The SNP offer more of the same on education - Angela Rayner and Iain Gray

Writing exclusively for the Red Robin Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner MP and Scottish Labour Education Spokesperson Iain Gray MSP, talk about education in Scotland. 

The single most important investment any government can make is in our children and young people.

Investment in education – whether it is our schools, childcare, further and higher education is more than a social good – it’s an economic necessity.

Closing the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest children is the first step towards an economy ready to face the challenges of tomorrow.

That’s why it is so senseless that the children of this ‘austerity generation’ have been failed so badly by the Tories in Westminster and the SNP in Holyrood.

In Scotland Nicola Sturgeon claims that education is her top priority – that she has a sacred responsibility to our young people.

But she has just passed a budget that will mean more cuts to schools. On top of the £1.5 billion councils have faced since 2011.

Meanwhile, SNP run Glasgow City Council has just increased childcare charges, our colleges have 140,000 fewer students since the SNP came to power and rather than abolishing student debt, the Nationalists have doubled it with the poorest students borrowing the most.

Despite the SNP’s rhetoric, and their repeated promises that they will do things differently to the Tories, they simply offer more of the same.

The similarity is all too stark on issues like childcare. The Tories and the SNP both are trying to implement policies that haven’t been properly planned, don’t have the staff or infrastructure needed, and aren’t receiving the funding necessary.

Scottish parents are also paying the price for the Tories’ decision to phase out childcare vouchers and plough on with “tax free childcare” rather than a comprehensive system of childcare. The project has been a disaster, missing its targets by 90% and leading to a £750m under-spend that was grabbed by the Treasury rather than invested in all our children across the UK.

The impact of Tory cuts has left thousands of young people behind. Anyone who spends time in England will have seen the results of withdrawing billions from Sure Start, children’s services, schools, colleges and universities.

This matters because a good education system in every nation of the UK benefits all of us by building a stronger shared economy, and a fairer society.

Their policies also affect the life chances of young Scottish people directly of course – for example, those who might want to study at English universities.

Labour would do things differently. While we may have different approaches to education, understanding that the Scottish and English education systems have always been distinct, we start from one simple premise: We have to stop the cuts and invest in our young people.

That means delivering the investment our schools need, and giving teachers the support they need to teach – with a proper pay rise and action on workload.

It means developing a childcare policy that actually fits around the lives of working families, rather than just on election leaflets, with extra funding available across the UK to make it happen.

And it means facing up to the scandal of child poverty. It’s Labour in power which makes a difference here. Child poverty plummeted during the last Labour government and even today, in the face of brutal austerity, it is Labour councils who are leading the fight against poverty.

Take Labour run -North Lanarkshire council, which last week passed a UK leading initiative to deliver free school meals to the poorest children in the area 365 days a year.

That’s what Labour does in power. That’s why we need a Labour government in Scotland and across the UK to deliver the investment our young people deserve.

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