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'My mind is open,' says Labour's new voice for education

Labour's new education spokeswoman has vowed to "work hard and graft" to get to grips with her new brief - but as the daughter of two teachers, Kezia Dugdale (pictured) has spent most of her life steeped in education, she told TESS, in her first interview since taking up her new position.

"I'm thrilled to have this opportunity," the 31-year-old said of her recent promotion. "It's a huge step up for me - I haven't been in the parliament that long and I don't profess to know everything, but my mind is open and I'll work hard and graft.

"I'm looking forward to making the case for the power of education to transform young people's lives."

Ms Dugdale, a Lothian MSP, elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, was promoted from youth employment spokeswoman last week in a major reshuffle of the Labour front bench, in which she replaced experienced politician and former teacher, Hugh Henry.

Finance spokesman Ken Macintosh, a former Labour schools spokesman, was also replaced. Labour leader Johann Lamont described the shake-up as a bid to introduce the "right blend of youth and experience" ahead of the 2016 elections.

Ms Dugdale was "a great appointment", Mr Macintosh told TESS, adding that she was "a bright, hardworking and switched-on colleague".

Ms Dugdale was "thought of very highly" and was "extremely competent", said Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who sits on the parliament's education committee, described Ms Dugdale as a "hardworking parliamentarian". But she added: "Kezia is a Labour ultra-loyalist who specialises in oppositional politics. I suspect she will continue with Labour's policy of attacking the government without offering any positive alternative ideas."

Ms Dugdale said that one of the major challenges that lay ahead would be delivering the 20-year vision for education to which Ms Lamont had committed her party earlier this year.

emma.seith@tess.co.uk.

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