I READ James McEnaney’s report of his recent interview with Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth ("It’s time to refocus how Scotland approaches teaching in our schools", The Herald, September 11) with great interest. I was though concerned with a situation which apparently sees the Scottish Government committing additional money to local authorities for the recruitment of more teachers but, if I understand the Secretary’s reported comments correctly, that this extra funding is not always being used to employ more teachers.

This state of affairs is most unsatisfactory. To avoid this arm-wrestling between Holyrood and individual councils, I would like to suggest to Ms Gilruth that she restore a national staffing standard for our secondary schools. My generation was brought up in the era of the famous Red Book. This was a very detailed set of calculations prepared by the then HMI that enabled schools and local authorities to work out a customised staffing for each establishment. On top of a basic staffing entitlement based on pupil numbers, additional staff allocations were funded by the Government to support, for example, probationary teachers and what were then referred to as “remedial pupils”. Local authorities could, if they so wished, staff schools above nationally-funded "Red Book" levels but this would be paid for by an individual local authority. A Government commitment to re-establishing agreed national staffing levels for our schools with additional allocations for indicators of deprivation and the integration of special needs youngsters would do much to restore confidence in a service that currently is under siege.

My second concern arising from the interview is the apparent practice of some authorities of pooling staff rather than appointing them to a specific school. When I was involved in appointing staff to the high school where I worked, the then procedure of the City of Edinburgh Council was to agree with the school that a teaching post be created or an existing vacancy be filled. The school was then responsible for drawing up a job description and an employee profile for this post. The vacancy was then advertised by the council and the task of conducting the necessary interviews and agreeing on the suitable candidate was done in partnership with the school. The teaching staff were of course employed by the council and in emergencies could be moved but the teacher was very much part of the school’s establishment. For the school this ensured the loyalty and commitment of the staff. For the individual teachers the arrangement gave them a sense of stability, identity and also the security to concentrate on doing their best for the students of their school.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

Read more: Education secretary Jenny Gilruth on earning the trust of teachers

Supporting the state sector

IN his article on independent schools and fairness to others, Doug Marr ("Private schools have role to play in equality", The Herald, September 11), calls on the Scottish Government to consider how the strengths and qualities of the independent school sector can be distributed more fairly.

Most of Scotland’s independent schools were created to meet the education needs of the time in which they were founded and were inclusive in their intentions. That remains the case today.

There are many strong examples of partnership activities involving independent schools which demonstrate the sector’s efforts to contribute to society, and the educational outcomes of as many children and young people in Scotland as possible.

Ground-breaking work is taking place at Dollar Academy which has developed FIDA, an online platform which enables young people to work with experts from industry and universities to design solutions to some of the most complex challenges we face. In an effort to further reduce the attainment gap, FIDA also offers free SQA courses which enable anyone to study for qualifications online.

Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen has devised an initiative to support the future growth of the Scottish tech ecosystem and respond to a talent shortage in the industry with the launch of RGC Online which offers modules in AI, cyber security and quantum computing.

George Watson’s College in Edinburgh has been the linchpin in the delivery of the Swire Chinese Language Centre which works with more than 20 state schools and accounts for 30 per cent of all Chinese language qualifications gained by pupils in Scotland.

There isn’t an independent school in Scotland which isn’t contributing to the community in which it is based.

Scotland’s independent school sector has uniquely been subject to the charity test and must meet the legal requirements of being a charity - but much more than meeting a legal obligation, it is actively working to make a difference to the lives of as many young people in Scotland as possible.

SCIS supports Mr Marr’s call for the strengths of our sector to be distributed more widely, not because our schools aren’t already working in partnership, but because we believe that by working across sectors we can achieve even more for learners in Scotland.

Lorraine Davidson, CEO, Scottish Council of Independent Schools, Edinburgh.

Higher taxes don't pay

THERE are times when I wonder if people like Philip Whyte and the 50 or so bodies who support the Institute of Public Policy Research's proposals ("Why Scotland needs radical action on tax", The Herald, September 14) believe that once anyone accrues more than a certain level of income or assets they are committing a mortal sin, and the only way in which this can be expiated is by the Government confiscating a significant part of it.

In fact, I sometimes suspect that they would only be truly happy if we were all required to surrender our wallets, bank cards and PIN numbers to the Scottish Government. The Government would then see to it that we received what it believed to be our needs, and perhaps even allow us a little pocket money to be spent on whatever we wished, as long as it passed muster with the ever-increasing numbers of professional harrumphers and takers of umbrage among us.

If the aim of taxation is principally to raise revenue, rather than to punish those who are fortunate enough to be comfortably off, then I remember that back in 1978, the highest rate of tax on earned income was 83p in the pound. At that point, the top 10% of income tax payers contributed about one-third of total income tax revenue. Following Margaret Thatcher's election victory in 1979, Geoffrey Howe reduced to the top rate to 60p, and in 1988, Nigel Lawson further reduced it to 40p. These reductions produced great howls of dismay, but in 2022, the top 10% of income tax payers contribute just over 60% of the income tax revenue.

Of course, the production of revenues from any form of taxation is complex, and depends on many other factors, such as thresholds and the amount of money available, but there needs to be a constant generation of new money if economic growth is to be sustained.

Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.

Read more: Why Scotland urgently needs radical action on tax

SNP gets a raw deal

THE writ for the Rutherglen by-election is out, yet the BBC and other broadcasters do not appear to be adhering to the Ofcom rules on impartiality. Leaders and senior members of Labour and Tory parties are regularly given airtime without the third-largest party at Westminster, the SNP, being allowed the same exposure. Partly I think this is due to the BBC lazily treating Radios 4 and 5 and the network news outlets on TV as English “national” channels rather than British (as funded), so English politicians get interviewed on English matters. Or is it just partisan bias?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

Real risks from climate change

JAMES Evans (Letter, September 15) advises that we ought not to “panic on global warming”, referring in particular to “the almost hysterical reactions to severe winds and floods ... these localised events, tragic as they may be, are not a result of global warming”.

I do not know the justification for Mr Evans’ absolute certainty but I suggest that it is always wise, when it comes to the matter of “natural hazards”, for us to listen to the insurance profession.

For instance, in an article dated April 2023 under the heading “Natural hazards” to be found online, John Scott, head of Sustainability Risk for Zurich Insurance, maintains that “there is growing evidence that this steady rise in global temperatures is impacting the number, frequency and duration of natural hazards ... Most people don’t fully understand the impact of climate change … They hear the phrase "global warming’ and think, ‘Oh, everything is just getting a bit warmer,’ but it’s more complex than that”.

Mr Scott goes on to suggest that “there is evidence that the changing climate is influencing the behaviour of the jetstream, which has the effect of localising weather systems for weeks at a time, causing  prolonged rainfall, drought, frost or heat”.

John Milne, Uddingston.