SNP to promise more help with cost of school day for poorer Scots

John Swinney will outline further policies aimed at helping youngsters from disadvantaged families.

SNP to promise more help with cost of school day for poorer Scots PA Ready

The SNP is pledging to scrap charges for practical lessons in schools, and help for poorer children with the cost of class trips.

Education secretary John Swinney will also promise if the SNP is re-elected to power next month it will increase the grant disadvantaged families get to help with the cost of buying uniforms.

Swinney will say the SNP is “absolutely committed to tearing down the barriers to education that still exist, and ensuring all children can get the best start in life”.

At the moment charges can be imposed in subjects such as art and design, music, home economics, hospitality and technology, with pupils either being expected to pay a fee for materials or to provide their own.

As well as abolishing these, a future SNP government would exempt youngsters from less well-off families from the costs of school trips, while grants for uniforms would be increased from the current £100 minimum to £120 for primary school and £150 for secondary school.

The payments will be linked to inflation, and reviewed, to ensure they meet the costs faced by families.

The policy commitments come ahead of the party unveiling its manifesto for the May 6 Scottish Parliament election.

The SNP has already pledged to help youngsters with free school breakfasts and lunches in primary school, and by providing every pupil with a laptop or tablet to help with their learning.

Swinney will say the party wants to make “Scotland the best place in the world to grow up for every child”.

He will say: “That’s why the SNP has invested enormously in early years, from the Baby Box to the transformational increase in childcare provision seen in recent years.

“It’s why we’re extending free school meals to ensure that no child is forced to try and learn while hungry.

“And it’s why we are going to give every pupil the device they need – so they can learn in the modern world.

“We know that some families are sacrificing essentials like heating, food and rent payments so that their children can participate fully at school. This is simply unacceptable.

“If re-elected, charges for practical subjects in school will be abolished, poorer families will be exempt from the cost of school trips and the value of uniform grants will be increased.

“The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but particularly so for the younger generations – and by reducing the cost of the school day, we will make a real difference in the lives of children from low-income families.”

The SNP also said they will invest £5m in the foreign aid budget to help developing countries recover from Covid-19.

The current budget of £10m is used to help people in Malawi, Pakistan, Zambia and Rwanda.

The funding, which the party said would increase with inflation, would be used to aid the vaccine rollout in the countries, as well as for the recovery from the pandemic.

International development minister, Jenny Gilruth, said: “Scotland stands ready to play its full part in global efforts to vaccinate the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

“It is clear that Covid-19 will remain a threat for some time to come, and we must therefore step up our international contribution.

“If re-elected, the SNP government will increase the International Development Fund by 50%, from £10m to £15m, and commit to further increases in line with inflation.

“This will help with Covid preparedness, the vaccine rollout, and aid recovery from the pandemic in our partner countries.”

Gilruth, who is standing in the Mid Fife and Glenrothes constituency in this election, attacked the UK Government’s cuts to foreign aid, saying: “Boris Johnson must step up to the plate by reversing the shameful Tory cuts to the UK’s international aid budget and committing additional funds to a worldwide vaccination programme.

“Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also the only sensible course of action to benefit people all over the world.

“If we fail to act, many thousands will die from this disease unnecessarily as it spreads and mutates out of control – impacting us all.

“By casting both votes SNP on May 6, Scotland can re-elect Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister to provide the serious leadership needed to tackle Covid in Scotland, and play our full part around the world, so we can build the strong, fair and green recovery we all want to see.”

The SNP have also pledged to hold a competition for ideas to “transform” Scotland’s economy – with a £50m prize at stake.

If re-elected, the party said, the National Challenge will form part of a ten-year strategy to bring about a green recovery and create jobs.

The strategy will be laid before parliament in the first six months of the new parliamentary term if the SNP are returned to government.

International trade minister, Ivan McKee, said the next decade “will be crucial in Scotland’s economic future”.

“That’s why, within the first six months, a re-elected SNP government will bring forward a new ten-year strategy for economic transformation, setting out the steps we will take to deliver a green economic recovery and support new, good, green jobs, businesses and industries for the future,” he said.

“The National Challenge competition will support this work and empower us all to play our part in Scotland’s recovery. Just as responding to Covid-19 has been a collective effort, so will be our economic recovery.”

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