We are committed to ensuring that all of Scotland’s children get the best start. By investing in high quality childcare and highly trained staff, we can support children during their vital early years and help them reach their full potential. Free childcare has already been increased to 16 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds – up from 12.5 hours in 2007 – and extended to 2 year olds from low income households. By the end of this parliament, we’ll hit 30 hours a week, doubling spending to almost £1 billion.
Scotland has a good education system – with great schools and teachers. We have a new curriculum in place, Higher exam passes are up and a record number of young people leaving school to go onto positive destinations. But we need to do more.
We want to raise attainment throughout the education system and end the decades of educational inequality that has existed in Scotland. Addressing this is a priority for the SNP, starting with reforms in primary schools – the crucial early years of education.
To tackle the education attainment gap we will, over the next five years, expand our Attainment Fund and invest an additional £750 million in tackling this, with more money allocated direct to headteachers. We’re also giving headteachers more freedom to make their own decisions and are working to make Scotland a world leader in parent and family involvement in schools.
We will tackle the attainment gap in Higher Education too. We will set ambitious new targets that will ensure that by 2030, students from the 20 per cent most deprived areas make up 20 per cent of Higher Education entrants. We are reforming student funding to make it fair to students throughout their learner journey from 16 to 24.
And, as long as the SNP is in government we’ll keep university free from tuition fees – ensuring education is based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay.
Helping young people to make the transition to adulthood and the world of work is vital. Whether a young person chooses university, college, vocational training or employment, it is important that they get the best opportunities. We continue to maintain at least 116,000 full-time equivalent college places. We are also on track to increase the number of Modern Apprenticeships to 30,000 each year by 2020. And, we’ll introduce a new back-to-work Jobs Grant for people aged 16 to 24.