Battle on to restart Auschwitz trips

By Leon Symons, October 24, 2008

Talks have begun to try to restart educational visits to Auschwitz for Scottish schools, under the auspices of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

As the last school visit paid for by Westminster was taking place at the end of last week, HET chief executive Karen Pollock met Scottish schools minister Maureen Watt in an effort to get the Scottish government to ensure that the trips continue. Five schools from Renfrewshire participated in this visit.
Ms Pollock said: "We had a productive meeting. I don't know what will happen next, but the minister was sympathetic to the challenges we face."

The problems with the trips began in the summer when the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Tories joined forces to push through a decision that money given to Scotland by Westminster would not be ring-fenced for the Auschwitz trips.

Instead, councils would be given free rein to decide for themselves where and on what the money should be spent.

A recent survey by The Scotsman newspaper revealed that none of Scotland's 32 local authorities would be able to fund the trips next year. The cost of taking 400 pupils on the trips was estimated at £214,000.

Funding for trips from schools in England and Wales will continue as a result of an extra £5 million pledged by the Department for Children, Schools and Families last February.

The original decision brought a scathing attack from Labour MPs.

Labour schools spokesman Ken Macintosh said: "It is clear that all sides of the Scottish parliament recognise the educational benefits of these visits. The Scottish government would only have to find just over £200,000 each year to fund the project."

He was, he said, "hopeful that we can persuade the SNP and the Tories that Scottish pupils should continue to be included".

Last updated: 11:27am, October 23 2008