Parents should not have to pay fees or move to a better “catchment area” to get their children into a good school, Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson has said.
The party has today set out radical plans to hand full control over lessons and budgets in schools to headteachers as part of a series of measures aimed at driving up standards.
Ms Davidson today called for a “cultural shift” away from local council control as she launched a paper on education ahead of the Holyrood elections later this year.
The party has previously called for parents to be allowed to set up their own schools but today’s plans will mean the power to set curriculum, enter exams and spend school budgets will now lie directly with the heads.
Ms Davidson said: “It is time for us to rise up against the bog-standard comprehensive, and work towards gold-standard schools in every village, town and city in Scotland.
“I don’t want the international experts to be using words like ‘good’, ‘average’ or ‘satisfactory’ when they are describing our schools in future. I want our schools to be ‘great’ and, as these studies show, there is currently room for substantial improvement.”
The proposals in the Tory paper launched today entitled The Gold Standard – a world class education for every child. It sets out a series of new policies which will feed into the party’s 2016 election manifesto this year.
It points to “frustration” on the part of many school leaders over the lack of autonomy which headteachers have when it comes to spending a school’s budget and setting the curriculum.
There are also plans for a “buddying” system which would see the best and worst-performing schools paired up to help spread best practice. There would also be greater focus on literacy and numeracy, including help for parents to make this a key part of children’s daily life.
“We want to make your local school your school of choice – so that parents who currently feel the need to pay fees or move catchment area to secure a better start for their child, don’t have to,” Ms Davidson added.
A new First Minister’s Reading Challenge will also be launched which would see all pupils read a dozen books in pursuit of a prize. The recent OECD report into Scottish education said there were “particular challenges” facing secondary schools.