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I declare a registered interest:
I have a daughter who is a secondary school teacher.
I am delighted to speak in today’s debate, because it gives me the opportunity once again to reiterate my strong belief that education is a major solution to health and welfare issues. The Scottish Government’s commitment at the beginning of the session to have education as its main objective was most welcome. In fact, Nicola Sturgeon went further, stating that we should judge it on the success of its education policy. That was against the backdrop, of course, of the flagship education bill, which is now defunct.
As Liz Smith stated in her opening remarks, the principles that underpin curriculum for excellence—excellence and equity—are the right ones and all parties in the Parliament quite rightly supported them. However, it is the Scottish Government’s implementation of the policy and the measurement of its outcomes that highlight its failure to deliver against those objectives—no matter how hard the Scottish Government has tried to avoid proper scrutiny. The stark reality is that, when measured against the objectives of excellence and equity—especially equity, in my view—the Scottish Government has been shown to be failing significantly.
Despite the protestations of Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney to the contrary, we now know that even their own civil servants told them that subject choices were reducing and that senior students were taking fewer subjects than before. Time and again in the chamber, I have heard the incredible claim from John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon that, somehow, that would not have a negative effect on our children’s education.
However, according to Professor Jim Scott, the effect of reducing S4 options is to force pupils to make their choices for highers in S3, which again reduces their ability to have a wider education base.