Education is the most important economic investment that we can make.
If we can give every child a world class education then they, and Scotland, will be able to take advantage of the amazing opportunities the future will bring.
However, we know that inequality in our education is deep-rooted.
When the school exam result league tables are published each year we know one thing – that Largs Academy will top the league table here in North Ayrshire.
The gap between those from affluent areas and those from deprived ones is growing not closing.
The problem is highlighted by the fact that 6,000 children leave primary school in Scotland each year unable to read properly.
That’s why we need to take serious action to address this inequality.
And Scottish Labour has a plan to do just that.
We would use our income tax powers to stop all cuts to education and bring back the 50p top rate for those earning over £150,000 a year. We choose to use our powers to invest in the future of our economy, rather than cutting even deeper into schools and skills.
Our plan for a 50p tax rate for the 1% will raise money for our Fair Start Fund, a grant paid to schools via primary school head teachers based on all children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It will be used to reduce the attainment gap.
Every head teacher will receive £1000 per year for every pupil from a disadvantaged background. That head teacher will then be able to spend that money in whatever they believe will close the attainment gap. This is important because head teachers have a better understanding of what’s in the best interests of for their own pupils than a Government Minister sitting at a desk in Holyrood.
Our Fair Start Fund means an extra £2.43million for schools in North Ayrshire.
And here’s how much it means for individual schools in the Cunninghame South constituency.
We also need to do more in Higher and Further Education.
Under the SNP College budgets have been slashed. 152,000 college places have been cut as a result. That’s opportunities for people to learn, retrain and reskill removed.
I have always stood up against these cuts and a fair funding settlement for colleges.
On student support we need a real change.
The SNP promised to abolish student debt in 2007 but in power they have slashed bursaries for the poorest hstudents and increased loans.
The result has been that student debt in Cunninghame South has increased by over 400% over the last Parliament.
I support free tuition but the reality is that education in Scotland is not free. The SNP have rightly opposed cuts to student bursaries at Westminster but the hypocrisy is that they have already done exactly that to Scottish students.
We need to use the powers of the Parliament to provide greater financial support to students, particularly those from the poorest backgrounds. That's why Scottish Labour will reverse those cuts!
And in Further Education we need to end the archaic funding system that doesn’t give HE students an entitlement to funding like those in HE Education.
Each year bursary pots run out before the end of the academic year. This year Ayrshire College received £285,000 less in bursary funding than they applied for.
Scottish Labour will end this scandal. We will increase the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) overall resource budget by over £5 million. A letter of guidance will be issued alongside this funding, instructing colleges that this is specifically for student support.
Only Scottish Labour will use the powers to protect education budgets and invest in our future. For Joe's part he will continue to campaign for investment in local schools having successfully campaigned with the Parent Council for capital investment in Kilwinning Academy and having abolished the charges levied on local schools for hiring their own school facilities.