SNP should listen to Labour's plan to make Scottish education world-leading once again – Ian Murray MP

Today’s generation of students have suffered massive disruption to their education as a result of the pandemic.

The forced closure of schools, colleges and universities could have long-lasting consequences, with no comparable loss in schooling since universal education was first introduced.

The impact on general attainment, the poverty-related attainment gap, social and emotional development, mental health, and ultimately young people’s life chances will be significant.

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Not only will this generation of pupils have missed out on some schooling, when they enter the jobs market they will do so at a time of huge economic uncertainty.

That’s why it’s so important that rebuilding our education system is prioritised by the Scottish Government.

Unfortunately, what was supposed to be Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘defining mission’ has been anything but.

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Over 14 years of SNP rule, our education system has plummeted down the international rankings, ruining our once proud reputation as a global beacon for education.

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Calls for sweeping reform as SQA scrapped following OECD report recommendations
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Scotland's school pupils have experienced unprecedented disruption to their education because of the pandemic (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

That is the inevitability of a government utterly obsessed with nationalist politics, grievance and division, rather than what really matters to young people and families.

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The calamitous John Swinney was put in charge during the last term of parliament and made things even worse.

Oh how the First Minister must wish she could put him out to pasture, but he has become an immovable part of the Cabinet furniture.

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His successor Shirley Anne-Somerville MSP is now in charge of an education system in urgent need of reform and resources.

The SNP refused to release the draft OECD report on Curriculum for Excellence before the election, knowing it included a wholesale rejection of the party’s education policies in recent years. Given the damning indictment of the report, it is little wonder they suppressed it until after Scots voted.

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The nationalists manage to put the Tories to shame when it comes to keeping voters in the dark.

The years of cuts and complacency must come to an end.

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As a first step, it’s welcome that the failing SQA is to be scrapped.

It would have been unacceptable for the body to preside over the next year of national qualifications.

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Next, we need an end to the narrowing of the curriculum and a far greater focus on ensuring that pupils receive an in-depth education in all their subjects.

And action is needed to support and resource teachers and schools to deliver for pupils.

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I do accept, however, that opposition parties can often be seen to be carping from the side lines.

So that’s why Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Michael Marra MSP has put forward a detailed “timetable for ambition” in response to the OECD report.

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It is constructive and practical, and the Scottish Government should listen.

The proposals include immediate negotiations on a new deal for teachers, the urgent establishment of an independent Inspectorate, the creation of an interim body for assessment and curriculum, while consultation on a new permanent body takes place, and ensuring the chairs of the new Inspectorate and permanent assessment and curriculum bodies are parliamentary appointments.

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We must learn the lessons of failings of the past years so Scotland can once again lead the world in education.

The narrowing of the attainment gap should be a national mission.

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Young people, families, the teaching profession and our economy deserve that ambition.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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