PARENTS and teachers would be given a greater say over decisions in schools under a re-elected SNP government, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Ms Sturgeon said education would be her top priority and reiterated her party’s goal to “eliminate” the educational attainment gap within a decade on a campaign visit to the Galloway and West Dumfries constituency.
She highlighted pledges from the party’s freshly-launched manifesto, including an extra £750 million of investment over the next parliament to improve performance.
More of that money would be handed to headteachers, with parents and local communities also given a greater say, Ms Sturgeon said.
The SNP would also protect free higher education and take steps to widen access for students from deprived communities.
Ms Sturgeon said: “From the earliest years until adulthood, improving Scotland’s education system should be the number one priority of the next Scottish government.
“That’s why, alongside a strong national framework, I want to see parents and teachers, who have some of the best ideas about how to support children’s education, able to play a bigger role in the life of their schools.
“A re-elected SNP government will ensure that more resources go directly to head teachers, enabling them to lead transformation in their schools and supporting groups of schools to work more closely together, sharing resources, specialisms and experiences to support all of our children.
“The goal of the SNP will be to substantially close the attainment gap in the next Parliament and to eliminate it within a decade.
“I have set out ambitious proposals to ensure that every child has the chance to succeed in life - and if re-elected as first minister I will ask to be judged on my success in achieving this.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale accused Ms Sturgeon and the SNP of failing to protect the education budget.
She highlighted her party’s pledge to use new powers over income tax coming to Holyrood to introduce a 50p tax rate for those earning more than £150,000.
Labour has said it will use the funds raised from this and a 1p increase in the basic rate of income tax to invest in education and stop cuts to local government budgets.
Ms Dugdale said: “In her manifesto yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon offered protection for the NHS budget, but not for education.This is not a technical detail. If the SNP leader does not make this commitment in simple terms, it means she plans to cut education spending in real terms.
“So, here is a simple challenge to Nicola Sturgeon: I’ll protect education spending in real terms. Will you?
“The SNP have already cut education and skills by 10% in real terms. With unemployment rising, we can’t keep cutting into the future of our economy.
“Faced with the choice between using the powers, or cutting into Scotland’s future, Labour chooses to use the powers to invest in our children’s future.”
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie questioned why statistics on numeracy and literacy had not been published as usual this year and instead will be released at the end of May.
He said: “It seems convenient that we’re being expected to wait more than a month longer than ever before. But that is the kind of jiggery-pokery we’ve come to expect from the SNP.”