School janitors in Glasgow to boycott duties in dispute over pay

Unison says 130 of its members will take industrial action on January 19 over the dispute.

Dispute: Janitors at school across Glasgow to take industrial action. <strong>© STV</strong>
Dispute: Janitors at school across Glasgow to take industrial action. © STV

School janitors in Scotland’s biggest city will boycott their duties in a dispute over pay.

Unison members employed by Cordia as primary and nursery school janitors will begin the industrial action on January 19 by boycotting a number of duties. 

The union says Cordia, an arms length organisation (Aleo) of Glasgow City Council, is refusing to pay a working context and demands payment (WCD) to school janitors. It claims Cordia is “using spurious arguments to justify not making this payment”. 

In the official ballot, 98% voted to take action short of strike action. This will involve ceasing the duties of weeding, litter picking, snow clearing, salt spreading, leaf clearing, heavy lifting, spillage clearing and animal clearing from January 19. 

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In the ballot, 95% voted to take strike action if the dispute requires to be escalated at a future point. There are now 130 school janitors who are Unison members.

Teachers, education support workers, cleaners and catering staff have been advised by their trade unions not to undertake the duties which the janitors are boycotting.

Brian Smith, Unison Glasgow secretary, said: “Unison is very clear that school janitors meet the criteria to be awarded this payment.

“Our members have been left with no option other than to take this action as both Cordia and the council are wrong and just not listening to our members.

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“The council needs to get round the table with Unison and agree a negotiated settlement of our members legitimate claim.”

Glasgow City Council and its Aleos pay structure awards payments to workers who undertake duties which are dirty, unpleasant, involve working outside on a regular basis or heavy lifting.


Pupils, teachers and parents prepare for schools’ return

Schools are reopening five months after the coronavirus lockdown forced their closure.

By Jenness Mitchell & Ewan Petrie

It will be an anxious week for young people, parents and teachers as schools reopen their doors after nearly five months.

Teachers are back at work to prepare for pupils returning to their desks over the next few days.

All pupils are expected to be back in class full-time from August 18 at the latest after schools were given the go-ahead to reopen by the Scottish Government.

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While visiting West Calder High School in West Lothian on Monday, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said as a country it was “right to prioritise” getting schools back.

She said: “It’s really important and I think really positive that young people are able to return to full-time schooling.

“We know that’s important for their education, that is very obvious, but it’s also important I think for young people’s well-being and a sense of normality coming back into their lives, even though there will be differences to normality as they knew it before lockdown.”

Sturgeon praised the work local authorities have carried out to make schools safer in the fight against Covid-19.

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As well as new physical distancing signage and one-way systems, schools have also implemented hand-sanitising stations.

Newark Primary School in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, has created an isolation room for anyone who starts to display symptoms of the virus.

Headteacher Lynne McGugan is also prepared to stagger entries, exits, lunchtimes and playtimes if needed.

Sturgeon said she understood those returning to the classroom might be feeling concerned.

She said: “I know that this will be an anxious week for young people themselves, for teachers – who themselves are often parents, and parents.

“But we also know that being out of school is doing real harm to young people, so we have to strike the right balance.

“And where necessary, if it means slowing down on other aspects of getting back to normal in order to prioritise school return, I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Class of 2020: These new teachers will be heading into classrooms on Tuesday.
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The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union, questioned 29,867 teachers over the past week.

A total of 60% supported the decision to reopen, however 66% expressed anxiety and a lack of confidence that sufficient safety measures will be in place.

The First Minister said anxiety was expected and it would be “wrong to expect otherwise” due to the pandemic.

She said: “That’s why it’s been so important that we’ve done this carefully. 

“We are not being complacent, we’ve thought very hard – informed by scientific advice – about the measures that need to be in place, and we’ll make sure that there’s rapid access to test and protect for any staff member or young person who has symptoms.”

Qualified: New teacher Nicole Wylie is ‘confident’ about the return.

Nicole Wylie, a newly qualified teacher in Inverclyde, told STV News that she had a “few worries” but overall felt “confident” about the new term.

She said: “A few worries, but everything’s in place in the school.

“We’ve got lots of hand sanitiser stations, arrows on the floor, one-way systems, staggered entries and things like that, so everything’s been done the way that it should be. 

“I feel quite confident going back, knowing that all the appropriate measures have been put in place.”

Inverclyde: Jim Clocherty hopes parents will be confident enough to send their children to school.

Jim Clocherty, education convener at Inverclyde Council, added: “Once we actually get things going, once things get back to the ‘new normal’, I think parents will see that and hopefully they’ll feel safe enough to send their children to school.”


