Scottish Liberal Democrats have today unveiled a new plan to transform early years education, abolishing the SNP's national testing of four and five-year-olds and paving the way for a new full-time, statutory, play-based "kindergarten stage", working in partnership with teachers to close the attainment gap.
A motion, voted through at the party's virtual autumn conference, sets out how Scottish Liberal Democrats in the next Scottish Parliament will:
- Abolish the SNP's national tests for four and five-year-olds, having been the leading opponents of the damaging system since it was first announced;
- Establish pilots that could pave the way for the replacement of P1 and P2 with a statutory, full-time kindergarten stage, designed to boost children’s development and long-term physical and mental health;
- See international experts working in partnership with teachers to lead this work, drawing on the evidence from countries with these systems which are excelling in education while Scotland slides down the international rankings under the SNP.
Scottish Liberal Democrat children and young people spokesperson and lead candidate for the Glasgow region, Carole Ford commented:
"Victorian policies still underpin how children start school in Scotland. We are now an outlier in Europe, with only a handful of other countries putting four and five year olds in formal schooling.
“Starting that young might suit some children, but others are simply not ready. That causes attainment gaps to quickly develop, and hurts their health and wellbeing. Replacing P1 and P2 with a full-time, statutory, properly play-based kindergarten stage could be transformative.
"Countries excelling in education show that this approach better prepares children to shine in literacy and numeracy. Every child is properly supported to learn skills at a pace that is appropriate for them, with self-directed play, teacher-directed activity and more outdoor learning.
"It is why Scottish Liberal Democrats will work with international experts and teachers in the next Parliament to lay the foundations for change through pilots. This would pave the way for Scotland to rejoin the top of the global rankings.
“Education in Scotland has suffered under the SNP. They claim to trust teachers but overruled their judgements in favour of their catastrophic exams algorithm. They claim to support play-based learning, but introduced national testing of four and five-year-olds against the will of teachers, parents and Parliament.
“The expansion of free childcare and the Pupil Equity Fund were only secured by years of Scottish Liberal Democrat campaigning, and have been half delivered under the shadow of independence.
"Our new early years policies will work in a genuine partnership with teachers to close the attainment gap and enable every child to have the best start at school."