How can we give children the best start in life?

Scotland’s future
The SNP regards education both as a means of investment in Scotland’s future and a way of preparing our young people for the modern world. To ensure we focus on these objectives we will create a single department of Children & Education, covering all stages of the lifelong educational continuum.

We will use the current powers of the Scottish Parliament to build a better framework for Scotland’s schools. And with Independence, will ensure education benefits from increased national wealth, with a programme of additional investment.

An SNP administration will give children room to learn and teachers space to teach. We will build on the traditional strengths of the Scottish education system by learning and applying the lessons of the most successful initiatives at home and worldwide.

Stability and harmony in our schools
An SNP administration will honour the McCrone agreement on teachers' pay and conditions in full and in a way that guarantees the period of stability and co-operation that the agreement was meant to achieve.

We will also address the problems of indiscipline and truancy in schools, which have such a detrimental effect on both teachers and pupils, by developing a rights and responsibilities code to instil a sense of personal responsibility in our young people.

We will adopt a culture of zero tolerance towards violence in the classroom, coupled with a strategy to change behaviour that will include expanding alternative curricula, along with the use of temporary exclusion to centres where behaviour change is an integral part of the learning process. Early intervention is a proven route to reducing indiscipline and truancy and this, coupled with the positive effect of smaller class sizes, will be a key factor in achieving higher standards of behaviour and attainment.

Simplifying systems
The mechanisms used to assess school pupils have become too complicated, placing excessive pressure on pupils, teachers and administrators. We will undertake a comprehensive review of the 5-14 curriculum guidelines, with new emphasis on the basic skills. At all stages we will lift the burden of unnecessary and over complex assessment. And we will work with the Scottish Qualifications Authority, schools and colleges to develop a simplified examination system whose outcomes are clear, easily understood and obviously demonstrate to employers and the students themselves, the levels of achievement gained.

We reject the concept of school league tables but we will make the provision of performance information from schools to parents more comprehensive, accessible and understandable.

Widening choice
We will initiate a major consultation on extending pupil choice by allowing young people who wish to and who have their parents’ permission, to utilise college opportunities for vocational education in S3 and S4, while remaining under the general supervision of their school. This initiative would help build up the high skills base we need to compete as a modern economy, as well as enabling all our young people to access subjects and facilities which engage their interest.

We will also ensure that Scottish History, Literature, and Languages are taught in our schools, giving a window on the world which is relevant to our young people and will help them compete in the 21st century world.

Encouraging diversity
We will continue to support Catholic schools recognising the contribution they make to meeting educational needs in Scotland and for so long as parents wish to send their children to them. We will secure the future of the special educational needs schools, which have had so much insecurity in recent years, and will continue to encourage mainstream education for all young people, providing it is appropriate, achievable and well supported in meeting the needs of the child. We will guarantee in law the right to a Gaelic medium education at primary level, where demand exists, and will continue to support community schools. We will ensure that adequate provision is made for the distinctive needs and interests of ethnic minorities in our education system.

The SNP is committed to further extending devolved school management, while recognising that some budgets are best controlled at local authority level, as the most cost effective and efficient way of spending precious educational resources.

Extending involvement in decision making
The SNP does not believe that politicians should have exclusive ownership of education policy. That is why we re-affirm our commitment to establishing an Education Convention consisting of representatives of teachers, parents, pupils, employers and wider civic Scotland.

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