Swinney to set out plan to ‘rectify’ exam results

The education secretary will outline the government's next steps at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

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Swinney: Facing calls to resign.

Deputy first minister John Swinney will set out a plan to “rectify” the school exam results controversy.

The education secretary, who has faced calls to resign, will outline the government’s next steps in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

With no exams this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) applied a methodology whereby marks estimated by teachers were downgraded based on criteria including the historic performance of the school.

This criteria saw Higher pass rates for pupils in the most deprived areas reduced by 15.2%, in comparison with 6.9% for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds.

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On Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed her deputy as she apologised to pupils affected by the decision.

Both initially defended the system, stressing that the appeals process would allow eligible pupils to challenge their results and arguing that it would not have been “credible” if teachers’ estimates were not downgraded.

But following protests from pupils in Glasgow and cross-party criticism of the system, the First Minister said Swinney would “rectify” the situation.

She said: “We will be taking steps to ensure that every young person gets a grade that recognises the work they have done.

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“Our concern – which was to make sure that the grades young people got were as valid as those they would have got in any other year – perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.”

She added: “Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that.

“The most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year.”

The moderation process has been widely criticised by opposition parties.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack described it as “disgraceful” and called the system as a “postcode lottery”

The Conservative MP said Swinney had shown “a lack of judgement”.

Scottish Labour are set to mount a no-confidence vote against Swinney in Holyrood with the Conservatives saying they will support it.

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Presiding officer Ken McIntosh explained that the motion would have to be debated if it is backed by 25 or more MSPs, but it would be an “expression of parliament’s opinion” and not legally binding.

Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories have a combined 54 MSPs.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens are yet to state whether they will support the motion.

The motion was tabled on Monday morning, meaning a debate is not likely to take place before Wednesday as MSPs are normally given two days’ notice ahead of a no-confidence vote.


Everyone Home: Organisation aims to end rough sleeping

Almost 30 charities and organisations will meet on Monday to discuss a route map designed to permanently end rough sleeping.

Homeless: Organisations aim to end rough sleeping.

Almost 30 organisations are coming together to help end rough sleeping in Scotland.

The groups, including several charities, will meet on Monday to discuss a route map designed to permanently end rough sleeping and destitution as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group, named Everyone Home, has agreed three priorities to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on homelessness. These are more homes, no return to rough sleeping and no evictions into homelessness.

The route map considers issues facing people who do not have access to the welfare benefits and housing options that are available normally in Scotland for people at risk of homelessness.

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This is described as having no recourse to public funds and most commonly affects people seeking asylum.

There are around 1600 destitute asylum migrants in Scotland, of whom around half are in Glasgow. A further group of 2050 destitute EEA migrants in Scotland are also at severe risk of destitution.

Chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), Sabir Zazai, said: “People in the asylum system are forced into destitution due to the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy, a deliberate decision by the Home Office.

“Today’s route map provides a clear solution to prevent destitution. It is essential that the issues facing people with NRPF are part of mainstream housing policy.

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“For Scotland to eliminate rough sleeping, everyone, no matter their immigration status, must be protected and have access to a safe place to stay. Scotland has a proud history of welcoming and supporting people.”

The route map highlights how many people in Scotland are struggling due to UK legislation.

This can mean little or no money to meet basic needs, such as food, medicine or access to washing facilities.

Unesco chairwoman Alison Phipps said: “The death rates attributable to destitution and poverty are rising and well-documented. The voluntary sector is stretched to the limit financially and emotionally.

“This report from the collective is timely and urgently needed. It is time to value the analyses and to implement the deep structural change which will move vulnerable populations out of repeated crisis, and volunteers and workers out of emergency response mode.

Chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, Maggie Brunjes, added: “When the pandemic began to unfold in March rapid emergency support was provided to everyone who was destitute regardless of their immigration status.

“As we move into autumn there is a significant risk of people once again being forced onto the streets or into unsafe living arrangements, experiencing extreme poverty and at risk of exploitation and abuse – all the problems we were trying to deal with previously.”


Blockbuster: Engineer aims to create Scotland’s first Lego kit

Michael Dineen was inspired to create the Forth Bridge from Lego after seeing it every day at work.

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Building block: Michael wants to create Scotland's first Lego kit.

As Michael Dineen worked on the new Queensferry Crossing, he would often look across the Forth to the rail bridge and wonder what it would look like as a Lego model.

The 42-year-old civil engineer from Clarkston, Glasgow says he thought it would be an interesting challenge to recreate the iconic Scottish structure using thousands of modelling bricks.

