28 November 2002

S1M-3650 Education

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3650, in the name of Brian Monteith, on education, and two amendments to that motion.
... ... ...
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I welcome the Tory motion on education. We were in danger of forgetting why the Tories exist, but the motion illustrates that perfectly. The Tories exist for one purpose: to maintain the privileged position of the wealthy. They have no other objective. The last two words of the motion are "skilled employment", and David Davidson said that he sees the education system delivering people who are prepared for "future economic opportunity". What the Tory members have at the forefront of their education policy is the delivery of worker drones for the bosses to exploit.
Mr Davidson: Will the member give way?
Stewart Stevenson: No, I will not. I do not have time.
It is revealing that Brian Monteith had to pick up the history of Scottish education to get some insight. Let us consider the schools to which the Tory MSPs went. We have three Etonians, two from George Watson's College and one from Millfield. I do not think that a single Tory MSP went to a school other than a selective one.
Mr Monteith rose—
Murdo Fraser rose—
Stewart Stevenson: Inverness Royal Academy is a selective school. My wife went there and she shared that school with Murdo Fraser.
Mr Monteith: I went to Portobello High School.
Stewart Stevenson: I invite Brian Monteith to tell me about Portobello High School.
Mr Monteith: Portobello High School was a comprehensive school when I was there. The past two generations of my family went there and my sons go there. I have no problem with the school that I attended and which my sons attend. May I just add—
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Order. You were invited to give a response, Mr Monteith, and you have given it.
Stewart Stevenson: We have got the Tories riled. I am perfectly happy to make common cause with colleagues from other parties against the entrenchment of the privilege that the Tories have always represented.
I went to one of the largest schools in Scotland, which had some 2,000 pupils. The objective of education at that time was to realise not the economic potential of pupils but their personal potential. That is what education is about. It is important to learn skills, but they will decay over time and be overtaken by events. It is far more important that we equip our young people, when they leave schools and further education, with the ability to adapt and learn.
Not all Tories get it wrong all the time.
Michael Russell: Pardon?
Stewart Stevenson: I know that that is news to Mike Russell, but let us be fair to the Tories. Even Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1996, got it right in "Achievement for All", the objectives for Her Majesty's inspectors. He said that streaming is
"inherently inflexible and does not promote teaching which builds on prior learning"
and that
"pupils are discouraged by being placed in the lowest streams and can lack motivation to make progress".
The comprehensive system delivers for Scotland and can be developed to deliver for Scotland in the future.

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