Scottish Budget Spending Review 2007

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CHAPTER 4: A SMARTER SCOTLAND

Expand opportunities for people in Scotland to succeed from nurture through to life long learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements.

SUMMARY

A smarter Scotland is critical to delivering the government's Purpose of achieving sustainable economic growth. By making Scotland smarter, we will lay the foundations for the future wellbeing and achievement of our children and young people, increase skill levels across the population and better channel the outputs of our universities and colleges into sustainable wealth creation.

A smarter Scotland will identify and address risks to its children, young people and families, so they can develop and flourish. A smarter Scotland will provide everyone with relevant opportunities to learn. The benefits will be realised in a society where the opportunity to succeed is within everyone's reach and where full use is made of people's skills. A smarter Scotland will drive a growing economy and will generate the kind of thinking and technologies which protect and improve health, wellbeing and the environment.

To help achieve a smarter Scotland, the Scottish Government will:

  • work with local government towards improving the learning experience for children and young people by improving the fabric of schools and nurseries; as quickly as is possible, reducing class sizes in P1 to P3 to a maximum of 18 and ensuring access to a teacher for every pre-school child; and making substantial progress towards a 50 per cent increase in pre-school entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds;
  • deliver a long-term early years strategy in order that everyone involved in supporting this critical stage of children's lives are signed up to a shared vision;
  • work with local government and legislate to extend entitlement to nutritious free school meals to all primary and secondary school pupils of families in receipt of maximum child or working tax credit in 2009; and to allow further extension of free school meals to all P1 to P3 pupils in 2010;
  • implement the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act to improve protection for children and vulnerable adults and to reduce the bureaucratic burdens on those working with them;
  • develop and work with local government to implement strategies for child protection, fostering and kinship care and youth justice, to improve support for the children, young people, families and communities most at risk. This includes providing allowances for kinship carers of looked after children;
  • develop and deliver the Curriculum for Excellence, giving our children and young people an exciting, relevant learning experience which equips them for future life and work; and deliver an effective qualifications and assessment framework to underpin that learning experience;
  • promote parity of esteem for vocational learning and qualifications and academic skills and work in partnership with local government, colleges, local employers and others to give more school pupils opportunities to experience vocational learning;
  • work with our partners to provide more positive and engaging opportunities for all young people, allowing them to develop the enterprise and entrepreneurial skills and attitudes they need for the workplace. This will ensure that Scotland's young people have more choices and more chances to take advantage of opportunities in work, education or training;
  • deliver a total investment of £5.24 billion (£1.67bn/£1.75bn/£1.81bn) in the further and higher education sectors in Scotland, with an extra £100 million capital funding package in 2007-08 to maintain the competitiveness and effectiveness of the sectors;
  • deliver support for students of £1.55 billion (£509.1m/£507.7m/£538.8m), with a total of £29.0m/£30.0m/£60.0m to end the graduate endowment fees; and to phase in the transition from student loans to grants, starting with part-time students. We will also embark on a consultation on student support and graduate debt proposals in 2008;
  • invest £16 million in 2008-09 for the establishment of a skills body, Skills Development Scotland Ltd, and £20 million (£3.9m/£7.9m/£7.9m) for the implementation of Skills for Scotland to develop smarter demand for and use of skills in the economy and to deliver high quality training and learning provision across the population;
  • refresh the Adult Literacy and Numeracy strategy and work jointly with local government, Scotland's colleges and the voluntary sector to improve English for speakers of other languages ( ESOL) provision;
  • publish a new science strategy for Scotland, outlining how science will underpin our success as a nation; and
  • improve research links between colleges, universities and business to get the best Scottish ideas from the campus to the marketplace and enhance capacity in Dundee to support life sciences in Scotland.

