Unveiling the Scottish Government’s plans for the final year of this parliamentary term, the First Minister announced a new National Improvement Framework that aims to close the gap in attainment and ensure all children are being equipped with the skills they need.
The framework will help track the progress of all children, introducing a national system of standardised assessment in P1, P4, P7 and S3 that will bring consistency to the assessment of literacy and numeracy and tracking of progress across Scotland.
A wide-ranging legislative programme will see eight new bills introduced, with measures included to strengthen the law on harassment and sexual offending; increase security for private tenants, protecting against excessive rents; and implement the recommendations made by the Infant Cremation Commission.
The First Minister also announced additional support for Scotland’s kinship carers, with additional funding to local authorities to increase financial support for kinship carers to the same level as foster carers.
Outlining her plans for Scotland’s public services, the First Minister announced plans to complete the integration of health and social care by April 2016, this is already the case in the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre where the NHS and Council workin the same building, and test new models of primary care in ten sites across Scotland. She also announced that policing would be strengthened by a national review of police governance and a new requirement on the Chief Constable to submit to local public scrutiny sessions.
Ms Sturgeon proposed that the next Scottish election to follow the 2016 poll will be held in 2021, as she confirmed that the Scottish Elections (Dates) Bill would be brought forward in the forthcoming session.
And she confirmed that the Scottish Government would begin to implement the additional powers to be devolved following the Smith Commission process, with a planned cut in air passenger duty to be brought in from 2018, and a Scottish rate of income tax to be set for 2016/17 in the forthcoming budget.
The First Minister said:
Improving school attainment is arguably the single most important objective in this Programme for Government.
Improving it overall and closing the gap between children in our most and least deprived areas is fundamental to our aim of making Scotland fairer and more prosperous. To address it, we need to be open to innovation and new practice – that’s the purpose of our £100 million Attainment Fund.
But we also need to have better information about attainment so that we measure progress consistently and drive change. We need to be able to see what’s working and where we still need to improve.
So I can confirm that we will establish a new National Improvement Framework – a draft of it is being published today.
Ms Sturgeon went on to announce that the new framework, with its standardised assessments, would be piloted next year in schools taking part in the Attainment Challenge which includes local schools Sighthill Primary, Clovenstone Primary and Canal View Primary.
The First Minister concluded that:
The new national assessments – which we will develop in partnership with local government, teachers and parents – will replace the variety of different assessments already used by local authorities. So they will not increase teacher workload – indeed, as a government, we are mindful of the need to reduce bureaucracy so that teachers can focus on what they do best: helping children to learn.
Speaking of the announcement, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale commented on the Scottish Governments plans for education:
Today the SNP government has a chance to change the lives hundreds of thousands of Scottish children. They should grasp it.
Children who started High School this week have spent every year of their time at school under an SNP Government. What have we seen for it?
We see a 12% attainment gap in reading between the rich and the poor, a 21% gap in writing and a 24% gap in numeracy. Almost half of the poorest kids leaving primary school are unable to write properly or to count properly.
Scotland can be better than that. By investing in these kids we are investing in the country’s most powerful and potent natural resource.
The first minister is the most powerful woman in British politics today, she’s had a year to get used to the job, and it’s time she started wielding that power to build a fairer nation,