“When I first saw it, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to design it and build it to a reasonable scale,” he explains.

After discovering that the bridge hadn’t been made into an official Lego set before, Michael spent some time researching his idea.

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He discovered that if he managed to crack the design, he could pitch it to Lego and it could become an official set distributed by the company. 

With no other official Scottish kits on offer, Michael was determined to make his dream a reality.

“I spent three months buying countless pieces and trial and error of trying to get something to work,” he explains.

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“Because the bridge is essentially the same thing three times over, I had to get it right once then repeat it two more times.”

Michael used a unique approach to building the model by applying the same principles the original contractors would have taken when it was built in the 1880s.

This meant he had to build the model outwards from the main pillar equally on both sides to avoid it toppling over.

“Because it’s a balanced cantilever bridge, it does teach anyone building it the basic principles of why some bridges stay up,” he explains.

During the fourth month of construction, Michael discovered his model had even more in common with the real Forth bridge than he thought – as he had to hand paint hundreds of tiny Lego bricks to ensure everything was the same shade of dark red.

“You couldn’t make it up,” he laughs.

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“There’s a little piece that is four studs long and one stud wide which form the bridge deck.

“There are 240 of them and they don’t come in dark red.

“So I had to sit down with a tin of model paint and a very finely tipped paint brush and paint 240 individual pieces, which was painful.”

Once complete, the 30cm tall and 4.7 metre-wide model made of 3000 bricks took up most of his living room.

“I had to go into my lounge and move the furniture out of the way to build it.

“I was quite astounded at the size of it, I wasn’t expecting that.”

After completing the project, it went on display at Silverburn shopping centre and Central Train Station in Glasgow, featuring on the STV Productions programme Inside Central Station.

Now he’s campaigning for the model to become a piece of Lego history, by being the first official Scottish set.

“One of the most important things for me would be to be behind the first official Scottish Lego set,” Michael explains.

“Any Lego shop around the world doesn’t have anything that represents Scotland and it would be an incredible achievement to be the person behind the very first one.”

Michael has submitted his design to the company and needs 10,000 backers for Lego to look at his proposal.

With almost 7,000 backers so far, he’s keen for people to help support his ambition and achieve his goal. 

To support Michael’s Lego ambitions, head to the Lego Ideas website.


Woman, 91, arrested over crash that killed three-year-old boy

Xander Irvine died after being struck by a car in Edinburgh on June 30.

Police Scotland
Xander Irvine: Three-year-old died in hospital.

An elderly woman has been arrested after a three-year-old boy died in a crash.

Xander Irvine died in hospital after he was struck by a car in Edinburgh.

His 37-year-old mum Victoria was also injured in the collision outside St Columba’s Hospice shop on Morningside Road on June 30.

Police confirmed a 91-year-old woman was arrested on Monday in connection with the incident.

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A report will now be sent to the procurator fiscal.

In a statement released through Police Scotland at the time of his death, Xander’s family said: “Xander was a very happy, bubbly, intelligent little boy who was very dearly loved by his parents Victoria and Paul. 

“Xander was a real chatterbox who just loved books, playing with all sorts of vehicles and his Lego. 

“He really enjoyed life and he enriched the lives of everyone he met.

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“Xander will be so very sorely missed by them both and all his family and friends in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”


Girl, 12, who died in River Leven named by police

Ava Gray was pronounced dead at the scene on Sunday.

Ava Gray: Died in the River Leven on Sunday.

A young girl who died after getting into difficulty in the River Leven has been named.

Ava Gray, from Alexandria, was pronounced dead after being recovered from the water in West Dunbartonshire on Sunday.

The 12-year-old aspiring dancer was with two friends when the three of them got stuck in the river near Balloch Bridge at around 6.45pm.

Two of the youths, one boy and one girl, managed to get themselves out of the water and an extensive search for Ava was launched.

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She was discovered by emergency services just before 10pm.

Tributes have been paid to the Lennox Primary School pupil who has been described as a kind and popular child.

The school’s headteacher said: “The school and whole community are completely devastated by this tragedy and our thoughts are with Ava’s family and friends.

“Ava always had a smile and kind words to say and was popular with staff and fellow pupils. She will be greatly missed by us all.”

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And a spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “We would like to extend our sincere sympathy to Ava’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Help and support will be offered to any pupils in our schools who need it following this tragic event.”

Her dance teacher Holly Douglas paid tribute on Facebook.

She said: “Words can’t describe the way I feel, Ava we all love you so so much you will never be forgotten at Full Out you will always be part of our team and our family.

