Angela Constance MSP

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Angela Constance MSP

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  • Member for: Almond Valley
  • Region: Lothian
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Angela is a member of the following Committees:

Angela is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Angela Constance

Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

No. I have been very generous with my time.

As Mary Scanlon knows, we are not interested in national testing. We will of course look to see what additional data and information is proportionate and meaningful and will allow us to make judgments about what works and inform our practice as we move forward.

What this Government is about in terms of our education system is achieving both equity and excellence. It is utterly wrong to believe that an equitable education system that provides equal chances for children and young people cannot also be excellent. Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, pointed that out in a recent article for BBC news when he said that

“international comparisons show there is no incompatibility between the quality of learning and equity, the highest performing education systems combine both.”

They combine excellence and equity, which is what we are about.

Everybody in this chamber will have children and young people in their lives. What we must continue to inject into education policy and, indeed, all aspects of public policy is to want for all of Scotland’s children what we want for our own children. We have to believe that all our children can achieve their full potential, and that applies to looked-after children and children with additional support needs. At the end of the day, all those children are our children and we can all help to ensure that Scotland becomes the best place in which to learn and grow up.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

No, thanks.

I hope that those points about the London challenge will overcome some of the concerns that Mark Griffin described around challenges that children from poorer-income households face in comparison with their better-off peers.

The resource is of course targeted, which is never an easy decision to make. I have identified the seven areas that will initially benefit from the funding of £20 million this year and £100 million over the four years. We have looked at the areas that have the highest proportion of children from households in the Scottish index of multiple deprivation’s deciles 1 and 2—the children from the 20 per cent most disadvantaged households. The attainment challenge will reach 50 per cent of primary pupils in Scotland who are living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas, including the one in four children in Glasgow who live in poverty. It is a very specific targeted investment that I do not doubt will have a very significant impact.

On the point that Mary Scanlon raised earlier, I reassure her that we are not just chucking money at things. We will look at bespoke improvement plans. We want to use intelligently information that is gathered at a local level in the classroom.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

No, thanks—perhaps later. I want to make some progress.

The point about the attainment challenge, as announced by the First Minister, is that it allows for a step change in progress, because we want to pick up the pace now but are of course looking to the future. We do need to look to the long term. Across the chamber, we have to have the courage as politicians to look to the long term and not to take a short-term view of education. However, doing that does not get us off the hook, because we need to pick up the pace substantially and we need to do that now. In that regard, an investment of £100 million is significant by anyone’s standards.

As I indicated in my opening remarks, we are not going to import carte blanche somebody else’s system, whether from down south or further afield. Liz Smith mentioned the commission for developing Scotland’s young workforce. I was the minister who commissioned that work and who accepted each and every one of the commission’s recommendations. Whether it is vocational education or school education, we cannot cherry pick; instead we must look deeply and learn from what works.

The positive thing about the attainment challenge is that we will adapt it to the Scottish context. What we liked about the London challenge was that it was flexible and based on local solutions. It was based first and foremost on the needs of the children, but it was also based on professional judgment and discretion.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

With respect, I have made that point very clearly in what I have said to date. I am not an ideologue; I am a pragmatist. I will always look at the evidence, whether it comes from south of the border, Ontario, elsewhere in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

The fact of the matter is that some of the reforms that are being implemented down south are not backed up by the evidence. A report that was published by the House of Commons Education Committee in January says that there is no evidence that so-called reforms such as academies and free schools are leading to improved attainment.

It is also really interesting that the chief inspector of Ofsted talks about schools, irrespective of whether they are in the local authority system or some chain of academies, being marooned within their structure, not being supported and not benefiting from the networks, collaboration and sharing of best practice and what works in the classroom on the front line.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

I was going to go on to make the point that regardless of whether we look at the headline figures from the OECD PISA studies, the tariff scores that relate to exam results, literacy and numeracy surveys, school leaver destinations or the number of exclusions, we see improvement.

The biggest improvement has been made with looked-after children, but what we are serious about is raising attainment for all and closing the equity gap—the gap between children from the least disadvantaged backgrounds and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. In the Scotland of today, it cannot be acceptable that some children are simply left behind. We cannot deny that there is still a gap, which is way too large. We do not demur from that view. As we move forward, our challenge is not to leave any child behind.

