Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur MSP has repeated his calls for the Scottish Government to accept that his party’s pupil premium would close the attainment gap across Scotland, as he questioned the First Minister on how she will meet new university targets for students from deprived backgrounds.
Quizzing Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions today, Mr McArthur criticised the Scottish Government’s National Attainment Fund, an area-based approach under which a third of councils miss out on financial resources aimed at closing the attainment gap.
In response the First Minister said the £100 million a year raised through a readjustment of council tax bands would be invested in schools.
But independent scrutiny of those proposals by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) states there does not appear to be a mechanism for ring-fencing the money received from the council tax for education.
Mr McArthur said: “The First Minister’s claim that her tinkering of council tax bands will lead to investment in education is questionable at best. She would have a much simpler route to take, one that would deliver, if she agreed to adopt our penny for education.
“She could then introduce a pupil premium that would deliver for every child who needs extra support at school wherever they live in Scotland. As it is, the government’s area-based approach excludes too many children in too many parts of the country.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been clear from the start – our penny for education is progressive and will deliver for all children across Scotland needing a bit more support, repair the damage done to our colleges and halt the swingeing cuts to councils’ education budgets.
“This is not a difficult decision for the First Minister. If she wants to see more students from deprived backgrounds attending university, she needs to get serious about investing in education from the earliest years.”