I am glad to hear that education is the number one priority for the Executive, although I notice that it was mentioned last. I am sure that that will not be reflected by the impetus that will be given to the bill when it is introduced and we are given more detail. Education became a key issue during the election campaign. All areas of education-not just tuition fees, but pre-school education, higher still and other issues-gained new importance, and that is welcome.
Also welcome is the opportunity for greater consultation. As the Parliament does not have a second chamber to scrutinise the legislation we pass, it is all the more important that we go the extra mile to consult on and scrutinise our work on education. For that reason, I will be interested to hear the detail of what will be in the education bill. For the moment, we have only the soundbites.
I notice that the bill will confirm local control of education and will include provisions to meet promises in respect of self-governing schools. I will be interested to see whether the plural applies, and that not only St Mary's Episcopal Primary School in Dunblane is included in any proposals, but that Jordanhill School in Glasgow is too.
St Mary's opted to go its own way, not because it was facing closure, but because it did not agree with the development plan that Central Regional Council had in mind for it. While it has had control of its own destiny, it has managed to increase the number of teaching positions and pupils, so that there is now a waiting list. It has managed to improve standards of education through various tests, and through the yardsticks that it uses for measurement, and it has done so at a lower cost than the average cost at other schools in Stirling. It will be interesting to see the detail surrounding the debate on self-governing schools.