Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, says education will top of her party’s agenda if the Scottish National Party (SNP) gets a third term in office.
Sturgeon pledged 30-hours of free childcare per week for three- and four-year-old students. If the SNP wins the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016, education will be front and center until 2020, the party’s president vowed in her speech, as she announced the introduction of a National Standardized test in primary schools.
Sturgeon already announced that a £100 million fund will go to the poorest regions of Scotland. She reinforced the party’s commitment by saying:
“I am determined that, for the SNP, education will be front and center of our plans for a third term in government.”
In a bid to close the student attainment gap between poor and wealthy students, the Sturgeon announced the National Improvement Framework. The Framework introduces national standardized tests for Scottish students – an already controversial proposal that many fear will lead to the creation of school league tables and a teacher and student obsession over test scores.
The national standardized tests are to take place in primary schools at grades P1, P4, and P7, and during the third year of secondary education. During her keynote speech to the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon said that the new testing framework designed for primary schoolchildren will help bridge the gap between the best and worst-performing schools of Scotland. Her education efforts will focus on giving young students the best educational start they can get. She explained:
“Our most transformational infrastructure investment in the next parliament will not be in a bridge or a road. It will be our investment to transform childcare provision, providing parents with 30 hours a week of government funded childcare, enabling them to return to work, to pursue their careers and to know that their children are being well cared for, well educated and given the best start of life.”
Sturgeon has previously said that she won’t let schools out of local authority control, but she is keen to consider others’ suggestions on how to close the achievement gap, The Telegraph reports.
Sturgeon’s focus on education partly emanates from the heavy criticism she and her party have come under in recent months in view of their failure to close the student attainment gap between poor and wealthy schools and the deteriorating numeracy and literacy level among students, Chris Green reports for The Independent.
The Conservative Party, through Ms. Ruth Davidson, revealed a report titled ‘The Gold Standard’ in which she puts forward proposals such as direct budget allocation to head teachers rather than local councils, the BBC says.
The Conservative education manifesto revolves around three main points: increased transparency regarding student performance, giving schools more control, and improving the falling literacy and numeracy standards. The Scottish Tory commented:
“[W]e need a culture shift so that there is a clear presumption that power should lie at the level of the school.”
Sturgeon and her party are under pressure from Conservatives to give control of school funding to head teachers. Some say the £100 million fund won’t suffice to close the attainment gap, The Telegraph reports.