Charles Dundas gives his View of education

Tuesday April 6th 2021

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Midlothian View Holyrood Challenge: This View has been written by Charles Dundas, the Scottish Liberal Democrats' candidate in the Midlothian North & Musselburgh constituency for the Scottish Elections on Thursday May 6th 2021

I’ve contested a lot of elections in my time, and this has to be one of the strangest. Stuck at home unable to get out and meet people on the doorsteps, so I’m delighted to have been offered an opportunity to write something for Midlothian View’s Holyrood Challenge.

I’m very pleased to report that Willie Rennie and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have kicked things off on the national stage on a really positive and constructive note. Our key priority for the whole country is a needle-sharp focus on putting recovery from the pandemic first. That means prioritising the creation of jobs, cutting NHS waiting times, boosting mental health services and seriously tackling the climate emergency.

For my own campaign in Midlothian North and Musselburgh though, I’d like to start with an issue dear to my heart. As the son of two teachers and the product of a free state education myself I know how important our nurseries, schools and colleges are for educating and training the coming generations; nothing less than building the foundations of the type of country we are going to be in the future.

I’m pleased to say that the Scottish Liberal Democrats agree with me and have put forward plans to boost Scottish education, for every stage and every age: enabling everyone to get a good start in life; to excel at school; and to help people retrain if they need to.

Right at the heart of our ideas for education is an Education Bounce Back plan which will also tackle the attainment gap, because we believe that this is essential investment which will allow everyone in Scotland to achieve their potential.

Back in 2016 the SNP called our proposals for extra money to be allocated directly to schools and targeted at closing the poverty related attainment gap “dangerous” and “ridiculous”, but we didn’t give up, and during the last Parliament the Scottish Government created a Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) scheme to do just that on a year-by-year basis. Then in the last Scottish budget the Lib Dems were able to secure an extra 16% (£20 million) to boost that scheme and therefore do more to close the attainment gap.

Now, Willie Rennie and the Lib Dems propose to make this targeted extra money for the schools who need it most a permanent feature of Scottish education – just as the Liberal Democrats have already been able to do in England, an initiative which is significantly helping disadvantaged schools to level the playing field. In Scotland we will start offering this equality funding on a long-term basis to schools so that they can make plans to invest it in the children over multiple years with confidence.

That should allow the 600 or so teachers who are currently employed on temporary contracts across Scotland – because of the uncertainty around the PEF scheme – to be given more security, and allow Scottish education to bounce back the way that it needs to. Something which would benefit not just North Midlothian and Musselburgh, but schools across the whole country.

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