Scotland politics

Swinney: 'Strong progress' in Scotland's schools

John Swinney Image copyright PA
Image caption John Swinney said there were "challenges" to address but said "strong progress" is being made

Education Secretary John Swinney has insisted "strong progress" is being made in Scotland's schools.

He told the SNP conference in Aberdeen that he recognised the "challenges" to address, but insisted the party was delivering in education.

Opposition parties passed a Holyrood motion saying the SNP were "failing teachers, parents and pupils".

But Mr Swinney said the picture of the education system they paint "bears no resemblance to reality".

The deputy first minister said the government had set itself a "huge task" in tackling the attainment gap between schools, adding that "everything we do" is focused on this.

He said: "Across Scottish education, I recognise there are challenges to address. But we are making strong progress.

"Last year our young people achieved record levels of Advanced Higher passes, with the level of Higher passes second only to the record high achieved in 2015.

"More young people from the most deprived communities now leave school with at least one higher or equivalent. And the proportion of young people leaving school for positive destinations reached a record high in 2015/16.

"These achievements are no accident. They are the result of the right choices being made."

Image caption Mr Swinney was speaking at the SNP conference in Aberdeen

Mr Swinney insisted the government "makes the tough choices in the best interests of the people of Scotland", hitting out at opposition parties who recently inflicted a defeat on the government over its education record.

He said: "They try to paint a picture of Scottish education system that bears no resemblance to reality. At no point do the opposition recognise or acknowledge the efforts of everyone in education at all levels who make success happen for children and young people.

"But then, that is the luxury of opposition."

He continued: "For all the progress we have made, we know there is more still to do. That sometimes requires making tough choices and not shying away from difficult choices.

"The easy choice to make would be to wait, to see how things pan out. That applies equally to education as it does to our constitutional future.

"But I am not prepared to wait and see if the current way of doing things will be enough to deliver an education system that is world class, a system that can provide equity and excellence for all our children."

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