Kezia Dugdale with Eilsa at Sure Start West Children's Centre

The Leader of the Scottish Labour Party headed south of the border today to see how Newcastle is improving education for its youngest residents.

Kezia Dugdale MSP visited Hawthorn Primary School in Elswick and Sure Start Children’s Centre in the city's West End on a fact-finding mission which also highlighted the SNP’s failure in government to tackle the attainment gap between pupils from lower and high income families in Scottish schools.

Ms Dugdale joined Councillor Nick Forbes, Labour Leader of Newcastle City Council on a tour of Hawthorn Primary before sampling a school dinner with some of the children.

The innovative Hawthorn Primary is using music as a way of raising educational attainment levels across the school years.  Since 2012 the school has been working with the Sage Gateshead and the Royal Northern Sinfonia Orchestra on the In Harmony project. They are one of only 6 schools in the country where every child is taught a musical instrument and has music lessons every day. They are also working with other schools across the city to spread their success.

After the school visit, Kezia visited one of the city’s Sure Start Children’s Centres taking part in a play session with toddlers. Despite massive government cuts Newcastle City Council have kept all their Children’s Centres open by refocussing their core services on the poorest families.

Kezia Dugdale MSP said:

 “I was pleased to visit Newcastle today to see some of the ways in which the Labour Council is trying to close the attainment gap both in early years provision and in their primary schools. Sure Start in England was one of the last Labour government’s most important initiatives and I pleased that,  despite the huge cut backs forced on them by the Tory government, the City Council has tried to protect the service and kept their Children’s Centres open.”

 “The SNP government in Scotland are just not doing enough to tackle the attainment gap between the poorest and richest pupils in our school system.

 “It’s been interesting to see the approach to this issue in Newcastle. I’m determined that a future Scottish Labour government will invest in the future of our young people.”

 Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council said:

 “I was delighted to invite Kezia to visit Newcastle to see some of the work we’re doing to improve the life chances of young people in the city. We have faced some difficult decisions because of the massive unfair funding cuts forced on us but we have been absolutely determined to prioritise the battle against inequality.  Our Sure Start Children Centres, our schools and other childcare providers are important partners in this.

 “I hope Kezia can take back some of what she sees from us to Scotland to help develop ideas for a future Scottish Labour government.” 

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