Scotland politics

Row over 'delay' to Scottish education reform bill

Sturgeon
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon faced questioned from all four opposition leaders over education reforms

The Scottish government has been accused of kicking education reform "into the long grass" after a delay to its Education Bill.

Nicola Sturgeon defended "right and proper" plans to put back legislation with a large number of consultation responses to consider.

Education was raised by all opposition parties during the weekly session of first minister's questions.

There were angry exchanges as the government was accused of "stalling".

The proposed legislation was originally meant to be published early in 2017, but Education Secretary John Swinney has now said it will be published "sometime during 2017" so he has time to "chew over" some 1,100 responses to a school governance review.

During first minister's questions, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said education reform had been left on a "slow train".

She said: "A year and a half ago, the first minister staked her reputation on reforming Scotland's schools and what have we seen since then?

"We've seen literacy standards slipping, we've seen numeracy standards sliding, we've seen Curriculum for Excellence failing, and now we've seen her education secretary stalling.

"She keeps putting their referendum on the front foot but she's putting everyone else's child's education on the back burner. Hasn't her government got their priorities all wrong on this?"

Image caption Ruth Davidson said education was "on the back burner" while the SNP talked about an independence referendum

Ms Sturgeon replied: "Every time Ruth Davidson stands up in this chamber all she manages to do is shoot herself in the foot. I want to talk about education and she just continually tries to shoe-horn in the mentions of independence and a referendum.

"We have had the consultation on governance reform. We have received over 1,000 responses to that consultation and it's right and proper that the education secretary considers all of those responses and then comes forward to parliament with our proposals on the way forward."

'Pound shop Ruth Davidson'

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale followed up the Tory leader's questions, prompting the first minister to refer to her as a "pound shop Ruth Davidson".

Ms Dugdale said: "It has been 10 months since the election, yet parents and teachers still remain in the dark about the SNP's plans for our schools. As we've just heard, the education secretary has kicked the consultation on how schools are run into the long grass.

"The first minister said that's just one part of her education reforms, and she's right. There's also the Education Bill, the very symbol of this government's apparent number one priority - it has been kicked into the long grass too.

"The SNP's power grab to centralise every school budget in the country, kicked into the long grass as well. And the roll out of national testing, which she also mentioned, has been delayed as well."

Image caption Kezia Dugdale accused the Scottish government of a "power grab"

The first minister replied: "We're giving £120 million direct to head teachers in almost every single one of our schools across the country. Giving resources and the power to use those resources direct to head teachers.

"Only in the world of Scottish Labour could that be described as centralising education budgets. It is the exact opposition of centralising education budgets."

'Completely unacceptable'

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie raised the case of a school support worker who was told to watch sitcom The Big Bang Theory as training for how to deal with a pupil with Asperger Syndrome.

He said Holyrood's education committee had heard "shocking" evidence of provisions for pupils with additional support needs.

Ms Sturgeon said the Big Bang Theory case was "completely unacceptable", adding: "Something like 95% of all children with additional support needs are taught in mainstream schools.

"We must not see the support that they need as just being support that they get from additional support teachers. Every single teacher working in our schools has a responsibility to provide the support that those young people need."

Image caption Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie also raised questions about education

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie asked Ms Sturgeon to "think again" about "national testing" and school league tables.

Ms Sturgeon said she did not support national testing or league tables, but "standardised testing" and the publication of data on a school by school basis.

Both she and Mr Rennie accused each other of being "100% wrong" about the subject, with the first minister accusing the Lib Dem leader of "trying to mislead people about standardised testing".

This drew a point of order from Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles, who accused Ms Sturgeon of using unparliamentarily language.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said he did not consider the "misleading" jibe unparliamentarily, but reminded members to treat each other with respect.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites