Scottish Conservatives would raise school leaving age to 18, Ruth Davidson tells party conference
Ruth Davidson speaking at a previous party conference - Image credit: PA
The Scottish Conservatives would raise the school leaving age to 18, Ruth Davidson has revealed.
At the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen the Scottish Conservative leader announced that, if elected, her party would introduce a legal “skills participation age” of 18.
This would mean that anyone under 18 had to either go to college or university, or if they want to start work, it wold have to be through a structured apprenticeship or a traineeship.
She added that schools would be required to make clear that there was no hierarchy between the different options.
She contrasted this with former prime minister Tony Blair’s aim in the 1990s of getting 50 per cent of young people to go to university, saying that while it was well intended, it gave the impression that the other half had failed.
Davidson said: “Instead, let’s make clear to pupils that they have a series of options: yes, there’s university if you want, but there’s another path towards a great job if you choose it too.
“One that, frankly, will mean you could be earning decent money and building a career long before your graduate friends have got their degree photographs up on the living room wall.
“It’s going to require a big change in the way we deliver senior education in this country. We will ask every school to provide new foundation apprenticeships.
“And we’ll need to encourage entrepreneurs like Jim McColl to set up more junior colleges, like the one he pioneered in Glasgow.
“Most of all, it will need a sea change in culture and in how, as a society, we value vocational education.
“Because for too many, it remains the case that vocational education is somehow a poor relation of the academic route – that it’s something lesser.”
Davidson also announced a series of measures her party would take to boost the economy, based on the recommendations of the Scottish Future Growth Council, led by Andrew Dunlop.
These include a Scottish exporting institute, new partnerships between the private and public sectors, new investment hubs around the UK and an economic growth fund to support venture capitalists looking to invest in Scotland, as well as reform of Scottish Enterprise.
Talking about Brexit, the Scottish Conservative leader called for compromise to find a way forward.
Davidson said that referenda divide people into tribes and they then begin to act tribal as a result.
She said: “The solution doesn’t lie in the trenches of one extreme or another – of overturning the referendum, or of crashing out with no deal.
“It lies in those colleagues currently round the table, taking the difficult first steps towards each other.
“So I say to the negotiating teams of our party and the labour party, who are currently locked in talks – get Brexit sorted, get a deal over the line and let Britain move on.”
Davidson also called for more civilised debate over disagreements.
She said: “My message to all sides is this: It’s fine to disagree, profoundly.
“But calling into question the motives of someone whose sincerely held beliefs just happen to disagree with your does nothing to forward our nation.
“We have to find our way back to honest disagreement. To proper political clash. To challenging each other’s ideas.
“Not spending all our time trying to find ways to dismiss the man so there’s no need to play the ball.”