Education at the heart of First Minister’s Programme for Government.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has placed education at the heart of her Programme for Government, outlining how her vision of a fairer and more prosperous society can be achieved through helping Scotland's young people.
As she unveiled the Scottish Government's plans for the final year of this parliamentary term, the First Minister announced a new National Improvement Framework that will help close the gap in attainment and ensure all children are being equipped with the skills they need.
The framework will help track the progress of all children, introducing a national system of standardised assessment in P1, P4, P7 and S3 that will bring consistency to the assessment of literacy and numeracy and tracking of progress across Scotland.
A wide-ranging legislative programme will see eight new bills introduced, with measures included to strengthen the law on harassment and sexual offending; increase security for private tenants, protecting against excessive rents; and implement the recommendations made by the Infant Cremation Commission.
The First Minister also announced additional support for Scotland's kinship carers, with additional funding to local authorities to increase financial support for kinship carers to the same level as foster carers.
Outlining her plans for Scotland's public services, the First Minister announced plans to complete the integration of health and social care by April 2016 and test new models of primary care in ten sites across Scotland. She also announced that policing would be strengthened by a national review of police governance and a new requirement on the Chief Constable to submit to local public scrutiny sessions.
Ms Sturgeon proposed that the next Scottish election to follow the 2016 poll will be held in 2021, as she confirmed that the Scottish Elections (Dates) Bill would be brought forward in the forthcoming session.
And she confirmed that the Scottish Government would begin to implement the additional powers to be devolved following the Smith Commission process, with a planned cut in air passenger duty to be brought in from 2018, and a Scottish rate of income tax to be set for 2016/17 in the forthcoming budget.
The First Minister said:
"Improving school attainment is arguably the single most important objective in this Programme for Government.
"Improving it overall and closing the gap between children in our most and least deprived areas is fundamental to our aim of making Scotland fairer and more prosperous. To address it, we need to be open to innovation and new practice - that's the purpose of our £100 million Attainment Fund.
"But we also need to have better information about attainment so that we measure progress consistently and drive change. We need to be able to see what's working and where we still need to improve.
"So I can confirm that we will establish a new National Improvement Framework - a draft of it is being published today. We will introduce new national standardised assessments for pupils in primaries 1, 4, 7 and in the third year of secondary school.
"The new assessments will focus on literacy and numeracy. They will be piloted next year in schools participating in the Attainment Challenge and then introduced in all schools in 2017.
"The new national assessments - which we will develop in partnership with local government, teachers and parents - will replace the variety of different assessments already used by local authorities. So they will not increase teacher workload - indeed, as a government, we are mindful of the need to reduce bureaucracy so that teachers can focus on what they do best: helping children to learn.
"These new assessments will introduce greater consistency to Curriculum for Excellence. They will provide reliable evidence of a child's performance or progress - but they will not be the sole measurement. This is not about narrowing the curriculum or forcing teachers to "teach to a test". It is not a return to the national testing of old. And the assessments will inform teacher judgment - not replace it.
"They will provide robust and consistent evidence to help teachers judge whether or not a child is achieving the required level of Curriculum for Excellence".
The First Minister concluded:
"This ambitious and reforming Programme for Government speaks to our aspirations. It sets out how this Government will work - now and in the long term - to achieve our vision for Scotland's future. And it demonstrates how enduring values - a belief in enterprise, a faith in the value of education, a commitment to fairness and solidarity, and a passion for democratic engagement – can be applied to make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous country."
The First Minister's Programme for Government – A Stronger Scotland – can be read here - www.gov.scot/astrongerscotland
More information on Programme for Government, including a list of bills, is available here - www.gov.scot/programme2015
The First Minister's Programme for Government statement will be available in full here - http://news.scotland.gov.uk/content/default.aspx?NewsAreaId=139
Find out more about the Office of the First Minister, including a full list of announcements in today's speech at www.firstminister.gov.scot
Follow us @scotgovfm