John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, has confirmed that parents should not have to raise thousands of pounds for school textbooks because Highland Council has a statutory duty to do so, as outlined in the Education (Scotland) Act.
During Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament chamber today (3 May), Kate Forbes MSP asked the Scottish Government what requirements local authorities have to provide children with the basic tools of learning at school.
Responding, Deputy First Minister John Swinney quoted legislation which states that “an education authority shall provide free of charge for all pupils belonging to their area who are given free education… books, writing materials, stationery, mathematical instruments, practice material and other articles which are necessary to enable the pupils to take full advantage of the education provided”.
The issue came under the spotlight after the Fortrose Academy Parent Council posted accounts online revealing that it had shelled out £15,000 to pay for items such as textbooks, chairs and safety goggles.
Kate Forbes MSP said: “John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, was crystal clear about both the statutory duty on Highland Council to fund textbooks and equipment, as well as the resources available to Highland Council this year with an increase in overall budget of £20 million.
“It is as clear as day in the legislation and the accounts.
“Parents should not be funding the basic provisions of education because it exacerbates the attainment gap and means that those who can pay, get a better education.
“That utterly undermines the Scottish Government’s commitment to closing the attainment gap between rich and poor and the £4m that is going directly to Highland head teachers.
“There are clearly funding questions at Highland Council and I hope that the next administration at Highland Council, of whichever party, sorts out the school building and ensures there is adequate funding for textbooks, which is the council's statutory duty and responsibility.
"SNP candidates are standing on a mini-manifesto to make education a number one priority and it includes doubling child-care provision, putting more money directly into the hands of head teachers, keeping class sizes down, refurbishing schools and improving outcomes for children in care."