The Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats focus on the importance of play in early education. The Greens commit to raising the school starting age to seven, ending the routine use of homework in primary school and increasing outdoor learning. Labour says it will retain the current school starting age but move towards more blended transition into primary school with an increased focus on play and more formal schooling from age six or seven. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats commit to play-based education until age seven. All three parties commit to ending P1 Scottish National Standardised Assessments. Meanwhile, the SNP commits to renew every play park in Scotland.
All five parties make pledges relating to attainment, including actions to address the poverty-related attainment gap. Every manifesto includes a commitment to recruit more teachers, ranging from 3000 (Conservatives and Labour) to 5500 (Greens). Three parties (Labour, Liberal Democrats and SNP) commit to ensuring all pupils have access to electronic devices and/or connectivity to assist their learning.
Further commitments include:
- Conservatives: £1billion attainment funding made available to schools alongside a menu of evidence-based interventions to inform spending; £1m for early language support to reduce the “word gap” on entry to Primary 1.
- Greens: reduce class sizes to a maximum of 20; reduce role of exams and expand continuous assessment; remedy issues with subject choice and ensure access to courses.
- Labour: reduce class sizes; remedy issues with subject choice and ensure access to courses.
- Liberal Democrats: cut class sizes; more in-class support; new opt-in supporting study programme for Secondary 4 – 6 with financial bonus for teachers who choose to participate; teacher-led literary task force.
- SNP: £1billion investment to closing the attainment gap; reform assessment system to ensure it does not disadvantage pupils from more deprived backgrounds.
Parties take differing approaches to addressing the impact of the COVID-19 on education. For example, the Conservatives place a focus on “catching up”, committing £120m of funding to include a £35m national tutoring programme for disadvantaged pupils who were hardest hit. By contrast, Labour and the SNP place more focus on wellbeing and rebuilding social connections over summer, before academic support on return.
All parties commit to reviewing the current curriculum and wider opportunities available to pupils. There is a particular focus on music tuition, with all five parties committing to introducing free provision for all pupils, and expanding outdoor education opportunities. Other common areas include teaching about Scotland’s links to slavery and its colonial past (Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP) and climate change (Conservative, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP) and LGBTI inclusive education.