The education of young Scots is one of the most important issues in every election in Holyrood.
But this time around, the seismic impact of Covid-19 on elementary and secondary school students across the country makes it even more important to know what our political parties will do to help children get back on track.
In the final installment of our series asking the seven candidates from Helensburgh and Lomond to lay out their position on the key issues facing voters in this election, we outline their commitments and priorities in helping students and teachers get education back on track after the pandemic.
Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 6.
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Andy Foxall – Scottish Liberal Democrats
There have been major disruptions in Scottish education over the past year, but the solution is not to make children sit at desks longer.
Instead, the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ plan will make every hour of learning count more. We will provide teachers with guaranteed employment. Too many of them have short-term, insecure contracts.
We will fund an outdoor learning guarantee, so that no one misses it. The Liberal Democrats want a funded right for young people over the holidays for fun activities.
We have secured expanded student equity funding in the Scottish budget. This will provide an additional 20 million pounds to the children who need it most, helping to close the achievement gap.
We want to fund a new S4-S6 Supplemental Sustained Study Program in order to consolidate understanding, guided and led by classroom teachers.
We just won a vote in Parliament to overhaul the SQA and Education Scotland.
There is a chance for change in this election, but that will not happen if you give the majority to the SNP on May 6, because they are in denial of the situation in our educational organizations.
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Andrew Muir – Independent
WE shouldn’t have canceled school exams in 2020 or 2021.
Examinations are the best way to assess students and give them the qualifications others can trust when they get a job.
Over 25 years ago, I was a religious studies professor at Dumbarton Academy, before being fired for my anti-abortion views and after a student threw a wet rag in my face.
Every school should have a dedicated disciplinarian who can deal with disobedient students and relieve the pressure of a teacher trying to control an unruly classroom.
I am in favor of private schools and I attended one myself because they give parents a choice. When I went to school I could study Latin and go to a school chess club – two disciplines that nurtured a healthy mind.
In our fourth year at school, we could take nine subjects for examination, whereas nowadays the subjects might be limited to six or eight.
The site of the new Notre-Dame and St Patrick high school in Bellsmyre was not, typically for Dumbarton, democratically chosen. He should have been placed at Clerkhill.
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Jackie Baillie – Scottish Labor Party
THIS has been an incredibly difficult year for students of all ages – from young elementary school children who lacked vital social interaction, to students who did not have Chromebooks or broadband access, which made the difficult home schooling.
Then there were the teenagers who failed the exams and had to endure the scandal of the Scottish Qualifications Authority trying to decide their future on the basis of an algorithm.
It was just as difficult for teachers and other school staff.
But even before the pandemic, our children and teachers lacked the SNP.
The achievement gap in our region and across Scotland is bigger than ever, there are not enough teachers and class sizes are increasing.
It is clear that education needs an urgent recovery plan.
Scottish Labor will provide an individual plan for each student and a program of summer activities.
We will also recruit 3,000 additional teachers; reduce class size; provide enhanced digital training to staff; and make sure there is a digital device for each student.
Our priority must be to ensure that every young person in Helensburgh, Lomond and across Scotland has the best chances and hopes for the future.
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James Morrison – Independent
THE problem with education in Scotland is government.
The Prime Minister asked to be tried on education. Yet after a decade of SNP rule in Holyrood, Scotland is experiencing declining literacy and numeracy rates and a growing level gap between rich and poor.
Students, parents and teachers want – and deserve – better.
Each school is expected to receive an additional £ 5,000 per child. Teachers should be able to determine the best way to spend these funds to make the most of them for school children.
University or college students, on the other hand, are expected to receive £ 18,000 per year of study. Stop the student debt burden which in Scotland stands at £ 5.5 billion.
Research shows that the burden of this debt leads to poorer mental and physical health and lower overall life satisfaction.
Student debt delays marriage, renting and buying housing, and starting new businesses. We need to stop loading our students with debt early in their adulthood.
If you are poor, a funded school trip and £ 100 for a uniform is an electoral bribe and not a solution to the education problem in Scotland.
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Jonathan Rainey – Scottish Libertarian Party
As someone who has walked through the mainstream education system like everyone else, it has become clear that the public education system as a whole needs to be reformed.
What it does not need is reform aimed at increasing centralization and bureaucracy in the existing system – which may not produce better results in the long run.
I am aware that home schooling is a bit of a dirty phrase in Scotland, but parents’ choice should be respected and not taken away by local or central bureaucrats.
This includes the choice of subjects that students can learn in school and the right of parents to withdraw their child from any particular subject – especially non-grammatical, non-STEM, religious or non-religious, and expressive or subjective subjects. This right must be respected and not suppressed by local or central bureaucrats.
Regulations on the private school sector in Scotland also need to be relaxed so that parents can have a better choice of whether to send their children to public or private schools.
More choice and competition means, in the long run, costs go down.
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Maurice Corry – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
OUR students have been devastated by the pandemic. They missed vital learning, didn’t see their friends every day, and had their exams canceled.
The Scottish Tories will introduce a national tutoring scheme and invest £ 120million in a catch-up bonus for pupils to ensure that our pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds do not miss out on vital learning.
Even before the pandemic, the SNP was failing in our schools in this region.
Nicola Sturgeon has asked to be judged on her academic record and said closing the poverty achievement gap will be her defining mission. Instead, she has focused too much on another independence referendum to make only limited progress on that front.
We would recruit an additional 3,000 teachers for our classrooms across Scotland and focus specifically on closing the achievement gap.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including communities here, are now more likely to fail at the higher level than to obtain an A grade. education a priority as he claimed.
Only a vote for me and the Scottish Tories on your fishing ballot on 6 May will ensure that the focus is on resuming education in Scotland and not on another referendum on independence.
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Toni Giugliano – Scottish National Party
The SNP is committed to breaking down barriers to education in Scotland.
Real progress has been made in closing the achievement gap, supported by the government’s £ 750million Challenge to Achievement Fund.
The gap between the poorest and least deprived students who obtain a level 5 award has narrowed by more than a third. At level 6, the gap has narrowed by a fifth. The overall standard is on the rise and a record number of Scotland’s poorest students are being given university places.
But more needs to be done. We will invest £ 1bn over the life of the next Parliament to further close the gap.
We have increased the number of teachers, which are now at record levels.
If we are re-elected next month, we will increase the number of teachers and class assistants by another 3,500.
We will be giving teachers in Helensburgh and Lomond, and across Scotland, more time outside the classroom to prepare for class and more time for professional development.
Nearly 1,000 schools have been replaced or renovated under the SNP. We have expanded free school meals. We have doubled free childcare from 600 hours to 1140 hours. And we will introduce £ 20million to help children reconnect, play and improve their well-being in response to Covid-19.