“The world is a cruel place thinking of all the family right now.”

Police say there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.


Cyclist dies in hospital following collision with lorry

Rikki Gault died in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was taken after the crash on Friday.

Rikki Gault: Died following crash.

A cyclist has died in hospital following a collision with a lorry in Aberdeenshire.

Rikki Gault was pronounced dead at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was taken after the incident that took place in Banff on Friday.

The 30-year-old was on his bicycle when it collided with a lorry on Low Street at around 2.20pm.

Rikki’s family have requested privacy at this time however wished it known that “Rikki lived life to the full and will be sorely missed”.

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A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

Low Street was closed for around eight hours to allow for collision investigation work.

Police have asked anyone who witnessed the crash or seen either the lorry or the cyclist prior to the crash is asked to contact them on 101.


Petrie: ‘Harsh lessons learned from Aberdeen incident’

The managers and captains of all 12 Scottish Premiership clubs held a video call with Scotland's national clinical director, Jason Leitch.

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Football: Harsh lessons learned.

“Harsh lessons have been learned” in Scottish football after Aberdeen players broke lockdown rules for a night out.

The football community moved to assure the Scottish government after a meeting with Jason Leitch over the incident that has left the Dons without eight first team players for their midweek game, if it goes ahead.

The managers and captains of all 12 Scottish Premiership clubs held a video call with Scotland’s national clinical director on Monday.

The discussions came three days after Aberdeen’s trip to face St Johnstone was postponed following Scottish Government intervention after two Dons players tested positive for Covid-19 and a further six were instructed to self-isolate following an ill-judged night out.

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They now face a wait see if their clash with Hamilton will get the go-ahead amid a coronavirus spike in the city.

The First Minister had warned Scottish football a repeat of the incident could see the national game lose its privileges after being granted permission to hold matches during the pandemic.

The football representatives were reminded of their responsibilities in relation to the protocols set out for them in particular and also the public in general.

Rod Petrie, chair of Scottish football’s Joint Response Group (JRG), said in a statement: “The JRG is thankful to Professor Leitch, as well as the managers and captains of Scottish Premiership clubs, for facilitating a video call to reinforce the message that Scottish football is serious in its commitment to helping the country emerge from the Covid crisis as safely as possible.

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“The events of last week were deeply regrettable but the JRG commends the immediate response by the Aberdeen owner, David Cormack, and the manager, Derek McInnes, in dealing with the matter and providing government with the necessary confidence that there will be no repeat.

“Scottish football must continue to work together to ensure the national game remains a safe and secure environment for all participants, but it must also be mindful of its role in promoting and protecting public health messages, behaviours and obligations.

“Harsh lessons have been learned by Aberdeen that will have been heeded by the rest of Scottish football and that message was made clear to Professor Leitch this evening.”

Aberdeen are set to host Hamilton on Wednesday without the eight self-isolating players – Jonny Hayes, Michael Devlin, Scott McKenna, Matty Kennedy, Sam Cosgrove, Dylan McGeouch, Craig Bryson and Bruce Anderson.


Aberdeen virus lockdown could be extended as cases rise

Nicola Sturgeon said the restrictions in Aberdeen may be kept in place for another week.

Aberdeen’s lockdown might be extended for another week as the number of cases continues to rise, the First Minister said.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants in the city have been closed since last Wednesday.

There have been 231 confirmed instances of the virus in the Grampian area since the start of the local outbreak on July 26.

A total of 157 have been linked to the Aberdeen cluster, while 852 contacts have been identified during tracing.

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In the last 24 hours, a further 18 cases have emerged, although it is not yet known how many are connected to the ongoing outbreak, which led to an initial seven-day local lockdown.

However, NHS Grampian said none of the cases linked to the cluster had required hospital treatment.

Nicola Sturgeon said restrictions would not be kept in place longer than necessary.

But she added: “Having done it, we need to make sure we do it long enough to get the cluster and the outbreak under control, and so I can’t rule out and won’t rule out the possibility that we may have to extend for a further seven days.”

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Sturgeon said she expected the number of cases in Aberdeen to keep rising over the coming days.

She said: “I hope that the measures that we put in place in Aberdeen last week will help to slow and then stop transmission before it becomes widespread in the community.

“And the advice we put in place about not travelling to and from Aberdeen, unless absolutely essential, should reduce the risk of cases spreading from Aberdeen to other parts of Scotland.

“That said, we do expect the number of cases and contacts in the Aberdeen cluster to rise further in the days ahead but I want to take the opportunity again to thank all those working hard locally to seek to contain this cluster as quickly and effectively as possible.”

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