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Education Funding: Scotland

Volume 603: debated on Monday 30 November 2015

4. What the effect of the spending review was on the amount her Department plans to spend on policies and services which in Scotland are devolved to the Scottish Government. (902411)

First, I wish the hon. Lady and all Members a happy St Andrew’s day. As she will know, education is fully devolved in Scotland, so the Scottish Government will benefit from the Barnett consequentials of the cash terms increase to my Department’s budget that was announced last week. That includes real-terms protection for core schools funding, investing a record extra £1 billion a year by 2020 in free childcare and protecting core 16-to-19 funding, so that all young people gain the skills they need.

I wish all hon. Members a happy St Andrew’s day. Gaelic medium education is available to children in 14 out of 32 Scottish local authorities. The benefits of that bilingual education are well documented. Does the Minister agree that cutting BBC Alba’s funding as detailed in the spending review could impact on children learning in Gaelic? Will the Secretary of State join me in calling for that decision to be reversed?

I am very happy to look further into the decision, which has not been raised with me before. I think we all agree—those of us who, presumably, are in this Chamber today because we care about education and the standards in our schools—that the most important thing in children learning is the quality of the teaching. As I have said, education is a devolved matter, and the Scottish Government will make decisions about how they are spending on languages.

My right hon. Friend has said that an additional £1 billion will be spent in Scotland. Notwithstanding devolution, which is all very good, cannot she be a little bit inventive and find some way of ring-fencing the money so that children can be taught that we are better off together?

I admire my hon. Friend’s bid to help the Scottish Government to write the curriculum, and I can see that SNP Members are ready to take him up on that offer. I should clarify that I was talking about the extra £1 billion a year for free childcare, but he is absolutely right to say that we are spending more on education in this Parliament.

I join my colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), in wishing the House staff and all Members latha Naomh Anndra sona dhuibh, or happy St Andrew’s day.

I am glad that the Secretary of State has recognised the importance of BBC Alba, but of course it is more than just a TV channel in Scotland: it plays a crucial role in supporting parents of children in Gaelic medium education. Will she outline what she can do to support those parents as a result of this savage UK Government cut?

The hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that I am not going to compete with her Gaelic.

Education funding, as I have already said, is devolved to Scotland and although BBC Alba might provide a valuable service I am sure that there is much more that the Scottish Government can do to support both parents and teachers in schools with the funding that they receive. I note that the attainment gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged in education in Scotland has not narrowed at all.