Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions focussed mainly on the release of The Sutton Trust Report detailing the state of education in Scotland. The report, which uses data collected two years previously, outlined a series of problems with the way in which Scotland teaches science to school students.
Questions were opened by the Scottish Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson, who pointed out that according to The Sutton Trust Report, a 15-year-old in England will be better at science than a 15-year-old in Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon stated that the report in question relies on old data and that since that data was published the Scottish Government has put in place a number of provisions to improve education in Scottish schools. She recognised the need to “do better” and promised that she would do so.
Ruth Davidson responded by pointing out that the Sutton Trust has proposed that the best performing schools should help under-performing schools, which is a Scottish Conservative policy. She asked if the First Minister would adopt this policy.
Ms. Sturgeon replied that the Insight System has already been established. This system will allow teachers to compare their performances with other schools and adopt best practice.
Labour’s Kezia Dugdale also focussed on the Sutton Trust report, arguing that it shows the SNP’s “catastrophic” record on education. She accused the SNP of letting young people in Scotland down by holding the brightest students back.
Ms Sturgeon again highlighted that the data in this report is based on a survey carried out two years ago which was collected before the Scottish Government put programmes to improve education in place and introduced the attainment fund.
Ms. Dugdale then turned to teacher numbers, which she claimed have reduced since the SNP were in Government. She argued that this is worsened by the attainment gap widening and cuts to schools increasing.
Ms Sturgeon replied that there is now £400m of additional resources available for local services, which includes £120m which will go directly to head-teachers, who can use that funding to hire new teachers if they see fit.
Patrick Harvey of the Scottish Green Party turned to the Scottish Government’s plan to cut Air Passenger Duty. He argued that this will increase emissions.
Ms. Sturgeon stated that the Scottish Government’s climate change plan sets out a range of measures to tackle emissions and that Scotland is meeting its climate change targets but will continue to work hard in doing so.
Questions from other Members included queries on how the triggering of Article 50 will affect the fishing industry in Scotland, drug-driving and the need to make Scottish roads safer, and childhood mental health in Scotland.