Education : The SNP's "Defining Mission "
Mission delayed

John Swinney : A Safe Pair of Hands ?

John Swinney was brought in as Education Secretary as a safe pair of hands, to implement the SNP’s ‘defining mission’ to improve Scotland’s education system.

Investing in education is the best economic policy a government can pursue.

However, after a decade of SNP government, the Scottish education system is failing our young people on many levels.

International reports, Audit Scotland, trade unions and the Scottish Government’s own surveys all agree, standards in Scottish education are falling.

The system is crying out for investment.

The Sutton Trust, PISA and UCAS have all shown that the attainment gap in Scotland is widening.

The government’s own statistics show that class sizes are increasing, teacher numbers are down and spending per pupil has dropped.

But years of cuts implemented by John Swinney as Finance Secretary have resulted in £1.5billion less being spent on local services, which has resulted in: Over 4,000 fewer teachers

Over 1,000 fewer support staff

Class sizes bigger than when the SNP came to power

School spending per pupil dropping across all ages since 2010

Attainment in Maths, Science, literacy and numeracy all falling.

Pupils from a poorer background entering primary one 14 months behind pupils from better off backgrounds


DELAYED - Consultation on the funding formula for schools

A consultation to decide who funds schools was meant to be launched this month.

John Swinney wants to set the budgets of all schools centrally across Scotland, rather than allow decisions to be made locally by those who work in the local communities.

Delayed until: UNKNOWN

DELAYED - Governance Review

A consultation to decidewho should run Scotland’s schools – closed on January 6 and received over 1,000 responses. This consultation, widely criticised as being impenetrable to those outside education, posed a number of questions on local authority and parental involvement in schools.

The responses were overwhelmingly negative, and the clear message is one of condemnation, accusing the government of missing the point and pursuing reforms which are misguided and unwanted.

Delayed until: UNKNOWN

DELAYED – National Testing

The introduction of national testing is one of the SNP’s flagship education policies and it is now six months behind schedule due to a delay in pilot schemes. Last month not one of Scotland’s councils had started pilots of the new standardised tests in literacy and numeracy. Delayed until: UNKNOWN

DELAYED - SNP Education Bill

The government has repeatedly said that education is its ‘defining mission’ and promised that it would publish its Education Bill early in 2017.

Delayed until: LATE IN 2017


Councillors from the SNP-controlled Dundee City Council said: "The real barriers have been imposed on councils over recent years following a series of past and present reductions to the budget."

The SNP Group on East Dunbartonshire Council said “The financial constraints, due to the reduction in public sector spending, are having an impact on education and schools. East Dunbartonshire has adopted a strategy to protect front line services as much as possible but the cumulative effect of the reduction in the budget year on year and the need to continue to make savings from a reduced budget are having an impact on the flexibility of schools to use their budget to meet the needs of the school community.”

The EIS said: “The greatest barrier is and has been the imposition of austerity driven budgets and the underfunding of the Scottish Education system over the past period”

Aberdeen Parent Council Forum said: “Local council budgets have been reduced year on year for a considerable number of years. Teacher shortages impact the ability to deliver excellence and equity for all, HTs and DHTs have to spend time covering gaps instead of leading.”

The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) Scotland said: “We believe that we can only achieve the outcomes we all desire by addressing the causes of inequity and recognising the power of partnerships. We need approaches that empower not only teachers and headteachers, but also parents and whole communities. We believe that local authorities are uniquely placed to facilitate and provide the strong middle that this coordinated, cooperative and collaborative approach requires.”

Scottish Parent Teacher Council said: “It is ironic that a document which has as one of its stated aims that parents should be more empowered, in fact excluded very many parents from participation. The consultation presumed high levels of knowledge about the existing governance model in Scottish education, and used language which would be familiar only to those working in the sector. It is tantamount to expecting a patient with a broken leg to understand the inner workings and operational structures of the various NHS services they might encounter”


Since last May’s election, the SNP has launched at least 120 consultations and reviews.

The total number will be even higher. There is a website listing all consultations, however no such website exists for reviews. As a result it is very difficult to know exactly how many have been announced.

1. Consultation on Raising Planning Fees

2. Transport Scotland's Rail Infrastructure Strategy from 2019

3. Extending Coverage of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 to Registered Social Landlords

4. Digital Transformation: Next Steps

5. Consultation on Wild Seaweed Harvesting

6. Review of HPB Cancer Quality Performance Indicators Consultation

7. Draft Proposals for Requirements for Static Gear Deployed Within 12 Nautical Miles of Scottish Baselines

8. Delivering Scotland’s River Basin Management Plans: The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 Proposed Amendments

9. A STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland

10. Consultation on the New National Health and Social Care Standards

11. Review of Upper GI Cancer Quality Performance Indicators Consultation

12. Consultation on Draft of The Continuing Care (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017

13. Consultation on regulations to modify Part 1 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 to deal with arrests which do not relate to criminal offences and arrests under warrant

14. Consultation on a Draft Referendum Bill

15. A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland

16. Building Warrant Fees

17. Empowering teachers, parents and communities to achieve excellence and equity in education: A Governance Review

18. Consultation on New Controls in the Queen Scallop Fishery in ICES Divisions VIa and VIIa

19. Consultation on proposals for regulations and policy supporting the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016.

20. Consultation on Sections 9(2)(b)(i) of Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015

21. A Digital Strategy for Scotland – 2017 and beyond

22. Lung Cancer Quality Performance Indicator

23. Scotland's Oral Health Plan. A Scottish Government Consultation Exercise on the Future of Oral Health Services

24. Consultation on a Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy for Scotland

25. Improving transparency in land ownership in Scotland: a consultation on controlling interests in land

26. Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014 - Consultation on Draft Regulations

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