Education

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour 11:40 am, 29th March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive how children and young people have benefited from investment in the education system. (S2O-12530)

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

In 2005-06 we invested our highest amount ever in the Scottish school education system, with revenue expenditure of £4.4 billion. Expenditure on education has increased at an average rate of more than 5 per cent per annum in real terms since 1999. Under current expenditure plans, that amount will rise to £5.26 billion by 2007-08. We believe that that sustained and significant investment in staff and classrooms is making a difference. Throughout Scotland, pupils have more books and equipment and they are taught in modern schools by growing numbers of well-motivated teachers and support staff. Throughout the country, pupils, parents and teachers are now seeing the real results that the extra cash brings.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

The minister is absolutely correct to highlight the Executive's record investment in refurbishing existing schools, in building new schools, in reducing class sizes, in increasing the number of teachers and in driving up standards. Does the minister agree with me that the excellent report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education into Tulliallan primary school, which was published last week, as well as other reports on schools throughout Scotland, show how our young people are benefiting from that investment and that they show that our young people are truly getting the best start in life?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Scott Barrie has spoken to me about the excellent work that is being done at Tulliallan primary school. I congratulate not just the head teacher and teachers there, but all the school staff who have made that possible. Such work can be achieved only with the support of parents, which is increasingly significant throughout Scotland, through a real partnership to improve the life chances of our children. Excellent work is being done at Tulliallan primary school, and excellent work is being done in primary schools throughout the country. I congratulate Tulliallan primary in particular, and I ask Scott Barrie to convey my best wishes to all the staff and pupils there.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

I add my congratulations to Tulliallan primary school. Will the minister explain why the number of secondary teachers in Fife has reduced since 1997? Can he also explain to the people of Fife why, despite the investment that he claims has been put into schools, there are schools in Glenrothes that are raising funds through open days and fairs? The money that is raised is not going on extras for the children, but is being used to buy books and equipment.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Tricia Marwick will need to take that matter up with Fife Council. The reality is that when Peter Peacock was the Minister for Education and Young People, he allocated money directly to every education authority throughout the country specifically to employ additional teachers. When I became the Minister for Education and Young People, I allocated money to authorities to be provided directly to schools to allow them to make decisions about where it should be spent. More money is going into Scottish education. How the money is allocated and spent locally is a matter for the local authority, but the record is clear. The investment has been made.

One thing I know from the considerable record of new builds and refurbished schools in Fife since 2003 is that the promises that have been made by the SNP to build new schools cannot be delivered, because its proposed system of funding is not only unproven but cannot work because there cannot be borrowing. The SNP is still failing to answer the questions about how its programme would be funded. Pupils, teachers and parents throughout Scotland should rightly be worried about what will be done to Scottish education by the SNP's futile argument.