First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveils education reforms for Scotland

Following a nation-wide report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the state of public education in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a National Improvement Framework to improve key areas where Scottish education is lacking.

The National Improvement Framework’s implementation was unveiled on 6 January, when Sturgeon announced the goals and initiatives of the framework in her opening remarks at the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement, which Scotland hosted this past weekend.

The framework is designed to target the four main areas where Scotland is most lacking in its education sector: “raising attainment, closing the attainment gap, improving health and wellbeing, and improving employability”, according to Sturgeon. The First Minister was most vocal on the need to address the attainment gap, which refers to the dichotomy present between the success of students from lower income levels when compared with that of the higher. 

“Nobody can be comfortable living in a country where different levels of wealth create such a significant gap in the attainment levels – and therefore the life chances – of so many children. It’s bad for the children most directly affected, but, in my view, it also impoverishes us as a society. It means that too many people are unable to realise their potential, and to fully contribute their talents, ideas and energies to society”, said Sturgeon in her address on Wednesday.

The framework includes new types of assessments to be administered to students in primary and secondary school, as well as new communication channels which will allow greater engagement between teachers, students and parents. The framework has also established a £100 million Attainment Scotland Fund to help aid the SNP government in implementing new education reforms.

On 5 January, the day before the congress convened, Sturgeon led the first Holyrood Debate of 2016, one of many to be held leading up to the elections in May. “I am determined that, for the SNP, education will be front and centre of our plans for a third term in government”, she said on Tuesday.

The company responsible for publishing the Scottish Education Report for 2015, OECD,  is an international economic organisation founded to stimulate economic progress and world trade, with an education department which services all 34 of its member countries. The OECD report highlighted both the achievements of Scottish eduction over the past decade, and areas which were in need of improvement.

“There is much positive praise in this report for what is being delivered for our children in Scottish schools” Sturgeon told the OECD report upon publication. “However, the report also highlights challenges and reinforces the Scottish Government’s determination to focus on achieving excellence and equity within our education system.

“I am particularly pleased that the OECD supports our decision to develop and implement a National Improvement Framework. […] I firmly believe the framework will play an important role in driving work to close the attainment gap and continually improve Scottish education. We will now lead the work with our partners in Scottish education to take forward these recommendations for the benefit of all of Scotland’s children.”

Sturgeon’s parliamentary opponents, Kezia Dugdale MSP, convener for Sottish Labour, Ruth Davidson MSP, convener for the Conservative Party, Willie Rennie MSP, convener for the Liberal Democrats, and Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convener for the Scottish Green Party, all came out against various aspects of Sturgeon’s politics in the Parliamentary debate on Tuesday. However the First Minister’s new education reforms seem to have found common ground amongst the Scottish political parties.

Rennie called for a “pupil premium” to help reverse decline in a “once leading education system”, with Davidson making similar remarks: “It is time for us to rise up against the bog standard comprehensive and work towards gold standard schools in every village, town and city in Scotland.

Image: First Minister of Scotland

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