Colin Beattie’s View on Education

Tuesday April 13th 2021

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Midlothian View Holyrood Challenge: This View has been written by Colin Beattie, the Scottish National Party's candidate in the Midlothian North & Musselburgh constituency for the Scottish Elections on Thursday May 6th 2021

This has been a very strange election period so far. I have never seen so much abuse on social media and really it is no wonder a number of parliamentarians have stepped down. The worst affected targets are female members of all parties who receive even more violent and personally threatening abuse. This is unquestionably unacceptable and the best thing that we can do is simply block those who are abusive online.

We need to be able to attract and retain the best into our Parliament, but the online abuse politicians face turns many away from this career. Most people simply will not tolerate the senseless vindictiveness and mindless attacks masquerading as criticism. Nor should they have to. Legitimate questioning is drowned out as a consequence and those in need of help get missed in a sea of abusive comments. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I still believe in courtesy and honourable behaviour. Does the solution lie in education?

In Scotland we are good at talking ourselves down. Despite comments to the contrary, Scottish education remains among the very best in the world. We know this because other nations tell us so and send delegations to find out what we are doing to achieve this. I believe that one of the most important elements is closing the attainment gap. The SNP Government has spent £750 million on the Attainment Scotland Fund to put in place measures to close the attainment gap and the participation gap between those who live in the most deprived and least deprived areas has narrowed year-on-year between 2016-17 and 2019-2020.

A record £200 million is being invested in this Attainment Scotland Fund in 2021-22 to help mitigate against the impact of the pandemic. The gap between pupils achieving 1 pass or more at National 5 level has reduced from 33.3 percentage points in 2009-10 to 20.8 percentage points in 2019-20 and the gap between pupils achieving 1 pass or more Higher level has reduced from 45.6 percentage points in 2009-10 to 36.1 percentage points in 2019-20. These steps in closing the attainment gap have, in my opinion, been one of the great triumphs of the SNP Government.

Under the SNP 1,000 schools have been built or refurbished creating a comfortable, modern learning environment for our young people. Everyone working and learning in a school benefits from a brighter more efficient building. Next year, if re-elected, an SNP Government would spend a further £1 billion improving the school estates. In the last decade, Midlothian has benefitted from over £125 million in local schools being both built and upgraded, including projects at Newbattle High School and Lasswade High School.
Currently pupils in P1 to 3 receive free school lunches – a massive expansion of the provision. If re-elected the SNP Government will expand this even further so that all primary school pupils will receive free school lunches. Free breakfast provision will be added to this program for all primary school pupils. Hungry children cannot learn, and we need to take critical steps to ensure that children are getting the food they need to thrive.

Covid-19 has really highlighted the need to close the digital divide. A re-elected SNP Government will ensure that every child at school receives a laptop, chromebook, or tablet to use at home to enhance their learning experience, with internet access and technical support included. This will be a massive leap forward in learning capability and in levelling up school provision. It will build on the supply of the tens of thousands of devices already handed out during Covid-19.

It goes without saying that our commitment to provide education free to all our youngsters remains – and free University tuition is a key part of that.

Education is arguably one of the most important pillars of our society and the key to our future prosperity and wellbeing. We must continue to nurture it, invest in it, and develop it in a fair and sustainable way.

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