LibLink – Christine Jardine SNP’s policies on education have failed to make the grade

It’s been a hugely stressful week for thousands of Scottish teenagers and their parents.

They did not receive the results they were expecting for their HIgher exams after marks submitted by their teachers were downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This has disproportionately affected pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Willie Rennie supported pupil protests against the system used by the SQA.

Pupils who have worked hard for months have been marked down because of how previous students performed at their school. This is grossly unfair as it reinforces the inequity that has been growing for years.

The Education Secretary and the SQA were warned for months that their moderation process would damage the prospects of pupils for life. It’s no surprise that so many young people are out protesting. They feel as if their grades and their futures are being robbed by the SNP.

We can only hope that the appeals system is robust enough to deal with the tsunami of appeals heading its away. The funding and the resource for the appeals process must be increased to meet the considerable demand and the Scottish Government must ensure teachers have the time they need to fully support the many appeals that will be required.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon apologised and today Education Secretary John Swinney faces a vote of no confidence in the Scottish Parliament.

But the problems in Scottish education go much deeper than this fiasco. Christine Jardine used her weekly Scotsman column to highlight how pupils leaving school this year have had their entire education under SNP Government – and the system is mired with problems with schools, colleges and universities.

International reports show Scottish education plummeting down the league tables which compare our schools with those abroad.

That proud boast that ours was the finest education in the world now seems empty, and out-dated.
Certainly for those at the chalk face it has long ceased to be the case, replaced by the reality that too many of our young people leave school functionally illiterate and the past few years have been to endure rather than enjoy.

Many of those who graduated from our universities this year are the same young people whose school years were disrupted by being the first to sit the new National 5 exams. Their teachers had to deliver a curriculum which was not only untried and untested but, by common consent, largely chaotic and stressful for all.

“But” I hear the SNP apologists proclaim, “they have not had to pay tuition fees when they went to university.” No, they haven’t and they shouldn’t, and I am not going to rehash the old argument that it was actually the Lib/Lab coalition which removed them.

But it is not enough to state that case without actually ensuring that the funding is in place to guarantee that there is a university education from which to benefit.

And that is a real issue as Scottish universities face mergers rather than proper government funding. The international students who have kept the sector afloat.

We shouldn’t also forget the 100,000 college places that have been lost.

What would we do differently?

At the most recent Scottish election in 2016 my party, the Liberal Democrats suggested a penny on income tax for education.

That would have raise £475m and allowed us to make the sort of improvements which would have closed the attainment gap in our schools which has been highlighted this week, rather see it continue to grow.

We could have improved literacy standards, saved those college places and worked with our universities to create a stronger financial base.

Having taught in Scottish universities for more than a decade I have experienced the changing dynamic.

It’s less than a year now until the SNP faces its assessment by the Scottish public of how it has served them.

And, as Christine concludes, the 16 and 17 year olds who have suffered because of this will have the vote.

You can read her whole article here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '20 - 3:37pm

    Christine Jardine said, “‘they have not had to pay tuition fees when they went to university.’ No, they haven’t and they shouldn’t,””
    They shouldn’t have to pay tuition fees?
    What is the Lib Dem position on tuition fees? Agree with tuition fees in England but disagree with them in Scotland?

  • I watched John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, make his statement/apology on TV. To be fair he has acted quickly to put matters right, has apologised, and deserves some credit for that.

    It’s also refreshing to see the Scottish Parliament still hard at work whilst Westminster is away yet again though Johnson is pretending to be a ‘worker’ and turned up today for yet another photo-op smirk wearing his immaculate helmet and hi-vis jacket.

    I will be interesting to see if Mr Gavin Williamson, current (for how long ?) Minister of Education at Westminster, makes an apology in the next few days given there are some similarities about to be announced in England.

    I’m willing to give credit to Mr Swinney for acting so swiftly, with Ms Sturgeon, actually apologising. I remember Mr Clegg’s ‘apology’ for the student fees issue, (but not for changing it). It might have been wise for him and his associates to have made a much fuller apology for all the outcomes of their time in Government back in 2015.

    The Nick Clegg Apology Song: I’m Sorry (The Autotune Remix)► 2:25
    The Nick Clegg Apology Song: I’m Sorry (The Autotune Remix …
    YouTube‎ · ‎The Poke

    PS I see the ubiquitous penny for all seasons on income tax has been resurrected yet again. Have often do we need to spend a penny ?

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