The SNP’s leadership hopefuls yesterday outlined plans to close the education attainment gap ahead of polls opening for voting in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes told a hustings at Strathclyde University in Glasgow that too many children could not learn properly because they were going to school hungry.
Forbes said: “My sister is a primary one teacher and she tells me that most weeks, before even starting to teach, you have to try to fill these kids’ bellies. Some of them are four or five years old and they are coming in starving. For me, the roots of the attainment gap are found in the outrageous injustice that in a rich country like ours too many kids are deprived of food, fuel and love.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “There are far too many children in Scotland who are not getting a timely diagnosis for autism and learning difficulties. The government need to go further on this.
“Too many children have waited too long. If we got that diagnosis to them early, the wrap-around support we could have provided them could have made all the difference to their educational journey.”
Former Community Safety minister Ash Regan suggested raising the school age to seven.
She added: “In many schools, teachers are expected to act as social workers and psychologists, which is taking up their time and not allowing them to focus on teaching. I think we need to increase the in-house support for teachers, and if it is necessary to have an in-house social worker or psychologist, then I think that’s something we should be looking at.”
Voting by SNP members on the party’s next leader opens tomorrow and closes on March 27, with the winner to be declared that day. The SNP party establishment has swung behind Yousaf, who is seen as a Sturgeon loyalist. Of 64 SNP MSPs, 16 have still to say who they will support.
Yesterday Deputy First Minister John Swinney and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn joined the senior party figures backing Yousaf. SNP MSP Michelle Thomson, who is backing Forbes, said the party establishment is “absolutely panicking” at polls putting Forbes ahead.
She said: “Given how close we are to the vote opening, many party members will look upon this 11th-hour intervention rather cynically. They don’t need to be told by party HQ what to think or how to vote.”
Nicola Sturgeon insists she will remain neutral and claimed she did not watch the first TV debate.
However, reports yesterday suggested she called Yousaf’s team immediately after the STV debate when Forbes savaged his ministerial record.
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