Education Reforms

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of his statement.

On the programme for government, the First Minister told us in 2017 that

“A new Education Bill will deliver the biggest and the most radical change to how our schools are run”.—[

Official Report,

5 September 2017, c 13.]

Exactly a year ago, however, the cabinet secretary decided to scrap the bill, and defended the U-turn by telling us that without legislation faster progress would be made in improving school standards. Now he is telling us that he has “cautious optimism” that standards are improving and that the improvement has been possible because of the absence of an education bill.

You could not make it up—there are no hard facts whatsoever to prove his contention. Indeed, it will not have escaped the cabinet secretary’s notice that the Education and Skills Committee recently reported that

“The lack of baseline data means no meaningful conclusions on upward or downward trends can be reached, at a time of reform within Scottish education.”

What evidence has the cabinet secretary found, that nobody else has found, that proves that standards are improving across the board? Does he really believe that the evidence supports his view when he says that

“we would not have come so far” if an education bill had been introduced? Does he believe that, when a local authority takes a blanket decision to move all its schools to a six-column subject choice structure for pupils in S4, headteachers enjoy the greater autonomy that was promised by the Scottish Government?