Sturgeon’s flagship plan for schools ‘impossible’ to introduce in timescale

An extra teacher or qualified worker has been pledged for all nurseries in deprived areas. Photograph: Getty
An extra teacher or qualified worker has been pledged for all nurseries in deprived areas. Photograph: Getty
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Flagship Scottish Govern­ment plans to drive down the schooling gap between rich and poor areas, while “transforming” childcare provision will be “impossible” to introduce in the timescale set out by ministers, it has been claimed.

Council leaders have revealed that local officials have been met with a “deafening silence” in their requests for information on funding from SNP ministers.

Leaders from the Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) were presented with a document by officials at a meeting last Friday which they say exposes “massive failings” in the government’s plans to overhaul education and tackle the attainment gap.

Last night SLGP convener Jenny Laing accused Nicola Sturgeon of kicking her party’s education plans “into the long grass” and said her failure to address these issues with efficiency and zeal had let down parents and pupils all over Scotland.

She said: “Our officials have said that all requests around how these policy pledges are going to be taken forward and funded have been ignored.

“Take the pledge to extend childcare from 0600 hours to 1140 hours by 2020/21, for example. This will require a massive building programme to create the nurseries required to accommodate the plan. But we have not had one single piece of information on what the capital investment will be or when the government will even begin to put milestones in place so we can at least start planning.

“Our officials have said that because of the Scottish Government’s reluctance to communicate details, it will now be impossible to implement the policy in the time promised to the people of Scotland.”

Ministers have also pledged to deliver an additional teacher or qualified worker for every nursery in a deprived area. But despite a list of more than 100 nurseries being provided in SLGP councils, there has been no response from the Scottish Government.

“These policies are designed to deal with Scotland’s catastrophic attainment gap, but if they don’t materialise, as now looks very likely, the First Minister cannot even begin to deliver on her promise to the country that she will tackle the problem,” said Laing, the convener of Aberdeen City council.

“If we have got to the stage where officers are coming to us in desperation, then ministers either don’t know what to do next or inertia has taken a grip at the very top of Nicola Sturgeon’s administration.”

The SLGP comprises four local authorities – Aberdeen, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire.

Officials also highlighted the potential failings in the SNP’s plan to provide nurseries in deprived areas with additional teachers and support staff.

Education officials from Glasgow said it had identified one private nursery on the border of Castlemilk which, while classed as being in a deprived area, took most of its children from the more affluent area of East Kilbride.

A Scottish Government spokesman said spending plans for next year will be set out in this week’s budget.