Widening Access Commissioner ‘within weeks’ as Education ‘tops priorities’ in SNP’s programme for government
Nicola Sturgeon outlines her programme for government - Scottish Parliament
An independent commissioner on widening access to university will be appointed “within weeks”, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The appointment was included in a speech laying out the Scottish Government’s legislative plans for the new parliamentary session.
Tackling inequalities in education was, Sturgeon said, the “defining mission” of government.
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“We are currently developing the implementation plan for the recommendations made by the commission on widening access to university, and over the next few weeks we will confirm the appointment of an independent widening access commissioner,” she said.
A review of student support will also take place, she added.
The National Union of Students (NUS) welcomed the announcements.
Scottish president Vonnie Sandlan, who sat on the widening access commission said the Scottish Government’s commitment must be backed with “ambitious, bold and immediate action” to get results.
“That requires continued investment in education, to ensure access targets can be met in full, if not exceeded. It must see the necessary support system for students to ensure that they are able to not just access education but stay there and succeed,” she said.
“And it also needs the necessary leadership to push our universities and colleges to secure much greater progress, through the appointment of a Fair Access Commissioner. This announcement laid the groundwork for all that to happen, and we look forward to playing a full role in ensuring it does.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the Scottish Government of "self-congratulation", and of "gutting" the college sector.
"Headline-grabbing spending pledges may look swanky etched in stone, but surely it is time for the Scottish Government to put aside self-congratulation and get on with helping those who need it," she said.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the programme for government lacked any specific education bill.
"It will be another year before this Parliament will see an education bill; and it will be March before new mechanisms for school funding will be consulted on. That sums up this programme for government: it does not address the big questions that our country faces," she said.
A new child poverty bill, which would establish Scotland as the only part of the UK with statutory income targets on child poverty, will be “arguably the most important piece of legislation that we will introduce this year”, added Sturgeon.
“We want to ensure that every young person can fulfil their potential, because that is the only way in which Scotland can fulfil its potential,” she said.