Labour election win looks likely, poll reveals

11th March 2011 at 00:00
But the SNP has the better policies on education, according to TESS hustings

The Scottish National Party has the best policies on education - but Labour is most likely to be in power after the upcoming election, according to a TESS poll.

The survey - unscientific in format - was taken at a TESS hustings event last week, where the education spokespeople of Scotland's five main political parties debated priorities in the run-up to May's election.

An electronic poll of the audience, drawn from across the education sector, found 40 per cent believed the SNP had the best education policies, with Labour attracting 28 per cent and the Greens 17. The Lib Dems were supported by 8 per cent and the Conservatives 6. Eighty-four people voted.

But asked who would be in power after the election, only 32 per cent said the SNP, with 63 per cent opting for Labour. The Greens, Lib Dems and Tories were on 3, 1 and 0 per cent respectively.

In the Question Time-style debate, MSPs were quizzed by audience members on issues ranging from industrial action by teachers and budget cuts to Curriculum for Excellence, pupil assessment and CPD.

Asked about the effects of Cosla's proposals for radical changes to teachers' pay and conditions, and the shrinking of local authority education budgets, Education Secretary Michael Russell said the response to cuts should not be "ideological" or about indulging in "the blame game"; it would require the imagining of new possibilities and empowering people on the ground.

Alleviating the current stresses on the sector and making what was needed for Scottish education a reality could only be done by giving "full fiscal autonomy" to the Parliament, Mr Russell said.

The Scottish Greens' Robin Harper described proposals to freeze teachers' pay for two years as "completely unacceptable". He added: "To damage teachers' conditions of service at this time is sheer lunacy."

Des McNulty, Labour's education spokesman, said there were now 3,000 fewer teachers than four years ago; the SNP government had "simply not spent money on education". The sector was now "enfeebled" and at a "tipping point", he added.

One of the Scottish Liberal Democrats' greatest concerns was that teachers coming out of colleges were unable to find jobs, said Margaret Smith. "Decisions about education that would have been absolutely unthinkable three years ago are now being made by local authorities," she said.

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said the teaching profession was "well placed to be creative in its response" to cuts. But autonomy for heads and teachers was a key issue in the current climate and reform of school management should be a priority.

There was agreement among the panel about the need to continue with CfE. Its roll-out was the result of "widespread consensus about education in the 1999-2003 parliament," Mr Russell said, and had to be completed.

The event took place at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, on 3 March.

chris.small@tes.co.uk.

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