After section 20

Part of Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:30 pm on 7th June 2000.

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Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 4:30 pm, 7th June 2000

There was some debate at stage 2 in regard to self-governing schools. Evidence has been heard by the Education, Culture and Sport Committee on Gaelic schools, and there has been some debate about pluralism in education in relation to the curriculum, specifically in regard to Rudolf Steiner schools.

Amendment 29 seeks to consider all those issues and to provide some hope to parents who have interests in all those matters. There is no reason why the Government cannot establish, for instance, grant-aided Gaelic-medium schools where there is a clear parental demand.

In Dunblane, we have St Mary's Episcopal Primary School, which has only 65 pupils, achieving tremendous results that are well above the national average. St Mary's is an ideal example of self-government by parents and could be used as the model for Gaelic schools. Edinburgh's Gaelic-medium unit could become a grant-aided Gaelic school. Eventually, across Scotland we could see the development of Gaelic education boards, which would have responsibility for Gaelic education. That diversity of choice would sit well with our provision for Roman Catholic schools and other types of schools.

Gaelic is rich, alive and has a future. If the amendment were accepted, our Gaelic schools could flourish across the land. St Mary's is of course the sole surviving self-governing school. It consistently performs above the local and national averages. It is not about some abstract law of self-governance that allows schools to manage their own affairs with the involvement of parents. It is not some Tory relic of an imagined, horrible past. This affects a school that has real people, real teachers and real pupils in it, some of whom are in the public gallery today to hear the debate.

Many parents are—or should I say were—Labour voters. They—like Sam Galbraith—saw no difficulty in sending their children to an independent state school, but now they find that the independence that has contributed so much to the improvement of standards at their school is to be snuffed out, yet the independence at Jordanhill will remain. What parents seek is a level playing field.

Labour talks of elitism in education; with the bill, we see that the elite in Scotland is the Labour establishment. The amendment would put the parents at St Mary's and parents in the rest of Scotland on the same footing. In that sense, it is inclusive and anti-establishment and is about equality of opportunity.

I move amendment 29.