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Education and opportunity for all

We know how hard the last two years have been. Children have missed out on so much. The poverty-related attainment gap has gotten even bigger. The response should be unprecedented but parents and teachers are struggling to see any difference in what's on offer in our schools. World-class training and retraining are essential to rebuilding our country's economic future. Scottish Liberal Democrats want everyone to fulfil their potential.

We will:

  • Ensure nursery education meets the promise of 1140 free hours for 3 and 4-year-olds with the flexibility, holiday options and wraparound provision parents require. This pick and mix nursery provision will be designed to meet the varied needs of families.
  • Cut costs for parents and support children's development by supporting the extension of early learning and childcare entitlements to all 2-year-olds and preparing for the extension to 1-year-olds.
  • Offer families the right to defer entry into Primary 1 and have it replaced with funded early learning and childcare this August, removing the £4,500 price tag that hangs over parents in many areas.
  • Value the expertise of teachers in nurseries.
  • Campaign to halt the SNP Government's national testing of four and five-year-olds.
  • Support children and families with breakfast clubs in all schools and increase the availability of free school meals, removing hunger as a barrier to learning, focused on healthy eating.
  • Focus on raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap through:
    • the stronger Pupil Equity Fund, already won by Scottish Liberal Democrats, which will give schools confidence to recruit more long-term staff.
    • supporting a nationwide teacher job guarantee to cut class sizes, because no teacher should be unemployed or feel underemployed. o pupil support assistants providing more in-class support for children who need it.
    • making sure every child has access to connected technology. o supporting the expansion of outdoor learning and increased provision of residential experiences to engage children. o supporting a new programme of extra supported study for S4-S6 to guide revision, work through problems and consolidate understanding. o supporting voluntary pilots of a longer statutory early years phase, using play-based learning to help more children get off to a good start before the age of 7.
  • Prioritise the building of top-class leadership in our schools, develop support networks and career opportunities for teachers and pupil support assistants, encourage specialist ASN training and innovate to resolve the issue of hard-to-fill teaching posts through three-year packages for probationer teachers for specific areas.
  • Help teachers to make the best use of digital learning, for example by sharing learning resources between schools.
  • Campaign to make all nursery buildings and school estates fit for top-quality education and reassert the role of the local authority in increasing its capacity to meet local needs.
  • Ensure that school and nursery designs are flexible and generous, supporting play-based learning, increased activity levels and kitchen and dining room provision.
  • Work with headteachers, parents and parent councils to decentralise more powers to schools over their own organisation, staff and resources, including strengthening ASN provision.
  • Make sure that young people with additional support needs get the support they need and support the recruitment of more educational psychologists.
  • Ensure that young children starting school are not held back by communication barriers, providing effective early intervention.
  • Support Scotland rejoining international assessments of education to keep pace with the best in the world.
  • Oppose centralisation in education and press for funding to be entrusted to local authorities, not hoarded at Holyrood.
  • Campaign to ensure the replacements for the SQA and Education Scotland are dedicated to what local teachers and pupils need, with their direction set by people with recent teaching experience instead of ministers.
  • Fund youth work services securely to allow them to reach young people who are not engaged successfully informal education.
  • Restore colleges to a powerful role in local economic development, training people of all ages in the skills they need to start - or change - their careers.

We will improve the life chances of looking after children and those in kinship care, supporting best practices as corporate parents.

We will focus on reducing child poverty and make full use of Local Child Poverty Action Reports. We also support the Scottish Liberal Democrats' Cost of Living Rescue Package. Scotland's child poverty reduction targets must be met.