental delivery of weekday equivalent services on evenings and weekends, starting with Trauma Hospitals.

Weekend and night services are provided by junior doctors. Scottish Labour’s Frontline Fund could be used to ensure under pressure hospitals have consultants on shift which they do not currently cover.

Developing this approach would also allow for patients to have a health service that suits their lives, such as elective surgery out with their working hours.

Scottish Labour said that these changes should be done in conjunction with clinical staff to ensure it delivers more efficient care to patients and reduces the very real demands and pressures on staff.

Policy Total
NHS Frontline Fund


To allow hospitals facing extra pressure to have planned surgery at the weekends and diagnostics in the evening.

£100 million
Resilience Fund


For times of crisis for Scotland’s crucial industries when large scale job losses are threatened.

£10 million
Scottish Office for Budget Responsibility



£1 million
TOTAL £111 million


What the SNP Government in Edinburgh have spent:

Policy Total
Territorial Health Boards


£65 million
Delayed Discharge £30 million
Specialist MND Nurses – supporting Scottish Labour’s call £2.5 million
Total Barnett consequentials £211 million
TOTAL AVAILABLE £113 million


The SNP have cut the NHS budget, protecting it less than David Cameron, according to impartial analysis from the IFS.

The SNP have cut spending on health, while it rose in England:

- “Between 2009-10 and 2015-16 spending on the NHS in England will, on currently announced plans, have risen by about 4% in real terms despite an overall fall of 13% in English departmental spending.”

– “But the Scottish government has chosen to protect the NHS in Scotland slightly less than it has been protected in England. Spending on the NHS in Scotland has fallen by 1%.”

- Nicola Sturgeon was health minister during this period, serving from 2007-2012.  

The IFS confirm that Barnett has protected Scotland’s budget:

– “Over the same period the vagaries of the Barnett formula mean that Scotland will have had to cut overall public service spending by less – by about 8% rather than 13%.” 


Scotland’s NHS gets around 10 per cent more spending per head of the population than in England.

That means that yearly health spending is around £200 per person higher than the UK average.


A report from the Euro health consumer index concludes that despite more public spending, the Scottish NHS is performing worse than the English NHS.

The report measures healthcare performance in 36 European countries — ranking England 14th, with Scotland trailing in 16th position.

The Scottish NHS is rated below the Czech Republic.

Source here

Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government on Scotland’s NHS:

“I believe that our NHS can and will outperform the privatised experiment south of the border.”

March 2012, University of Glasgow Speech

Source: http://bit.ly/1vpUvxR

“A party that is now in its second term of office cannot avoid taking responsibility for its own failings.”

12 December 2011, Scottish Parliament

Source: http://bit.ly/1K6LHzC

 “Scotland’s hospital A&E departments are performing ahead of all of the rest of the UK. At core A&E sites in September, performance against the four-hour treatment target was 92.7 per cent in Scotland, 92 per cent in England, 83.1 per cent in Wales, and 75.7 per cent in Northern Ireland. At the same time, Scotland outperforms all of the rest of the UK on a range of waiting times figures.”

Scottish Government Spokesperson, 7th January 2015, Scotsman

Source: http://bit.ly/1u0xrEN

Siobhan McMahon MSP Raises Concerns Over Role of PACE

PACE Speech

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has urged the Scottish Government to outline how it intends to improve the service provided by the Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE).

Ms McMahon, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment, made her calls during a debate on PACE at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday January 27.

PACE is the Scottish Government’s national strategic partnership framework for responding to redundancy situations. Skills Development Scotland (SDS) co-ordinates PACE at a national level and facilitates local level response teams aiming to provide help and support for individuals at risk of, or experiencing, redundancy.

The debate follows the publication in October of the results of the PACE client experience survey of 2014, commissioned by SDS and the Scottish Government.

While recognising the positive work that PACE carries out, Ms McMahon highlighted some concerning results from the survey. For instance, the survey found that more than one fifth of those who had received a career guidance interview or information about training and funding sources expressed concern that it had come too late.

She also called for the Government to ensure that a greater emphasis is placed on prevention of redundancies rather than the current focus on mitigation.

Ms McMahon said “I was pleased to be able to contribute to this debate as PACE has an important role to play in workplaces threatened by redundancy. They are carrying out vital work at the moment but we must ensure that lessons are learnt from the client experience survey.

“The good news from the survey was that around three quarters of clients had secured some form of employment. However, although that figure is to be welcomed, what we do not know from it is what direct role PACE had in helping to secure that employment. That’s something that needs to be addressed.

“Respondents to the survey asked for a more personalised service; for longer and more frequent help sessions; and for a more timely point of intervention, with interactions starting earlier in the redundancy process.

“Scottish Labour has its own recommendation, which we have put to the Scottish Government: the resilience fund. We believe that the fund would provide an additional tool for local authorities and their partners, which would help local economies that are threatened by a jobs crisis.”

You can read Ms McMahon’s speech here.







Siobhan McMahon MSP Supports Launch of Awareness Campaign for Unpaid Young Adult Carers

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has pledged her support to Carers Trust Scotland’s new campaign initiative Time to be Heard for Young Adult Carers in Scotland. The campaign was launched on the 29 January 2015 at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh and aims to give the estimated 30,000 young adult carers in Scotland a voice.

Young adult carers dedicate their time to caring, unpaid, for someone who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support. Carers Trust Scotland is working with these young people on the campaign which sets out the key recommendations for national and local government, health, and education providers on how to improve the lives of young adult carers.

Ms McMahon said “I’m pleased to be able to support this important campaign. There are thousands of young carers across Central Scotland who make a number of sacrifices in order to look after loved ones. They make a priceless contribution to our society and deserve to have their voices heard.”

The campaign is based on new research with Nottingham University which is the first large-scale survey of this age group, with 295 carers taking part. The research shows the significant impact caring can have on young adults while in education and when looking for work.

The research found that young adult carers:

  • miss or cut short an average of 48 school days because of their caring role
  • were four times more likely to drop out of college or university
  • needed to miss work an average of 17 days per year, with a further 79 days affected because of their caring responsibilities
  • have higher rates of poor mental and physical health
  • rarely receive the assessments they are entitled to, with only 22% of those surveyed receiving a formal assessment of their needs by the local authority
  • experience high rates of bullying – one quarter reported bullying and abuse in school because they were a care

Background Research:

  • In 2013 Carers Trust commissioned a survey of young adult carers to inform the Time to be Heard campaign. The survey was carried out by a research team at the University of Nottingham reaching 362 young adult carers of whom 295 provided responses for analysis.
  • Young adult carers are young people aged 14-25 providing care, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. Most of the survey respondents had been providing care to a family member for a number of years. The average age for becoming a young carer was ten years old. The majority that answered this survey were providing a very high level of care.
  • The young adult carers responding to the survey were all caring for a family member. The person being cared for was a mother in 52% of cases. Other family members were a father (14%), a brother or step brother (17%), a sister or step sister (8%) or both parents (4%). Those family members needing care had a wide range of conditions, most commonly physical disabilities, mental health problems, long term physical illnesses and learning disabilities.
  • The research represents the largest data collection in relation to young adult carers, making this an important opportunity to look at their health, experience of education and chances for employment.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers