Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has unveiled plans for a new fund to drive down the divide between rich and poor in Scotland’s schools which will be paid for with a new 50p tax rate for high earners.
The tax hikes could be in place as soon as 2017 and would establish a Fair Start Fund to target schools in poorer areas and be left under the control of headteachers.
Labour will bring forward amendments to the Education Bill, currently going through the Scottish Parliament, which would see the proposals introduced. Holyrood will get the power to implement increases on the top rate of income tax as part of the post-referendum Smith powers in the coming years.
Nicola Sturgeon urged voters to judge her on her record of driving down the gap in attainment between rich and poor in Scotland’s classrooms earlier this year.
Ms Dugdale will unveil the measures, which could be worth as much as £1000 for the country’s poorest pupils, during a school in Renfrewshire visit today.
“Education is the single most important economic policy we can pursue,” Ms Dugdale said.
“If we can give every child a world-class education then they, and Scotland, will be able to take advantage of the amazing opportunities the future will bring. That’s why Scottish Labour will amend the Education Bill to use the new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to create a fair start fund.
“Our fair start fund will mean £1000 of extra investment in children from Scotland’s poorest families so we can cut the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms
“We want to give the spending powers to headteachers. Challenges in classrooms are different across the country, in fact they are different across the same city. That’s why these decisions should be taken by headteachers rather than by an SNP Minister in Edinburgh.
“That’s why we will amend the Education Bill to put into law our plans for a fairer Scotland. The First Minister has said that closing the attainment gap is her number one priority. If that’s the case, the SNP should back our amendments.”
Ms Dugdale unveiled her plans for the Fair Start fund at the Labour conference earlier this month, but the latest move to include it in the Education Bill is a sign that she wants to put the issue at the heart of the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election campaign.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our Education Bill already proposes a range of measures that aim to improve our education system, building the next phase of Curriculum for Excellence with raising attainment a key priority. We are also working to close the attainment gap through measures such as our £100 million Attainment Scotland fund and appointing attainment advisers in local authorities.”