Improving the education and life chances of our children and young people is an ambition which is shared across the education system, and it remains central to our improvement agenda.
At the education debate in Parliament earlier this year, I took the opportunity to emphasise the fact that there is much to be proud of, and to celebrate, in our early learning and childcare settings, our schools, community learning and development, colleges and universities. This is demonstrated by all the young people who achieved qualifications and awards recognising their knowledge and skills this summer, and all those who have moved onto employment, started new apprenticeships or courses in our colleges and universities. They are a credit to themselves and to those who have supported them through an extremely challenging period, and their resilience is an inspiration to us all.
I also want to pay tribute to the dedication, commitment and hard work of our early years practitioners; our teachers, our community learning and development practitioners, our college and university lecturers, and all those who work alongside them. It has been another challenging year, with the continued impact of COVID and the need to support and nurture children and young people through this ongoing period of recovery.
Despite all of these challenges, Scotland remains a highly educated country, a fact that is often overlooked in much of the commentary about our education system. We have the highest proportion of adults with tertiary level education, and the latest figures show that more school leavers in Scotland are in education, employment or training nine months after the end of the school year – 93.2% in 2020/21 compared to 92.2% in 2019/20. We recognise that COVID has had an impact on attainment and, in particular, on the poverty related attainment gap, but it is reassuring that the Achievement of CfE Level data is showing real recovery from the pandemic, with the largest single year increase in primary school literacy and numeracy since the data collection began. This demonstrates our commitment to the ambition of achieving equity and excellence for all of Scotland's children and young people.
Tackling inequity is at the heart of the Scottish Government's education reform agenda, and there is a collective responsibility to ensure continuous improvement for children and young people. The national discussion on Scottish education should lead to a consensual vision on the purpose of education, and will help to inform Professor Hayward's independent review on Qualifications and Assessments. Professor Hayward's report in March 2023 will pave the way for future reform to the qualification and assessment system in Scotland to ensure our qualifications and assessment approach meets the needs of learners and society in the 21st century.
It is crucial that we listen to children and young people, and respond to their expectations and their lived experience. We know already that they want to see more concerted action on how our education system addresses racism, climate change, children's rights, gender inequality, and LGBT rights, and we are working with them on these priorities.
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
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