OUR AMBITION FOR A SMARTER SCOTLAND

A smarter Scotland will help drive wealth creation and equity by putting opportunities to succeed within everyone's reach and making full use of people's skills. Investing in and applying learning will help to generate the attitudes, ideas and technologies which protect and improve health, wellbeing and the environment. A smarter Scotland will also underpin greater social cohesion, by ensuring that education plays a key role in building stronger and more resilient families and communities.

Scotland is in a good position. We have a learning system and culture of which we can be proud. Our participation, research capacity, teacher education and curriculum developments are quite rightly regarded as world class, acting as magnets for business development and wealth creation.

However, if we are to fully realise our Purpose of sustainable economic growth and enhance our ability to compete, we need to tackle some of the significant inequalities which persist in Scotland. We know where we need to focus efforts to achieve a smarter Scotland - stark health and education inequalities emerge within the first few years of a child's life, and this is where we need to focus attention in order to redress the inequalities this leads to in later life. Coupled with this, we must intensify support for vulnerable children, young people and families, identifying and tackling risks early and building resilience for the long term.

There are too few opportunities for too many of our young people who are neither working nor learning. We will respond by providing more choices and more chances for young people to ensure that they can all take advantage of opportunities in work, education or training.

We need to protect and bolster the international reputation we enjoy for excellence in education and apply a global perspective to our approach and ambitions. We need to meet the challenge of using our knowledge and learning to ever better effect by delivering greater economic output from our research base, and we need to make full and productive use of people's skills.

Successful countries invest in the skills and potential of their people. We will work to achieve equality of opportunity for all people in Scotland to fulfil their potential and contribute to a thriving, confident nation.

This government will work with all of our partners to provide the resources and tools needed to develop the skills that individuals and the economy need.

Our focus will be developing a Scotland that is renowned as a smart, learning nation, built on firm educational foundations, and creating opportunities for all people in Scotland to contribute to the success and economic growth of our nation.

DELIVERING A SMARTER SCOTLAND

Outcome: Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed

Our children thrive when they have self-confidence, social skills and an awareness of their impact on others and the world around them. It is now widely accepted that investing in children's early development creates the foundations for fulfilment, good health and wellbeing and positive economic and civic engagement later in life. This government will build on this consensus by working with our partners across the public and voluntary sector, particularly with local government, to deliver on a shared vision of nurturing children in the important early years.

We will work with our partners in health, social work, education and childcare provision to develop an ambitious, long-term approach. The development of a long-term early years strategy will establish the framework in which government and its partners will work to deliver effective early years support for children and young people, allowing any problems to be identified and tackled early and more easily.

Children need care and attention to thrive, especially in the vital pre-school and early school years. Reducing class sizes means more time for each child, improved behaviour and increased motivation. 5 With fewer pupils, teachers can devote more time to each one, giving them firm foundations for the future. Progressive reductions in class sizes in P1 to P3, together with the right level and quality of nursery provision will ensure that our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed.

Our children's wellbeing relies on more than their educational experience. Fundamentally, our children's health has a major impact on their ability to succeed. Improving children's diet and levels of physical activity can make a major contribution on their health with beneficial outcomes throughout later life. That is why, in addition to educating our young people about healthy lifestyles, we are championing healthy eating and tackling poverty by funding pilots for P1 to P3 and working with local authorities to extend the entitlement to free nutritious school meals.

Most of a child's basic needs in the early years are met by parents, carers, families, and their wider social networks. It is crucial to support parents to develop their own skills and work with them to make best use of the strengths within the family and their social networks. This government will take a whole-family and community approach to the best start in the early years which will make a lasting impact on future generations.

Outcome: We have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk

The extent of disadvantage that some children experience from birth impacts adversely on their life chances. By the time they reach their third birthday, children from deprived backgrounds can be as much as a year behind their peers in cognitive and social development. 6 The impact of this disadvantage can be seen throughout an individual's life, in poor health, employment and social outcomes.

