It is over-simplistic to detach the education attainment gap from economic wellbeing and that’s where Nicola Sturgeon has made great strides in preparing infants for school through the Baby Box, doubling the amount of childcare – worth £4,500 per child per year – plus the game-changing Scottish Child Payment which will help lift around 30,000 children out of poverty.
Class sizes have fallen under the SNP and 958 schools have been rebuilt, with 1,354 extra pupil support assistants recruited in 2020. The proportion of school leavers in higher or further education is at a record high, with 72.2 per cent continuing in education in 2019-20 and the latest statistics show that 16 per cent of students from the most deprived areas have gone to university.
I could go on, but its guff to say that Scottish education is terrible, and an insult to our teachers and pupils to claim that standards have badly fallen. By any measurement the SNP investment in education is a vast improvement on the previous Labour/Liberal Democratic administration at Holyrood.
Mary Thomas, Watson Crescent, Edinburgh
While the Scottish Government concentrates on saving the First Minister and drafting yet another referendum bill, Audit Scotland has released a damning report on Scottish education. Some of us may remember that Nicola Sturgeon asked us to judge her on her record on education. She must regret saying that now.
The report confirms that Scotland's education system is a shadow of its former self. We already know that we no longer rate highly in international comparisons but we are also now told that within Scotland, the most disadvantaged youngsters continue to receive an even poorer deal.
The attainment gap is not closing; indeed, some authorities are now performing worse than previously, including those who received the extra funding for the attainment challenge. Who knew that throwing small amounts of money at schools, with no clear programme for improvement, would make little or no difference to outcomes?
How big is the gap? For pupils achieving five awards at National 5 level, the range is from 26.5 per cent to 71.5 per cent. Does anyone detect even a whiff of social justice in these statistics? The 2015 OECD comment that it is worse to be poor in Scotland than in any other part of the UK still stands.
Scotland cannot compete in a global world with an education system which fails both its young people and the teachers who are obliged to implement misguided policies. This mediocre performance, year on year, will handicap our economy now and in the future. Let's face it, it is not difficult to judge Ms Sturgeon on her track record in education.
Carole Ford, Terregles Avenue, Glasgow
The SNP have successfully hidden the OECD report from governmental scrutiny until after the election. What they, however, did not manage to do was silence Audit Scotland from revealing the desperate figures around the attainment gap. The poverty related attainment gap is wide – 36.2 per cent wide, to be precise. The SNP can say they are working on it but, as Willie Rennie pointed out in Holyrood this week, it will take 35 years to close that attainment gap. That is this generation, the next generation and the generation after that.
The SNP are failing those in poverty; they are failing to provide the means with which they can obtain the skills and abilities to get good jobs, improve their lives, their mental health and their futures. This is one of the biggest responsibilities a government has.
I hope that you are judged on education, Ms Sturgeon, on 6 May. I really do, as you have failed catastrophically.
Jane Lax, Craigellachie, Aberlour
Ruth Davidson's decision to leave Scottish politics must be re garded as tainted even by her own supporters. However, the First Minister's reaching for the "baroness" card when she is asked a question by her simply reveals that she does not have a satisfactory answer.
In, thankfully, the last unedifying session of First Minister's Questions Nicola Sturgeon was challenged by Ms Davidson on her record in education. I seem to recall that this was the issue she asked to be judged on five years ago. The Audit Scotland report has done just that and given her a D. Deputy First Minister John Swinney claims the report records "significant progress" in some areas! Moderate improvement in some areas was acknowledged – hardly a stunning success after five, let alone 14, years of trying – but the verdict of the Auditor General was that Ms Sturgeon's proclaimed ambition to close the gap had ended in failure, the attainment gap remains "wide". Nor can the Covid card be pulled out to spin this as the report made clear that this was the position before the pandemic struck.
It was no surprise, given recent events, that the report also pointed to a lack of sufficient educational data. The only surprise was that this report wasn't put away until after the election in a drawer alongside the OECD report.
Colin Hamilton, Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh
Looking through the list of MSPs who have decided not to stand for re-election, I was surprised that some of the leavers were unknown to me despite my efforts to keep abreast of Scottish politics over the last five years. I would assume that these people were beavering away in the background while not raising their heads above the parapet.
However, it's clear that some of our MSPs have become jaded and a fresh injection of new talent is needed to provide impetus and direction. While Nicola Sturgeon has sought to curry favour with voters with a last-minute 4 per cent pay increase for nurses, further chickens may come home to roost in the new parliament with her shielding of the Scottish Government's senior civil servants from sanctions in respect of the costly debacle surrounding the sexual allegations made against Alex Salmond.
Bob MacDougall, Oxhill, Kippen, Stirlingshire
Who’s the zealot?
With around half of the Scottish population, if not considerably more as the Brexit debacle unfolds, intending to vote for independence in a second referendum, perhaps it is time for Alexander McKay (Letters, 25 March) to take a serious look in the mirror and ask who is the “believe-anything zealot” in thrall of “a cult of the blindly faithful”?
Just possibly it is the person who continues to support politicians who remain silent on, or who have been found guilty of, repeated lies, judged breaches of the ministerial code, rampant cronyism and blatant corruption wasting UK taxpayers billions and billions of pounds (not to mention illegal acts such as the attempted proroguing of parliament and reneging on international agreements).
Stan Grodynski, Cairnsmore, Longniddry, East Lothian
Light the fusion
The Scottish Government seeks funding for more Housing and spending on the NHS. The Government has just awarded a 4 per cent pay rise to all NHS staff , nurses, paramedics and porters backdated to December 2020. A much better way for paying for their wish list of items is to stop building wind turbines and paying out Constraint Payments – £66.8 million in Sutherland alone. Instead, build a nuclear fusion power station at Dounreay that will be clean, green and give 24/7 reliable electricity.
The saved money can be used for the NHS, schools, housing, potholes in the road etc.
Michael Baird, Dornoch Road, Bonar Bridge
I have no problem in accepting that NHS employees should receive a 4 per cent pay rise but I question the timing of the offer, shortly before an election, could there be an element of bribery about it?
A A Bullions, Glencairn Crescent, Leven
I'm sure most of us have a sense of thanksgiving for the work of the NHS but is a 4 per cent pay rise affordable and are there not a number of other groups who have “gone the extra mile” in the last year? Will we be told where this extra money is coming from and what will be left un-done to pay for it? Is more money set aside for other appropriate working groups and how much has been budgeted?
James Watson, Randolph Crescent, Dunbar, East Lothian
Now the May election campaign has begun will any party explain to voters how the £150 billion cost of a Green Revolution will be repaid by the economy of an independent Scotland or is it assumed that the Bank of England will underwrite the debt?
Ian Moir, Queen Street, Castle Douglas
William Loneskie makes good points, but is wrong to say the “East German authorities could not afford” to clean up the River Mulde’s pollution (Letters, 25 March). They could indeed afford it, but like all such dictatorships, Ulbricht and Honecker imitated their Nazi predecessors’ methods and prioritised the Stasi secret police network, military, Berlin Wall, support for their Soviet overlords’ industrial demands, private hospitals and other facilities for party bigwigs, country shooting party estates for guests like Brezhnev, aid to like-minded thug regimes, and Berlin and Baltic shoot-to-kill border patrols, etc etc ad nauseam.
John Birkett, Horseleys Park, St Andrews
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