Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell has been appointed to a key role on the Scottish Conservatives' frontbench by party leader Douglas Ross. He will be new Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
Mr Mundell, who served on the Education Committee during the previous session of Parliament, is determined to use the new role to make sure the voices of small rural schools are heard.
The local MSP has long argued that the region's smaller schools have not been getting a fair deal and has recently thrown his support behind parents campaigning to maintain pupil-teacher ratios for composite classes.
Mr Mundell said: “I am delighted to take on this important role at such a vital time and, as a parent myself, I know there is nothing more important than giving our young people the opportunities and support they deserve.
“With so many Scottish pupils having missed out on the better part of a year of in-class teaching, relying heavily instead on online or ‘hybrid’ learning, it is clear there is a huge job to be done in helping ensure those pupils have the opportunity to catch up where needed, and that the pandemic does not create a lost COVID generation.
“I want to play a positive role in making sure this is the case, and will work constructively with the Scottish Government towards that end. However, I will also be promoting a range of ideas that I think are important if we are to restore the reputation of Scottish education which has slipped so badly under the SNP.
“In particular, I want to see a national tutoring programme set up to provide one-to-one or small group tuition for children who need the most help to catch up, fairer funding for schools to help deal with the current situation in which over 60,000 Scottish children are being taught in sub-standard classrooms, and a greater focus on children’s mental well-being which has in many cases been adversely impacted by the pandemic.
“Every child must have the opportunity to go to a good local school that is in good condition and which has enough teachers and educational resources to offer the range of subjects they need for their future, and that’s what I will be working to help achieve as the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
“It’s a big, important job and I am looking forward to getting stuck into it.”