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SNP's education critics 'consumed by doom and gloom'

Education secretary John Swinney tells STV News they need to 'move on'.

By STV News

Published 11 Aug 2017.

Opposition parties are "consumed by doom and gloom" about Scottish education standards, according to John Swinney.

In an interview with STV News, the education secretary criticised their view of pupils' performances and urged his opponents to get on board with his government's planned reforms to the system.

His comments come after the Higher qualification pass rate dipped slightly compared to the previous year.

The Scottish Government wants to give more power to head teachers in its reforms.

Under the plans, head teachers will be able to hire school staff, have more control over spending and what is taught within the school.

All children in P1, P4, P7 and S3 will also undertake national tests from the beginning of the new school term in a bid to produce better data to judge the performance of schools.

Swinney said: "I think our opponents have got to move on. Our opponents have been consumed by doom and gloom.

"The Scottish education system they talk about is not one I recognise. I recognise, around the country, strength and excellence within our education system.

"But I also recognise the need to deliver improvement - that is what my reform agenda is all about."

He added: "It's about building on the strengths of the Scottish education and what I encourage the opposition to do is to be participants in that reform journey, to assist us in taking forward this most important challenge to the people of Scotland and to make sure Scottish education system is strengthened as a consequence of that activity."

The changes to Scotland's education system come after several years of measured decline in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study.

In the latest PISA report, the country's performance in science and reading declined compared to the previous study in 2012.

Since 2006, the year before the SNP came to power, the Scottish Government admits "our relative performance compared to other countries has deteriorated across all three areas [maths, science and reading]".

The Scottish Conservatives said there are "widespread failings" in the nation's schools.

Liz Smith, the party's shadow education secretary, said: "Given the SNP's shameful record on education, it's no wonder the man in charge of that department wants opponents to stop talking about it.

"The SNP has made a mess of the education brief and that needs to be pointed out by those whose job it is to hold the government to account.

"Literacy and numeracy rates are declining, the attainment gap won't close and Scotland is slipping down global league tables."

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens' education spokesman, said: "When John Swinney talks down the 'opposition' does he mean the MSPs elected to scrutinise him or the teachers, parents, pupils, experts and unions who have been exceptionally clear in telling the SNP that their education proposals are misguided and unhelpful?

"It's become a pattern for this government, when struggling with its own record, to simply accuse others of negativity rather than address the issues at hand.

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott MSP said "As Scottish pupils go back to school next week, they face the financial squeeze that means less classroom assistants and larger class sizes and a school reform that is about constitutional tinkering.

"It is about time that the fourth SNP education minister in 10 years recognised that reality. Parents, teachers and pupils do because they deal with the reality of education every day."

Ian Gray, Scottish Labour's education spokesman, said: "We have a schools system that has 4000 fewer teachers and £1.5bn cut from local authority budgets since 2011. Labour has been clear - Holyrood should use the new powers over tax to increase investment in education.

"John Swinney's own consultation on reforms agreed with Labour - parents, teachers and unions all agree that we need to see more investment in the system.

"We have tried to amend the last two Scottish budgets to that effect and the SNP have voted against our plans."