JOHN SWINNEY has launched a mini-manifesto for education containing five pledges for SNP councils.
The priorities include transforming early learning and childcare, investing in and empowering schools, maintaining teacher numbers and pupil-teacher ratios, building better schools and improving outcomes for youngsters in care.
Campaigning ahead of the local government elections on May 4, Education Secretary Mr Swinney said: “A good education is an investment – not just in our children, but in our society and our economy too.
“A vote for the SNP in the council elections is a vote to elect councillors who are dedicated to protecting and improving our education system.
“The SNP believes from the early years through to adulthood, everyone should be given the very best chance of success in life.”
He highlighted Scottish Government plans to almost double free childcare to 30 hours a week, invest £120 million in schools to close the attainment gap and reform school governance to empower headteachers.
He said SNP councils would “work with the Scottish Government to build or refurbish 112 schools by 2020 – covering every local authority area”.
Mr Swinney added: “These policies are a firm building block in helping us deliver our vision for a Scotland where every child has every chance to succeed.”
Labour and the Conservatives claimed education was not the SNP’s top priority.
Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray MSP said Mr Swinney had “repeatedly dropped the ball” on education.
He said: “Under the SNP, the gap between the richest and poorest in our schools has widened, and there are 4,000 fewer teachers and 1,000 fewer support staff in our schools.
“The SNP government has cut £1.5 billion from local services since 2011 – that’s cuts to education made by John Swinney when he was finance secretary.
“The situation is so bad that at a school in John Swinney’s own constituency parents were asked to volunteer to teach maths because of the teacher shortage.”
He said voting for Labour in the council elections would send a message to the SNP to drop its “obsession” with holding another independence referendum.
Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “People are tired of hearing the SNP’s excuses on why our education system is failing.”
She added: “Everyone knows that all the SNP rhetoric about education being their top priority is not matched by the necessary action.
“Having been in power for 10 years, they have no excuses for why we are performing so poorly, with teacher numbers too low and the recent Pisa figures showing that Scottish pupils are now playing catch-up with the rest of the world.”
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