Greens know that tackling the inequalities in our schools won’t happen by changing education policy alone. If Scotland is to seriously address the impact of poverty on education & attainment, we need to take a whole-system approach. That’s why I launched our Level The Playing Field proposals in 2018, setting out some of the ways Greens would systematically tackle poverty in & around our schools.
Our proposals include:
- Universal access to free school breakfast and lunch - all year round
- Family income maximisation advisors linked to all schools
- Free bus travel for young people
Personal and Social Education
Personal and Social Education should equip young people with the essential skills they need to thrive in all aspects of life, from employment to relationships. I know from the feedback of thousands of young people that it isn’t working though. Whether it’s getting the same lesson on drugs & alcohol over and over again for years, the absence of consent from sex & relationships education or the common absence of practical skills like how to write a CV, Personal & Social Education just isn’t given the importance it deserves.
After two and a half years of campaigning, initiating a parliamentary inquiry, the publication of a report, a government review and then another report on that review, I have secured major reforms to PSE, including improved education about consent and co-design of the curriculum by young people.
Additional Support Needs
One in four children has an identified additional support need, ranging from mild emotional or behavioural issues to more complex needs such as autism, visual impairments or physical disabilities. In the last decade we’ve become much better – but not consistent – at identifying these needs. At the same time the staff and resources needed to support these young people have disappeared. The number of specialist additional support needs teachers has declined by 11% since 2010, particularly due to funding cuts to education enacted in the last session of parliament. ASN support staff are disappearing at a far steeper rate and are no longer even being counted in the staff census – a fact which would have gone unnoticed if not for the Greens.
Coordinated Support Plans for children with the most complex additional needs have declined to just 1% of all young people with identified needs. These are the only plans available which carry statutory force, so their near total disappearance is a major concern. I have secured a review into the use of CSPs, to be concluded before the end of this Parliament.
I have campaigned to ensure that all pupils with additional needs get the support they deserve. Over the last three years, the Scottish Greens have secured packages worth up to £428 million in additional funding for local councils. With education the biggest since spend for councils, this money has saved ASN services otherwise set to be cut. Yet while this funding has ensured that local councils have not faced further cuts, more needs to be done to reverse spending cuts from the years before Greens held influence over the budget.
Our Green campaign for children with additional needs continues, with proposals to attract more people into specialist ASN teaching through the creation of a ‘Promoted Post’ in the career structure for teachers, greater training for all school staff and more consistently on ASN during Initial Teacher Education.