SNP’s John Swinney on timing of independence referendum
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Mr Swinney, who also serves as Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, presided over a controversial U-turn on exam results due to COVID-19. More than 124,000 results were downgraded during a botched SQA moderation process in August 2020, which were introduced after COVID-19 forced the scrapping of exams.
Protests forced Mr Swinney to apologise, with amended grades eventually being withdrawn creating a huge backlash from parents, students and teachers.
As a result, teacher estimates were reinstated on Highers, Advanced Highers and National 5s.
He has also failed to significantly cut the attainment gap between rich and poor children, according to independent watchdogs.
A Legatum Institute report last week also found Scotland’s education system to be the worst in the whole of the UK.
Express.co.uk has learnt tonight that figures within the party are putting pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to consider Mr Swinney’s position as she is set to shuffle her cabinet following the Scottish election last week.
This publication also understands Ms Sturgeon is “strongly considering” who should be Education Secretary.
She is also mulling over contenders for key positions including Health and Constitution after a number of her key allies including Michael Russell and Jeane Freeman retired last month.
The SNP leader was returned as Scottish First Minister after a gruelling six-week campaign that saw her party return 64 MSPs – one short of achieving an overall majority.
Party insiders said Ms Sturgeon should “think carefully” about Mr Swinney’s position with one source telling this publication that the Education Secretary had “simply been lazy” when it came to Scotland’s children.
They added: “There is some concern about the prospect of being able to deliver our manifesto promises with John at the helm again for another five years.
“Time for John to get the boot and a new face put in place.”
A senior source added: “We do need a new Education Secretary, John is a strong politician but we need a fresh face to reassure teachers, parents and students.”
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The SNP promised in their election manifesto to provide a tablet or laptop to every schoolchild and extend free breakfasts and lunches to all primary school children all year round.
Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservative Education spokesman, said: “John Swinney lurches from one crisis to another in Scottish education.
“In Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet reshuffle, he has to move on.
“Our schools cannot take any more of Mr Swinney’s scandals.”
Michael Marra MSP, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said: “There has been a complete absence of education leadership from the Scottish Government throughout the pandemic.
“Families have been left adrift as policy U-turns mount.
“Now John Swinney is sleepwalking into yet another crisis.
“We look like we are going to see a repeat of last year’s exams shambles. It may well be much worse.
“This is against a backdrop of teacher cuts, falling performance, dropped legislation and a loss of faith in government.
“John Swinney should be moved on.”
A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon and Mr Swinney refused to be drawn on his future when asked tonight.
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