FMQs: First Minister challenged over failure to close the attainment gap
Nicola Sturgeon was challenged at First Minister’s Questions on her government’s failure to close the poverty-related attainment gap in education.
It followed a report from Audit Scotland on Tuesday that criticised progress in closing the gap, which it said remained “uncomfortably wide”.
In her final appearance at FMQs, the Scottish Conservative's leader at Holyrood, Ruth Davidson, asked: “This government has had years on education, so why has progress on closing the attainment gap been so slow?”
Davidson also questioned why education secretary John Swinney had said earlier in the week that he was “nervous” about using the term ‘catch-up’ when talking about pupils returning to school after a year learning mainly from home due to COVID.
In response, Sturgeon challenged Davidson on why she had not asked about education in previous weeks, claiming she had “chosen instead to indulge in smears instead of focusing on the issues people want”.
Sturgeon said the Audit Scotland report provided “lots for us to think about as we head to the election” and it also “can give us the confidence the key building blocks are in place”.
The First Minister also pointed to actions taken by the Scottish Government, such as £400m of funding for education recovery and “record” funding through the attainment fund.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also pressed the First Minister over the attainment gap.
He said: “According to the judgement of Audit Scotland this week, the Scottish Government’s performance on education is 'limited and falls short'. The First Minister said she would close the poverty-related attainment gap completely. But that was six years ago.
“The First Minister predicted that such change 'won’t be done overnight' but we have had 2,000 overnights since then.
“Young people have been waiting for years, and at this rate it will take 35 years to have equity in education. Meanwhile yet more generations of thousands of young people will be left behind."
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar called on the First Minister to support calls for a fatal accident inquiry into the death 10-year-old Milly Main who contracted an infection while being treated for leukaemia at the Royal Children's Hospital in Glasgow in 2017.
Speaking after FMQs, he said: “Nothing I have done in my time in this parliament has been more important or more difficult than raising the case of Milly Main.
“I promised then that I would not rest until I got answers and justice for Milly and all the families affected.
“Four years on from Milly’s death we are finally starting to get answers, but her family have demanded a fatal accident inquiry and that is the very least they deserve."