Scotland politics

MSPs vote to say Scottish government 'failing pupils'

Image caption MSPs voted to defeat the Scottish government by a margin of 63 to 62

MSPs have voted for a motion saying the Scottish government is "failing teachers, parents and pupils".

Opposition parties backed Scottish Labour's view, arguing that the SNP had presided over a decade of failure.

Tempers flared during the debate, with Education Secretary John Swinney calling the motion "pathetically miserable" and "disgraceful".

However, his amendment was rejected by 63 votes to 62, before the motion was passed by the same margin.

Labour's Iain Gray put forward the motion titled "the Scottish government and education, 10 years of letting down teachers, parents and pupils".

It highlighted evidence received by the education committee that "many teachers have lost confidence in Education Scotland and the SQA", while noting disappointment with international survey results which showed a decline in reading, science and maths scores.

The motion concluded that the Scottish government's "stewardship of education is failing teachers, parents and pupils".

Image caption Iain Gray urged John Swinney to "ditch" planned education reforms

Urging Mr Swinney to "ditch" his planned reform programme, Mr Gray said: "Yes, our schools need reform. But, above all, our schools need more teachers with more support, more time and more resources to do their job.

"That is the core reform. Failure to deliver it is the defining characteristic of the SNP decade in charge of education."

'Pathetically miserable'

Mr Swinney said Mr Gray's motion "says absolutely nothing good about Scottish education", calling it "disgraceful" and "pathetically miserable".

He tabled an amendment saying Holyrood "congratulates pupils and teachers on their achievements" and should note "a continued increase in the positive destinations for young people leaving school".

He said: "I am first to accept that there are challenges that exist within Scottish education and there is an opportunity for political parties in this Parliament to work with the government in taking forward the agenda and contributing to the agenda.

"What concerns me about the characterisation of Scottish education from Mr Gray today is the unwillingness to acknowledge the strength of performance that has been achieved."

Image caption John Swinney said the Labour motion was "pathetically miserable"

The Scottish Conservatives, who have pledged to hold a "root and branch review" of the Curriculum for Excellence, said Mr Gray was right to flag up "the great difficulties" present in education, while noting that "there are of course very good things going on".

MSP Liz Smith said: "The Pisa scores show us exactly where we have to go to ensure that we are bringing up Scottish education, not just for those in the lower attainment group but for those in the highest attainment group as well."

She added: "We also know we have problems in teacher recruitment. And we learned last week that we have serious shortages in key subjects like English and maths. That's a serious worry for Scottish education."

Education committee convener James Dornan accused Labour MSPs of "negativity and defeatism".

He said their "depressing and negative attitude" and "constant criticism" was not helping education, adding that responsibility for teacher numbers lies at local authority level.

Ross Greer of the Scottish Greens welcomed Labour's focus on education, but said the motion should have contained more solutions.

And Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott said education needed "a change to the culture of conformity".

In the final votes, Mr Swinney saw his amendment defeated, while Mr Gray's was approved, handing the government its third defeat in the Holyrood chamber in seven days, after debates on the Scottish Funding Council and health services.

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