Following the Tories, say SNP and Lib Dems

22nd August 1997 at 01:00
As schools return for the new session, we review Brian Wilson's first three months as Education Minister and the impact on schools. Janet Law, SNP education spokeswoman and education convener in Perth and Kinross.

Labour's election promises are fading but will not disappear from memory as quickly as their gaudy billboards were pasted over. The inexplicable decision to retain nursery vouchers has left councils, teachers and parents feeling confused and let down. No one is convinced that abolishing the assisted places scheme and using the very limited saving to reduce class sizes will make any serious difference. Mr Wilson seems isolated, trying to make sense of the obsessive agenda south of the border about bad teachers and failing schools.

The welfare to work plans are a penny-pinching opportunity. What was hoped for was properly planned and funded vocational education and training with a benefit safety net. As if to guarantee parity of lack of esteem, these disappointing measures were quickly followed by the announcement of tuition fees and an end to grants for students in higher education. The windfall tax, promised for training, was partly diverted to a quick fix to help out education authorities with particularly acute problems. Councils are already reduced to fighting over "challenge funding" and lottery cash is seen as the solution for such things as respite care or after-school clubs.

The case for a Scottish parliament to defend Scottish education is just as strong under new Labour as it was under the Tories. More and more people are becoming convinced that Scotland needs a real Scottish parliament which can make decisions about our education system and our economy.

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