Sturgeon To Set Out Education Priorities

The First Minister is expected to set out the Scottish Government's approach to ensuring every child has an "equal chance'' to succeed in education.

On a visit to a school in Edinburgh today, Nicola Sturgeon will insist education in Scotland has made progress despite challenges and pressures.

She will also announce details of the second phase of a £100 million fund aimed at making sure youngsters from the poorest areas do better at school.

The Attainment Scotland Fund is a four-year initiative unveiled by her in February, with the first distribution of cash focused on improving health and wellbeing in primary schools as well as increasing literacy and numeracy levels.

Delivering a speech at Wester Hailes Education Centre today, she is expected to say: "Despite the undoubted challenges that we face, Scotland's schools are a success story.

"The last eight years have been tough - the recession, and the deep public spending cuts which followed, have created pressures for the Scottish Government, for local government and for many families. But the fact remains that education in Scotland has made progress.

"The introduction of curriculum for excellence has been a major step forward - and one which is attracting international attention. It gives teachers more flexibility, provides a broader education for young people, and sets higher standards for achievement than ever before.''

She will outline how school leaver destinations are the "best on record'', with nine out of 10 of those leaving school last year being in employment, education or training nine months later.

"Two weeks ago, young people in Scotland gained a record number of passes at Higher and Advanced Higher,'' she will say.

"The basic picture is clear. In every part of the country, Scotland has good schools, good teachers, and our young people are good learners. Standards have risen and are continuing to rise.''

"My priority for my time as First Minister, is that every young person should have the same advantage that I did when I was growing up in Ayrshire. They should know that if they have the talent and work hard enough, they will be able to fulfil their potential.

"That's a challenge for schools, for local government, indeed for society as a whole - and it's one on which my government is determined to show leadership.''

Scottish Labour's Education spokesman Iain Gray said: "The central goal of every government must always be to ensure that young people get the best start in life. A child's ability to get on must be determined by their potential, work rate and ambition, not by how much money their parents have.

"When Nicola Sturgeon took over as First Minister she told us that closing the gap between the richest and poorest kids would be her mission. Yet nine months on those warm words haven't been backed up by the kind of bold change that is needed.

"After eight years of SNP Government the reality is that pupils from richer backgrounds still perform much better than those from deprived areas. It's just not right that three quarters of S2 pupils from the poorest backgrounds don't have the counting skills they need.''

He added: "A child starting high school this week will have spent every year of their education under the SNP Government. Instead of yet another speech from the First Minister, it's time the SNP Government actually did something to close the gap between rich and poor in Scotland's schools.''

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