This government will work with our delivery partners to act swiftly in identifying and dealing with risks to children, young people and families in order to prevent these risks from becoming long-term problems. We are determined to deliver a child-centred approach and we will pay particular attention to the needs of children who are at risk and who are living in vulnerable situations. Our child protection responsibilities are of paramount importance and we will focus attention and effort on ensuring that we have the right legislative and other frameworks in place to safeguard our children and young people.

Through our vision for children's services, 7 we will ensure that the wide range of agencies work together to get it right for Scotland's children. Children need access to an environment that is conducive to learning and which provides the stability and experiences that may not exist in home life. Children across Scotland will benefit from our investment in effective universal services, including expanded early-years provision and smaller class sizes. When children need to be cared for away from their birth family, we are determined to support the delivery of consistent, secure, high quality and nurturing care, whether that is provided by the wider family, by foster carers or in residential care. We will build on the investment which we have already made in training, advice and information for foster and kinship carers and provide allowances for kinship carers of looked after children.

Young people embarking on adult life need positive options. We will work to ensure that their personal circumstances do not prevent them from engaging in learning or work. We will improve support and guidance at transition points and further develop a wide range of high quality learning, training and employment opportunities for them. We believe that a smarter Scotland provides fair access to education for all and will ensure that asylum seeker children have the same rights as other children in taking up learning opportunities.

Positive outcomes require skilled and committed professionals. We will support and develop the workforce and leadership of public and voluntary sector bodies so that they are well equipped for the task. We will also work to harness the resources and enthusiasm of the private sector to ensure that there is greater opportunity for children, young people and families at risk to achieve positive outcomes.

Across government (notably in health, housing and regeneration), we will work with local government and across agencies to build the capacity and resilience of children, young people and families. By doing this, we will create a platform of opportunity, releasing the talents of all, which will, in turn, reduce poverty, antisocial behaviour, crime, and health and other inequalities.

Outcome: Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens

Relevant and exciting education which develops skills for learning, for work and for life has the power to transform life chances. By delivering curriculum reform in our schools through the Curriculum for Excellence, we will improve literacy and numeracy and nurture better modern language skills. We will equip pupils for their futures in a globalised society by encouraging them to develop an understanding of and passion for science, the environment and Scotland's culture, history and heritage.

We will improve the learning experience in school so that it can meet the needs of all children. Improving children's diet and levels of physical activity helps education attainment, achievement, health and wellbeing in childhood and in later life. We will therefore promote children's good health and an awareness of their impact on others and the environment by providing more free, improved, nutritious school meals and by ensuring that the outcomes for the curriculum require physical activity in schools and a greater understanding of healthy and greener lifestyles. We will protect equal access to education, consulting on proposals to introduce a legislative presumption against the closure of rural schools.

By cutting class sizes and enhancing quality in teaching, we will give children the individual attention they need to succeed and to contribute to a prosperous, economic, social, cultural and sustainable future for Scotland. We will achieve this through working with local government and the profession to introduce smaller class sizes in P1 to P3 and to develop leadership and continuous professional development for teachers.

Children's and young people's experiences up to the age of 16 shape their readiness for adult life and work. We believe that this readiness is best achieved by young people having the experience of both vocational and academic skills. Scotland's lifelong skills strategy, Skills for Scotland, outlines our ambitions for making Scotland's skills base truly world class. It sets out our commitment to ensuring that vocational skills and qualifications have parity of esteem by providing quality and diversity in vocational options. We will work with schools and colleges to exploit fully the benefits of their collaboration in delivering this high quality, diverse provision.

Skills development goes hand-in-hand with developing the enterprising and entrepreneurial attitudes that allow us to put those skills to use. Generations of Scots have demonstrated these attitudes. Working with local government and other partners, we will build on the foundations laid by Determined to Succeed to ensure our enterprise education strategy allows schools to help young people to collaborate, innovate and create ideas and then have the confidence, determination and persistence to turn those ideas into action for personal, economic and social benefit. Scotland's employers will continue to play a crucial part in this effort and we will continue to encourage them to work in partnership with our schools, teachers and young people.

