The first minister has praised public private partnerships used to build new schools, claiming that without them children would suffer.
Mr McConnell met pupils on his visit to the new Williamwood school
Jack McConnell spoke out as he opened a school constructed with PPP cash in East Renfrewshire.
Williamwood High in Clarkston is one of four schools built as part of a £63m PPP scheme in the area.
The Scottish National Party said PPP was a costly scheme which burdened schools with high-interest payments.
Across Scotland, £2.3bn is being invested in school buildings through PPP.
Mr McConnell, a former teacher, said Williamwood High provided state-of-the-art facilities for pupils and staff.
"Scotland has a high-quality education system, but if we are to raise standards even higher we need excellent school facilities such as these," he said.
"PPP is delivering such facilities. Without PPP, schools would decline and children would suffer."
Some 110 schools have been either built or refurbished, providing improved facilities for 100,000 pupils.
The first minister said: "The largest school building programme in this country's history is one of the real achievements of devolution and our government remains absolutely committed to it."
SNP education spokeswoman Fiona Hyslop said it was vital schools were updated and new ones built.
However, she added: "Labour's costly PPP scheme undermines Scotland's ability to invest in our school programme in the long term.
"It is simply not good enough that our schools and hospitals, roads and water infrastructure, face being burdened with 30-year, high interest repayments as a direct consequence of this costly scheme."