We know that the gap starts to develop at an early stage. We know that, by the time some children are five years old, the gap between their vocabulary and literacy and that of other children of the same age can be as much as 13 months. That is massive. We know that, if that gap is not attended to, it will grow as a child progresses through the education system.

I say to Liam McArthur that we are building strong foundations in the work that we are doing on the early years. We are moving forward at pace, but it is a balanced expansion. We will not do what has been done south of the border, where people have overpromised but underdelivered on the implementation of childcare.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

In a moment.

However, I am not that interested in the past. It is not good enough to use the past as a baseline. Our aspirations must be about looking to the future and providing a better future for all our children.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

Thank you.

I have enjoyed the range of speeches that have been made this afternoon, although I have not agreed with every word that every member has spoken. It has been noticeable that individuals have spoken about their own experiences of education and of working in the front line of education. Many members across the political spectrum have demonstrated their own particular passions for education.

Johann Lamont raised an issue in relation to kinship carers. A number of issues are being worked through in response to a Supreme Court ruling, and I urge her to speak to the acting Minister for Children and Young People for an update on that. She also made the point that, although what we do in our classrooms is powerfully important in terms of the quality of teaching and learning that the children experience, what happens outside the school gates is integral to the debate. We know that poverty does not stop at the school gates.

To Stewart Maxwell, I say that initial teacher education does indeed vary immensely. I am happy to speak to providers of initial teacher education particularly in relation to his point about primary schools. To Kevin Stewart, I say that I am happy to visit the reading bus in Aberdeen. I am also happy to meet Sandra White or any other member if they have particular issues to discuss and pursue.

A notable aspect of the debate has been the fact that members have largely accepted that Scottish education is improving. We all have the shared ambition of making Scotland the best place to learn in. The focus of the debate has been on how we take a good education system and make it a great education system for all our children. A year or two ago in The Scotsman, Andy Hargreaves, who is based in the school of education in Boston College, commented:

“The great strength of CfE is that it encourages innovation in learning and discretion for teachers, which is quite different from south of the Border, where teachers have become very constrained by testing.”

He went on to say:

“what CfE is trying to do is both catch up with the best in the world and even lead the pack.”

That must be our shared ambition—to move forward collectively and lead the pack.

We know from the PISA studies that the decline in standards in Scottish education has been halted and that some progress has been made in closing the gap in maths, reading and science. It is clear from the PISA results in 2003 and 2006 that Labour failed to do that.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

I congratulate Granddad Gray. He is correct to say that the birth had nothing to do with him, but I hope that he takes his granddad duties seriously and helps out with the babysitting. We often talk about the role of parents in our children’s education and in support of families, but the role of grandparents is a very important one. I am often reminded by constituents, when I am at the school gates, that grandparents are the backbone of the Scottish economy.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

That is correct. We are not in favour of any of the ideological nonsense down south, because we believe firmly and first and foremost in going where the evidence is. Talking about where the evidence is, I thought that Sweden had fallen out of favour with the Tories, given that it is below Scotland in all three measures, whether maths, reading or science.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Angela Constance

Will Liam McArthur take an intervention?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12423.1 Alex Rowley: Commission on Local Tax Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-12423 in the n
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YesCarried

S4M-12423 Marco Biagi: Commission on Local Tax Reform—That the Parliament supports the establishment
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12385 Liz Smith: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament agrees that a solid grou
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12395.1 Fergus Ewing: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in the
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12395.2 Patrick Harvie: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in t
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12395 Murdo Fraser: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—That the Parliament notes with concern the l
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12385.3 Alasdair Allan: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to motion S4M-12385 i
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12382.3 Mary Fee: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion S4
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12382.1 Gavin Brown: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12382.2 Willie Rennie: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to moti
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Angela Constance
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12316: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11507: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11398.2: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10829: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10214: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09744: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Parliamentary Bureau, Date Lodged: 16/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09575: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09376: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08462: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07939: Angela Constance, Almond Valley, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2013 Show Full Motion >>
This Member currently holds a ministerial post. First Minister and Ministers cannot ask the Government questions which is why no recent questions are displaying here. Please use the full search to find details of previous questions by this Member.
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3W-37111: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/10/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-11446: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/09/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34741: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34740: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34459: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34461: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-34460: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-10609: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/05/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-32037: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/03/2010 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-32036: Angela Constance, Livingston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/03/2010 Show Full Question >>

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