SNP sets out its stall

14th April 2006 at 01:00
More teachers in nursery, more teachers in the early years of primary and more PE teachers in primary and secondary are on the wish-list of the SNP if it grabs power after next year's Scottish elections.

Every three and four-year-old will have 50 per cent more time in nursery education - which could mean full-time places - while all pre-school centres would have a nursery teacher, a policy that runs counter to present policies of the Labour-Liberal Democrat administration.

Further cuts are promised in class sizes in the early years, although the party sets no targets or time-scale.

The updated policy, unveiled last week ahead of the party's spring conference, also spells out a vision of two hours a week of compulsory physical education to lift the health of children.

As part of that drive, the party wants to pilot free school meals in the first three years of primary and back that up with a school-based dental service and an increase in the number of school nurses, especially in deprived areas.

In the secondary sector, the SNP wants to stretch the current Scottish Executive policy of piloting specialisms through the Schools for Ambition programme by insisting that all secondaries develop a specialist subject, for example, in music, art, drama, sport, science or languages.

Taking its cue from Jack McConnell, the First Minister, the SNP says this would "instil a passion for and pride in being extra special, not just average".

All pupils should have an appreciation of their culture and history but "science, modern languages and technology must be at the heart of the modern Scottish curriculum".

In higher education, the SNP pledges to scrap the graduate endowment "to make university education free again". It would abolish student loans and replace them with grants and "look to" write off existing graduate debt.

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