NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of failing to wake up to a “teacher recruitment crisis” that has left 70 per cent of secondaries unable to offer pupils all the subjects they want.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the First Minister had “fallen asleep at the wheel” by allowing teacher numbers to fall by 4000 since the SNP came to power in 2007.
Referring to the recent anniversary of the SNP’s decade in office, Ms Davidson told MSPs at First Minister’s Questions: “Instead of facing this crisis, what do we get?
“This week we’ve seen backslapping of 10 years in power while education is getting worse and the reality is this is a First Minister who has presided over a teacher recruitment crisis, who has fallen asleep at the wheel on education.
“Now we have all had enough. Isn’t it time we had a First Minister who doesn’t just admit the occasional mistake but actually does something about all of them?”
She told Ms Sturgeon recent evidence given to Holyrood showed 70 per cent of schools were “constrained in the subjects they can offer their (S4) pupils because of teacher shortage”.
Ms Sturgeon replied: “I am the first to admit there is much more to do but Ruth Davidson should stop doing a disservice to teachers and to pupils across the country by using terms like a failing education system.
“We do not have a failing education system in Scotland. Ruth Davidson should be ashamed standing up here suggesting we do.”
Ms Davidson urged the SNP government to consider the Teach First scheme used in England and 40 other countries, which places graduates in classrooms.
Ms Sturgeon said she was open-minded, but recalled meeting a head teacher in London who had expressed reservations about it.
Ms Davidson said Ms Sturgeon used exactly the same line in an answer 18 months ago.
She asked: “Is a decision anywhere in our future? We have to question whether the First Minister really understands the problems that we face.”
Ms Sturgeon accused Ms Davidson of failing to acknowledge the improvements in education, and said there was early evidence the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils was closing.
She also claimed the Tories were “increasingly morphing into Ukip”, citing their manifesto pledge to double the employer’s levy on hiring skilled non-EU workers to £2000.
She also agreed to a request from SNP MSP Gil Paterson to look at the case of Glasgow University lecturer Kevin Parsons, a Canadian national facing deportation despite having a UK-born child, who had been repeatedly given “wrong information” by the Home Office.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale revealed she was being pursued for £10,000 for “damage to reputation“ by Bath-based blogger Stuart Campbell, who runs the Wings Over Scotland website, after she accused him of homophobia in a newspaper column.
Ms Dugdale told MSPs she received the demand after she “called out” Mr Campbell for a comment about gay Scottish Secretary David Mundell.
She said would never kow-tow to “a bully”, and urged the First Minister to condemn Mr Campbell’s remarks.
Ms Sturgeon said all politicians should be “very clear that that kind of language, any form of abuse of any minority, or indeed any politician of that nature, is completely unacceptable”.
Ms Dugdale then said 44 per cent of SNP MSPs and 50 per cent of SNP MPs had “actively encouraged” Mr Campbell by engaging with him online, including 10 government ministers.
“I want to ask the First Minister a clear yes or no question – will she today order her politicians and her own ministers to denounce and shun Wings Over Scotland once and for all?”
Ms Sturgeon said it was an “an absolutely ridiculous line of questioning” and a blatant attempt to distract from Labour infighting, including the suspension of nine Labour councillors in Aberdeen for going into coalition with the Tories.
She said: “This is a smokescreen being erected by Kezia Dugdale because her party is in disarray, it is civil war, it is in meltdown. She is directing this at me to hide one simple fact – as leader of the Scottish Labour Party she is not in control of her own party.”
Source : HeraldScotland