Scottish Conservative and Unionists Candidate for Dumfriesshire, Oliver Mundell is backing his party's renewed focus on improving education ahead of May's Scottish Parliament elections.
The Scottish Conservatives have begun the election year this week by publishing a new paper on ways to improve state school education in Scotland.
The publication follows a recent OECD report into Scottish education said there were "particular challenges" facing secondary schools, and noted how one in five of all schools are now ranked just as or below a "satisfactory" rating.
The paper - entitled ‘The Gold Standard - a world class education for every child’ - sets out a series of new policies which will feed into the party's 2016 election manifesto this year.
Mr Mundell, who attended Moffat Academy, believes that ensuring that Scotland's state schools are able to compete with the best in the world is key to reducing inequality and opening up greater opportunities for young people living in rural areas like here in Dumfries and Galloway.
The Dumfriesshire candidate argues that the Scottish Government have been guilty of complacency and have displayed a lack of ambition when it comes to education policy. He feels that instead of supporting the efforts of outstanding and experienced teachers and drawing on best practice, that the SNP have simply accepted the status quo.
In contrast, the policy paper published by the Scottish Conservatives identifies three key areas where government could act immediately to improve standards – putting schools in charge, improving literacy and numeracy, and delivering greater transparency.
Commenting, Oliver Mundell said:
"This paper comes in the wake of several surveys in recent months which show there is clear room for improvement in the education sector. For too long the Scottish Government have accepted second best for our state schools and like many people living locally I just don't think that is good enough."
"While we are really lucky here in Dumfries and Galloway to have a number of excellent schools, we still need the SNP government to be delivering the innovation and standards of excellence that will secure the opportunities for the next generation we all want to see."
"I believe that giving headteachers more say, building on best practice and focusing on literacy are a vital part of boosting standards. That's why this work is so important and local voters can be confident where the Conservative's priorities lie."
New policies in the paper include:
· Handing control over budgets, recruitment and funding of the new Scottish attainment challenge directly to headteachers
· "Buddying" the best and worst-performing schools to help spread best practice
· Greater focus on literacy and numeracy, support for parents, and the creation of a new First Minister's Reading Challenge
· New standardised tests for pupils at P1, P4 and P7
· Backing for a Save the Children campaign to ensure every child by the age of 11 can read well
A new independent inspectorate which is trusted by parents to set high standards