Stability in our Schools
We will provide stability in our classrooms. As a nation we have agreed the reforms that are required and it is now about the successful implementation and delivery of those improvements through the Curriculum for Excellence. The SNP will, therefore, focus on building and completing the roll out of CfE, providing the support teachers and schools need to make it real from 0-18 and beyond, including continuing professional development.
Continuous Improvement in Educational Attainment
The most recent figures from the respected survey of international education performance, PISA 2009, show that the decline in Scotland's educational performance has been halted. After a period of drift since devolution, the first assessment under an SNP government shows that the tide has turned, with Scottish pupils performing above the international average in reading and science, at the international average in maths and at the same level as in England and Northern Ireland and better than Wales. We are determined to see an increased performance in the next PISA survey.
Curriculum for Excellence
The Curriculum for Excellence will deliver the connected, balanced and flexible approach which we need and it will free our teachers to teach. It will make teaching more enjoyable for those who do it, and those who benefit from it. And like all positive change, the more it is embraced, the more good it will do. We will enable our teachers and schools to deliver new learning through the Curriculum for Excellence, making it the cornerstone of education, providing the educational route from the earliest years through school to college, university and beyond. This will equip all our young people for life, work, leisure and further learning in the modern world.
The Curriculum for Excellence will have at its core a new emphasis on literacy and numeracy so we get the basics right from the early years. And we will work to improve outcomes and deliver a more flexible and personal learning experience for every child. Scotland's ambition should be to eradicate illiteracy and innumeracy and the actions we take over these next five years will be focused on delivering significant progress towards this goal.
Ultimately, our new curriculum will nurture young people as successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. And, like the best education systems in the world, it will focus on quality of the teaching, which requires investment in teachers, and on the quality of the resources available, which is why we will continue to support the world-leading schools intranet and the new Online National Assessment Resource.
A New Generation of National Qualifications
New and refreshed qualifications, building on what we have, will be available from 2013-14 onwards to meet the needs of the first group of young people to have benefited from the new curriculum. We will ensure the successful delivery of these new qualifications, on time and on budget.
Smaller Class Sizes in Early Years
Smaller classes help improve the quality of the pupil teacher interaction which in turn leads to improved learning. Over these past four years class sizes in our primary schools have got smaller. They are now at record low levels. Progress has been made and there is more work to do. And, smaller class sizes ¥particularly in Primaries 1-3 and in the areas of greatest deprivation - are worth working for.
With local government we will look first to maintain the recent improvement before continuing with progressive reductions in class sizes and improved pupil-teacher ratios. And, in doing so we will also support initiatives such as nurture groups which are showing good results for many pupils.
From August this year there will be a new legal limit of 25 on class sizes in Primary 1. And over the next five years we will bring together the complex guidance and legislation on class sizes to deliver a coherent system in Scotland's schools to support progressive reductions in the youngest years.
Supporting our Teachers
We have introduced the McCormac Review into the 2001 McCrone agreement to see whether, 10 years on, that deal is delivering all the benefits that were intended for both teachers and pupils, is suited to the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence, attracts the most-talented people into the teaching profession and promotes strong leadership. The review will also examine the cost and size of the teacher workforce in the context of the current financial climate. We will carefully assess the recommendations made in the review and working in partnership will take forward those that we believe will deliver improvements in Scottish education.
We will also work with the profession and other partners to take forward the recommendations of the Donaldson Review, Teaching Scotland's Future. Our aim is to equip teachers with the skills and continuous professional development they need. We believe many of the recommendations, for example, on hub schools, the incorporation of Masters level credits into ongoing professional development and increased quality assurance, will provide a new direction and improved outcomes.
After a difficult period for teacher employment, in part caused by decisions by some local authorities to reduce teacher numbers rather than prioritise smaller classes, we have now reached agreement with local government to deliver sufficient teaching posts for all probationers who successfully complete their probation in summer 2011, and a place for all probationer teachers who require one under the induction scheme in August 2011. We now have the lowest teacher unemployment in the UK and are committed to reducing it further.
Ensuring the Highest Quality in Education
We will ensure the successful creation of the new Scottish Education Quality and Improvement Agency, which will bring the work of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education and Learning and Teaching Scotland together in one place. This new agency will improve the efficiency of the national bodies supporting education. It will be responsible for driving forward innovation in education by promoting best practice and providing support, resources and feedback based on inspections.
This quality and improvement body will be charged with leading the drive to complete the implementation of the new curriculum, improving our school education and encouraging innovation in our classrooms. It will do this with less bureaucracy, less red tape and with more resources freed to go to the frontline.
Minimising the Barriers to Education
We will keep the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). We will also work to ensure the EMA takes account of the needs of young carers, with more flexibility to recognise the particular pressures that some youngster face balancing school and caring responsibilities.
We are also proud of our action to extend free school meals and in time will look at ways of expanding current provision. We will also look to work with local authorities to identify other steps we can take in the future, when there is less pressure on education budgets, to improve support for low income families to help meet the costs associated with school, for example school uniforms and school trips.
Schools for the Future
We have already delivered 330 new and refurbished schools in the last four years - more than our predecessors. We will now take forward our £1.25 billion investment in new schools, with projects in every local authority area in Scotland. We are determined to replace or refurbish the worst condition schools in Scotland and will develop a new, third phase of school building to ensure an ongoing pipeline of new projects.
We halved the number of children in unsuitable buildings during our first term - we will do the same during our second, getting it down to a level where such buildings can be completely eliminated within a further five years. That will have undone the harm done over several generations by the Tory and Labour governments that neglected school maintenance and failed to replace crumbling buildings.
Working with the Scottish Futures Trust we will also look at ways of delivering greener schools, both in terms of construction and design. And we will work to ensure Scotland maintains its lead position on information and communication technology in our schools.
Please see pages 23-24 of the Scottish National Party manifesto for this policy.
Please see this SCREEN GRAB of the previous version of this policy from the party website.
Retrieved on 16/04/11 (1:30pm) from: 2011 Party Manifesto