First Minister Sturgeon agrees to wider review of education

Sturgeon Docherty Hughes and O'Hara 4By Democrat reporter

Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to a wider inquiry into Scottish education after opposition MSPs united to demand one.

A study of the senior phase of schooling had already been ordered, but Holyrood voted to say this should be a “full review” of broader education.

SNP members opposed the move in the vote, but Ms Sturgeon, right,  said she would “abide by the decision of parliament”.

The motion passed also said there were “key weaknesses in some key aspects of Scotland’s school education” system.

Education Secretary John Swinney is to set out how the review will work in due course.

Mr Swinney had ordered a review into the senior phase of education in September 2019 after a critical report on narrowing subject choices from Holyrood’s education committee.

This was to be carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, but now looks set to be expanded in light of the Holyrood vote.

MSPs voted by 63 to 60 – with the Conservatives, Labour, Greens and Lib Dems uniting to defeat the SNP – on Wednesday to call for “a full review of broad general education” and “an acceptance from the Scottish government that there are some key weaknesses in some key aspects of Scotland’s school education and the qualifications structure”.

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Ms Sturgeon was challenged to accept this vote by interim Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw, left, at her weekly question session.

The first minister noted that there has already been an OECD review of Scottish education in 2015, but said “we will abide by the decision parliament took yesterday, whether or not we consider that that is necessary”.

Mr Carlaw said the inquiry must not be a “whitewash” and be a “proper investigation into the real problems that exist”.

Ms Sturgeon replied that the review would be “independent and robust”.

‘Further improvement’

She added: “I have never stood here and said that there is not a need to look at where further improvement is required.

“Any fair-minded person would look at the reviews that this government has instructed so far and would not come to the conclusion that Jackson Carlaw has.

“There is progress in Scottish education. We want to see that progress continue and accelerate, and that is why we will continue to get on with that job.”

The first minister also said she hoped the Conservatives would back all decisions of parliament, with MSPs set to vote on backing for a second independence referendum in the coming weeks.

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