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Davidson targets education system

Greater choice is needed in the Scottish education system to end the "monopoly of mediocrity" too many youngsters face, Ruth Davidson will argue.

The Scottish Conservative leader will use a speech at her party's UK conference in Manchester to highlight some of the problems her party sees in the country's schools.

Ms Davidson has already put forward proposals to tackle what she claims are "failing" schools by giving parents an "opportunity voucher" worth the equivalent of their child's education.

They would then be able to use this to send their child to the school of their choice - though parents could not use the vouchers to help with the cost of private education or home schooling.

Conservatives are also keen for more groups - such as parents or entrepreneurs - to be given the opportunity to run schools in Scotland.

Ms Davidson will stress the need for the education system to "fulfil the aspirations of all Scotland's young people" when she speaks at a fringe event at the Conservative conference in Manchester tomorrow.

She will also use her speech to attack the Scottish Government over its "autocratic, top-down, centralisation agenda".

While education reforms under the Curriculum for Excellence programme are "well meaning", Ms Davidson will hit out at the "poorly prepared and implemented" changes to the exam system in Scotland which do "nothing to tackle core concerns".

She will say: " It's exactly that contented complacency which is the problem.

"The old saying goes - if it isn't broken, don't fix it. But I guess it depends on who's talking.

"Here's the real question we need to ask ourselves - do we really believe a system which fails so many Scottish kids from disadvantaged backgrounds isn't in need of fixing?

"Can we really look a parent from a housing estate in Dundee or Glasgow in the eye and say 'we know the chances are your child won't get five good passes, but there's nothing we can do about it?'.

"Can we honestly look them in the eye and say the system works fine for most people, but just not for them?"

Ms Davidson will insist: " No parent or child should be forced to wait for failing schools to get their acts together, and greater choice is the key to breaking the monopoly of mediocrity too many face."

Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "Curriculum for Excellence is helping make a good system of education in Scotland great, but that alone will not address the attainment gap that Scotland still faces. We are using all the tools at our disposal to deliver high quality teaching to every pupil and create the circumstances where everyone can thrive, regardless of background.

"Just this week, international experts Professor Andy Hargreaves of Boston College, former adviser on education to UNESCO and the Canadian government Dr Avis Glaze and Finnish education policy adviser Dr Pasi Sahlberg praised our vision for education and commitment to ensuring every element of the curriculum, including the new National Qualifications, delivers for Scotland's young people and will continue to support teachers and schools.

"In addition to £3.5 million provided in 2012-13 for teaching support materials, I announced £1.4 million earlier this week for new learning materials to ensure pupils are able to access the most up-to-date resources and for the first time secondary school staff will soon be able to see in detail which areas they are having most success in and which need more work. We continue to work with Cosla and others on the best ways to take the data available and use it to push improvements forward in all of our schools."

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