Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has confessed she is “jealous” of education policies south of the border and thinks Scotland should copy Westminster health and housing policies. In an interview with Holyrood magazine, Davidson also said she is an advocate of the free school system and believes Scottish education should be more diverse. She is also set to come under fire after stating her support for the Coalition’s controversial Health Bill, which could lead to a reduction in Scottish NHS budgets.
The Bill, passed last week [Tues], will pave the way for extending the priority treatment received by private patients. Asked about free schools in this week’s interview in Holyrood magazine, Davidson said: “I don’t care where the idea comes from, it is whether it works in a Scottish context.
“So whether it is a Swedish socialist model or the UK government trialling it then I will see if it works here and makes [Scottish education] better.
“Education is one of the areas that I have been upfront about and I am quite jealous of what is going on down south. I am quite envious.
“I have never believed that all children learn the same. I have never believed that all children should be taught the same. I always thought there was room and requirement for diversification in education and not just the free school model.” In a recent speech to party activists in Aberdeen, Davidson said she is considering plans to abolish school catchment areas, instead giving each child a ‘credit’ equivalent to the average cost of education within each local authority. However, this week Education Secretary Mike Russell said the introduction of free schools to the education system in Scotland would be “utterly inappropriate”. He added: “What concerns me is the commentators who think Scottish education should just imitate what happens elsewhere. It is possible for educational changes to take place south of the border which would be utterly wrong here.” Davidson also said she is keen to pilot a model JCB academy in Staffordshire for 14-19 year olds in Scotland, which teaches pupils practical skills like engineering as well as mainstream subjects like maths and English.
“The piloted technical school model is very interesting,” said Davidson. “Half the people that are coming out of that particular school – although they were designed to teach mathematics and science in an applicable context for engineering and electricians and that sort of thing – are going on to study at degree level. You know, [we] just [need] one of those in Scotland to pilot to see if it works – what have we got to be afraid of?” Asked whether she agrees with the controversial Health Bill just passed by the Coalition, Davidson said: “The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and I think we have to see if the changes work in the way they thought they would [down south] and I think they will. I think the Coalition has the right idea for the health service. I think in terms of service reform, they are pushing at a door that Tony Blair had chapped on but not walked through.” She added that the impact of the Barnett consequentials on the Scottish health budget will remain to be seen as the Bill has not yet come into effect.