Education is vital
Education is such an important aspect of a child’s development and it is only right that politicians of all persuasions focus on ensuring that we deliver a first class education system that leaves no child behind, regardless of their social background.
A lot has changed since I was in primary school, and rightly so. In the past four decades technological advances have accelerated at an amazing pace and the challenges and opportunities I had to be prepared for leaving school in the mid 1980s will be somewhat different in 2029 for this year’s primary one classes.
I believe that there are three key areas essential to providing a good education: curriculum design, environment and equality of opportunity. Three areas that have been central to the SNP Government education strategy since 2007.
The Curriculum for Excellence, introduced in 2012, was the culmination of nearly a decade of work initiated by the previous Labour/Lib Dem executive in 2003 and brought to fruition by the current SNP Government. The aim, as stated by the original review group, was “to enable all children to develop their capacities as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society.”
It was seen a phased process of reform which would take account of advances in education and deliver a curriculum which both challenged and supported a child’s educational journey from three to 18 years of age.
Reforms of this scale will always bring challenges and it was good to hear this week that the education secretary, John Swinney, has announced new guidance on the curriculum designed to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on teachers, a move which has been welcomed by the largest teaching union, the EIS.
The teaching environment is important. No child should have to learn in a school that is in a poor or bad condition. Modern, accessible buildings help create the right environment for children to learn and teachers to work in.
The SNP manifesto, launched ahead of the recent Scottish elections, reaffirmed the party’s commitment to providing children and teachers with the best possible environment in which to learn and the record the SNP holds on school buildings shows the Scottish Government can be trusted to deliver on this important aspect too.
The total number of schools rebuilt or refurbished under the SNP between 2008 and 2015 stands at 607 – almost a quarter of the school estate and nearly double the total number of rebuilds and refurbishments undertaken between 1999 and 2007.
It is worth noting that this impressive progress was achieved without resorting to the private finance initiatives used by Labour and the Lib Dems, which will see councils crippled with billions of pounds of historic PFI payments of up to eight times the actual value of some projects. How many more schools could have been upgraded were it not for the uncapped, exorbitant profits going to private companies for school projects?
Equality of opportunity should mean that your social background or circumstances should not be a barrier to your ability to learn, achieve or attain good educational outcomes. Through the Attainment Scotland Fund, the government intends to invest £750million over the course of this parliament to help teachers at schools in areas of deprivation across the country develop innovative approaches to improving literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing.
The Scottish Attainment Challenge Primary Schools Programme is part of this initiative and it was great to see that several local schools will benefit from an additional £2.8million announced by the first minister recently.
These include St Mark’s Primary, Burgh Primary, Cathkin Primary and Loch Primary Schools in Rutherglen and James Aiton Primary in Cambuslang.
The Attainment Fund sits within a wider programme of school reform which includes action to empower local leadership within schools, directing more resources to head teachers, focussing on reducing the unnecessary workload of teachers and the simplification of Curriculum for Excellence. Delivering these commitments will help us realise our ambition to ensure equality of opportunity for every child and young person to be the best that they can be.
In the next few months I am looking forward to visiting all of our local primary schools and seeing, first hand, the excellent work that is being done.
A lot has changed since I was in primary school, and rightly so
Guidance John Swinney announced new guidance for teachers earlier this week