SEAS Chair, Bill Butler led the debate on education motions at Scottish Labour Conference in Dundee last week.
“SEA Scotland, in proposing this contemporary motion, aims positively to update Scottish Labour’s position regarding state support for private independent schools. As Labour’s educational affiliate we are fully supportive of inclusive comprehensive schooling in Scotland. Through this motion we wish to end state support to the privileged forms of schooling that undermine our comprehensive system, and are a blot on society’s landscape.
Private schooling in Scotland is facing crisis. The number of private schools, and pupils attending them, is in decline. We must make sure that such a welcome trend continues.
The Scottish National Party has promised to end charitable relief for most private schools in Scotland by April 2020. We call on our Labour MSPs to ensure that the SNP does not attempt to wriggle out of that commitment – we must strip this form of state support from statute.
We know that the SNP can’t be trusted on this issue. Just as the Nats were saying they were to remove the charitable status, we had John Swinney, the present Education Minister, writing to the Finance Minister on behalf of a private school. He suggested that private schools could ask local councils for extra help and reductions. You couldn’t make it up! As Iain Gray said, “The hypocrisy of this will anger parents and teachers across the country, this looks like another error of judgement from John Swinney”. Iain you are correct, but far too kind in your phraseology. This is a prime example of SNP hypocrisy and double dealing – talking left and walking right!
Conference, it’s not just the SEA Scotland that has concerns about private schooling. School inspectors share our worries. While we have concerns about privilege bought and paid for, the school inspectors have worries about who teaches in private schools. In 2016 the school inspectorate provided a report on preschool, primary school, secondary school, independent schools, special schools and education in prisons. In only one sector did the inspectors highlight concerns about the care of learners – independent schools. The inspectors said:
“We have identified weaknesses in approaches relating to child protection and safeguarding…This included staffing issues such as disciplinary procedures and safe recruitment practices.“
Conference, this is an astonishing and worrying indictment of private schools. Such matters cannot be allowed to go unchecked.
Comrades, the OECD has praised Scotland’s school system for its high levels of diversity in social mix. This is due to only 4% of children being educated in private schools across Scotland. The SEAS believes that such a social mix will be enhanced, particularly in our cities, by ending support for private schooling and welcoming more and more children and young people into an inclusive, high-quality, comprehensive system.
Labour’s aim of an egalitarian society in Scotland is compromised by private schools. Let’s end the privilege, let’s stop the support and let’s hasten the demise of private profit in education.
Conference, I move!”