Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Education and the election - the picture around the UK

Newsnight asked the BBC's education correspondents in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales how important an issue they think education will be at the next election.


SCOTLAND

By Seonag Mackinnon
BBC Scotland education correspondent

In Scotland critics have accused the SNP of failing to fulfil pledges on class size and free school meals.

A man wearing an SNP rosette and holding a St Andrews flag
Could Scottish voters decide to give the SNP a bloody nose over education?

Many newly qualified teachers are not in work and people are asking why, when Scotland spends more on education than the rest of the UK, attainment does not appear to have gone up in the decade since devolution.

Ministers say their plans have been thwarted by a difficult financial climate. They hope a new curriculum will deliver higher education standards.

Logically, education should not be a factor in the forthcoming general election. But if the voters do decide to give the SNP a bloody nose over one issue, that issue could well be education.

NORTHERN IRELAND

By Maggie Taggart
BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent

Education is a burning issue at the moment for the Northern Ireland assembly, with the parties split over how children move on from primary school aged 11.

Some parties want to allow selection and all except Sinn Fein want at least a temporary selective system.

But it is Catrina Ruane of Sinn Fein who is the education minister and so Sinn Fein calls the shots. But they have not been able to stop the grammar schools setting their own unregulated tests.

Whatever the final outcome, it is unlikely to be a major factor in how people vote in the Westminster elections.

WALES

By Colette Hume
BBC Wales education correspondent

Funding is the biggest issue in education in Wales. Although responsibility for schools, colleges and universities is devolved, there is real concern about a future government's public spending plans - and what any cuts in funding from Westminster might mean for education in Wales.

A class being held in school
There is concern in Wales about what funding cuts may mean for education

The assembly government Labour-Plaid coalition is already conducting a major spending review, and its aim is to concentrate more spending on what ministers have termed the education "front lines." It should report back at the end of this month.

Statistics show the average secondary school pupil in Wales has £527 a year less spent on them than the same child at an English school.

Ministers in Cardiff Bay say spending on education has never been higher, but opposition parties say the gap between England and Wales is getting wider - and they say Welsh pupils are being denied learning opportunities given to children across the border.




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