We will develop ways to reflect this broad learning experience and recognise wider achievements during school years, in line with the Curriculum for Excellence, taking full account of the needs of employers.

This government is committed to taking a broad approach of excellent universal provision with tailored support where that is required to raise the achievements of the lowest performing pupils, those disengaging from learning and those who require additional support to get the most from their learning.

We will work with partners to create a learning system which encourages young people to think about their impact on the environment, to care about being healthy, to fulfil their potential and to contribute to society and the economy. We will support young people to be ambitious and able to contribute to Scotland's future prosperity as members of a creative workforce.

Outcome: We are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation

With higher sustainable economic growth as our Purpose, we must invest in a globally competitive, flexible learning system. We want Scotland to be the most attractive place in Europe to do business - and we want to create a learning system that enables people to develop the skills and ideas to allow us to achieve that pre-eminence.

This government believes that learning in Scotland should stretch everyone in the pursuit of excellence. Exposing and encouraging our learners to ambitious thinking, ideas and attitudes will equip them for a lifetime of achievement. We will improve performance and ensure value for money in the provision of training, further and higher education, and community learning and development by working with all these sectors to respond to the demands of learners, employers and the economy.

We want people to take an enterprising attitude to investing in their own development and employers to investing in development of their workforce. We will make progress on the ambitious agenda set out in Skills for Scotland which focuses on the demand for and supply of skills in Scotland and, importantly, their utilisation. Through £20 million investment underpinning the strategy, we will develop learning support and opportunities for low paid/low skilled workers; work towards an effective mix of vocational skills in the economy; and work with employers in meeting their skills needs.

Over 600,000 people in Scotland are classified as economically inactive. We will work to reduce economic inactivity through the Workforce Plus agenda, thereby providing a route out of poverty, improving individual wellbeing and increasing participation in the labour market.

We will enable greater opportunity for individuals to participate in Scotland's economic, social and civic life by driving forward programmes for adult literacy and numeracy. English language skills are essential to this participation and we will upgrade publicly-funded English for speakers of other languages provision to encourage active citizenship in our diverse society and to support economic growth.

Maintaining the competitiveness and effectiveness of our tertiary education system in teaching, research and knowledge transfer is vital to our economic wellbeing. Knowledge creation will generate the innovation and technologies which promote and protect our health, wellbeing and environment and drive sustainable economic growth.

We will capitalise on the benefits of collaboration between Scottish universities, building on existing success stories, such as the world's first Translational Medicine Research collaboration between government, Scotland's universities, NHS Scotland and the pharmaceutical industry. We will work to stimulate demand for and use of research and innovation by business, so that we can bridge the gap between innovation and commercialisation of our best ideas. We will provide additional support for industries in which Scotland operates at the leading edge, enhancing capacity in Dundee to support life sciences in Scotland. This government will itself harness this knowledge to Scotland's advantage, putting science to work to underpin our health, wealth and wellbeing as a nation and will develop a new science strategy for Scotland to outline our approach.

Graduates from Scottish universities are amongst the brightest and the best in a global pool of talent and make a significant contribution to Scotland's economic growth. This government believes that reducing graduate debt is therefore an investment in our future, our people and our economy. The decision to abolish the graduate endowment fee has been a crucial step towards a fairer system; one that we will build on over the life of this Parliament, investing in total £29.0m/£30.0m/£60.0m to end the graduate endowment fee and to phase-in the transition from student loans to grants, starting with part-time students. We will also embark on a consultation on student support and graduate debt proposals in 2008.

Our vision of a smarter Scotland is one in which the benefits of education and learning are spread widely. This government's approach will make a tangible impact on tackling significant inequalities in Scottish society by empowering and enabling people to support sustainable economic growth regardless of personal circumstances, with life skills that benefit their own wellbeing and that of fellow citizens and society.