Friday, 08 June 2018 18:13


John Swinney has told SNP Conference that it is both a "moral mission" and an "economic necessity" for Scotland to break the cycle of deprivation, close the attainment gap and give Scotland's children the best start in life.

The Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government is making significant progress in its aim to close the attainment gap in Scotland - saying the SNP are committed to breaking the "cycle of despair" in Scotland.
Scotland's Deputy First Minister addressed the SNP's Conference in Aberdeen this afternoon - and restated the Scottish Government's ambition to close the attainment gap and give every child the best start in life, by supporting teachers and continuing to invest in transformative services such as extending free childcare, providing baby boxes, free school meals and giving grants to ensure families can afford school uniforms.
In the speech, the Deputy First Minister said:
"We believe that every child in Scotland - no matter their background - should have the very best start in life - and we are here to make sure that happens. No matter the Dickensian politics of Ruth Davidson and Theresa May, we hold to our vision of equal from birth and equal in life.
"And that vision is driving us to make fundamental reforms. It starts in childhood. When young people have adverse or traumatic experiences growing up, the impacts are deep and long lasting.
"Domestic violence, parental abandonment, family mental health problems. Abuse and neglect. Parents going to prison. Or a home blighted by drugs and alcohol. These things do not just shape the child. They shape the adult too.
"They fuel poor health, crime, and social problems of every kind.
"Visit any A&E, any prison, any social work department and you will see the truth of this cycle of deprivation and despair. Emotional and physical development, capacity to learn, capacity to thrive. All are blighted. Adverse Childhood Events – ACE’s - fuel social problems that roll from one generation to the next and on down the decades, year after year, life after life, generation after generation.
"Friends, your SNP Government is on a bold mission. We are determined this waste of life has got to stop. We are here to change lives - to change lives for the better. 
"Friends, your SNP Government is determined -  this waste of life has got to stop.”
John Swinney continued:
"We are starting to close the attainment gap in Scottish education. The proportion of pupils – whatever their background – getting National 4s, National 5s and Highers is rising.
"But for those pupils from our most deprived communities, it is rising faster than in our richest communities.
"The gap is closing.
"And for Advanced Highers, again awards have risen for pupils from both our most deprived and least deprived communities. But the number has risen by 40% for those from our most deprived communities, six times as much as the rise in our least deprived communities. 
"The gap is closing.
"So when I visit schools and meet the fantastic young people of this nation, when I speak to the brilliant teachers in our schools, I know their efforts are delivering.
"We all know there is much more to do, but friends, I believe we are seeing the start of a renaissance in Scottish education. 
"Now is the time to press on, to put even more faith in our teachers, in our head teachers and to make sure we succeed in our mission to make Scottish education the world class system it needs to be."
The Deputy First Minister went on:
"So often we find that our opponents have mixed motives for their opposition. We know the Tories oppose the baby box not for what it is but for what it stands for.
"The same is true of tuition fee-free Higher Education. Just as we want every Scot to be equal at birth, we want them to be equal in life. That means an equal chance to go to university no matter whether your parents are rich or poor.
"Education based on ability to learn, not ability to pay. Equal in life. And here too we see real progress.
"In 2017 – which are the most recent figures – we saw the largest increase on record in 18 year olds from our most deprived communities accepted to University. It jumped by 16%. 
"The biggest increase ever.
"That’s 18 year olds – essentially school leavers – but when you look more widely you see the same sharp increase with students of all ages from our poorest communities accepted to university rising by 13% in 2017. 
"And all of this has been done without the mythical squeeze in places for other students. More than thirty-six thousand Scots were accepted to university in 2017. 
"That’s another record. 
"So the next time you hear a Tory attack the widening access agenda, remember what it is they are doing: They are defending privilege - defending because we are putting that privilege at risk.
"Defending because we are winning - winning the battle to make Scotland a fairer and a more equal country.
"And, we are winning the battle to change the life chances of young people who don’t go to university. Record numbers leave school and go into work, training or on to more education.
"And more and more are doing the kind of vocational courses that deliver skills for work, giving them the chance to be equal in life whether or not they go to university.
"Friends, I believe that our mission to improve Scotland’s education system is a moral obligation. We are the national party and the national government. 
"It is our moral mission to deliver on education.”
In closing, John Swinney said:
" I was once the minister responsible for this nation’s finances and our economic policy. And I will tell you this: we need to deliver on education for the economy and the public finances too.
"We have an ageing population and Brexit threatens to limit the number of new-Scots who come here to bolster our work force.
"Any hard-headed, pounds and pence calculation tells you that we simply must make every young person a real contributor to our economy. We want everyone to benefit from the mind-expanding power of education. To raise their sights and dream grand dreams. To design and invent and innovate. 
"They are the people who will build the Scottish economy of the future.
"If we want that future to be prosperous, the answer is education and we are delivering on education.
"Equal at birth and equal in life: a moral mission and an economic necessity. From the baby box through childcare, school reform, vocational education and widening access, we are changing the life chances of young people across this nation.
"And, there could not be a more appropriate time to do that. The Year of Young People. A year long celebration of the strength, the capability, the love, the hope, the imagination of our youngest citizens. A year in which Scotland has the opportunity to truly embrace our next generation and commit to them our energy - not just in this Party but throughout the country - to make Scotland a better country in which they can plan their futures.
"And for our part, this Party must set out to young people, and to all of our citizens, how we aim to make Scotland a better country.
"A country that looks outwards not inwards. A country that cherishes its own people and welcomes others. A country that aspires to fairness and prosperity in equal measure.
"These aspirations lie at the heart of why we want Scotland to be independent. With every passing day, the United Kingdom reflects these aspirations less and less. A country that looks outwards not inwards? A country that cherishes its own people and welcomes others? A country that aspires to fairness and prosperity in equal measure?
"None of that reflects the United Kingdom.
"Our challenge is to encourage more and more of our fellow citizens to share these aspirations. To recognise these aspirations reflect the country we want to live in. And to accept they can only be delivered through independence.
"That is our way to change lives - and to change lives for the better."

Read 294 times Last modified on Friday, 08 June 2018 18:16

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