THE education of Scotland’s young people is one of the most important issues in every Holyrood election.

But this time round, the seismic impact of Covid-19 on primary and secondary school pupils around the country makes it even more important to know what our political parties will do to help children get back on track.

In the final instalment in our series asking Helensburgh and Lomond’s seven candidates to set out their position on the key issues facing voters at this election, we’re featuring their pledges and priorities for helping pupils and teachers get education back on track after the pandemic.

The polls are open from 7am-10pm on Thursday, May 6.

READ MORE: Dumbarton constituency candidates have their say on Scotland's constitutional future

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Andy Foxall - Scottish Liberal Democrats

Helensburgh Advertiser: Andy FoxallAndy Foxall

THERE has been major disruption to Scottish education over the last year, but the solution is not to make children sit at desks for longer.

Instead, the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ plan will make every hour of learning count for more. We will offer teachers a guaranteed job. Too many are on short-term, insecure contracts.

We will fund an outdoor learning guarantee, so no-one misses out. Liberal Democrats want a funded entitlement for young people over the holidays for fun activities.

We secured the extended pupil equity funding in the Scottish budget. This will deliver an extra £20 million for children who need it most, helping to close the attainment gap.

We want to fund a new programme of extra supported study for S4-S6 to consolidate understanding, guided and led by class teachers.

We just won a vote at Parliament to overhaul the SQA and Education Scotland.

There is a chance for change in this election, but that won’t happen if you give the SNP a majority on May 6, because they are in denial about the situation in our educational organisations.

READ MORE: Dumbarton constituency candidates set out how they'd tackle climate emergency

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Andrew Muir - Independent

Helensburgh Advertiser: Andrew MuirAndrew Muir

WE should not have cancelled school examinations in either 2020 or 2021.

Exams are the best method of assessing pupils and giving them the qualifications that others can trust when they attain employment.

More than 25 years ago, I was the religious studies teacher at Dumbarton Academy, before I was dismissed for my anti-abortion views and after a pupil threw a wet cloth in my face.

Each school should have a dedicated disciplinary person who can deal with disobedient pupils and take the pressure off a teacher who is trying to control an unruly class.

I am in favour of private schools and attended one myself as they give parents choice. When I went to school I could study Latin and go to a school chess club - both disciplines which nurtured a healthy mind.

In our fourth year at school we could take nine subjects for examination, whereas nowadays the subjects could be limited to six or eight.

The site of the new Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Bellsmyre was, typically for Dumbarton, not chosen democratically. It should have been placed at Clerkhill.

READ MORE: Dumbarton constituency candidates have their say on health

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Jackie Baillie - Scottish Labour Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jackie BaillieJackie Baillie

THIS has been an incredibly tough year for school pupils of all ages – from the young primary school children who have missed out on vital social interaction, to the pupils who did not have Chromebooks or access to broadband, which made home schooling difficult.

Then there were the teenagers who missed out on exams and had to endure the scandal of having the Scottish Qualifications Authority attempt to decide their futures based on an algorithm.

It has been equally challenging for teachers and other school staff.

But even before the pandemic, the SNP were failing our children and teachers.

The attainment gap in our area and across Scotland is as wide as ever, there are not enough teachers, and class sizes are increasing.

It is clear that education needs an urgent plan for recovery.

Scottish Labour will provide an individual plan for every pupil and a summer programme of activities.

We will also recruit 3,000 more teachers; reduce class sizes; provide enhanced digital training for staff; and ensure that there is a digital device for every pupil.

Our priority must be to ensure that every young person, in Helensburgh and Lomond and throughout Scotland, has the best possible opportunity and hope for the future.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar talks to the Advertiser

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James Morrison - Independent

Helensburgh Advertiser: James MorrisonJames Morrison

THE problem with education in Scotland is the government.

The First Minister asked to be judged on education. Yet after a decade of SNP rule at Holyrood, Scotland has falling rates of literacy and numeracy and a growing attainment gap between rich and poor.

Pupils, parents and teachers want - and deserve - better.

Every school should get an additional £5,000 per child. The teachers should be able to determine the best way to spend these funds to get the best for the school children.

Students at university or college, meanwhile, should get £18,000 per year of study. Stop the student debt burden which in Scotland stands at £5.5 billion.

Research shows that the burden of this debt causes poorer mental and physical health, and less overall satisfaction with life.

Student debt causes delays to marriage, to renting and buying homes, and to starting new businesses. We need to stop loading our students up with debt at the start of their adult life.

If you are poor, a funded school trip and £100 for a uniform is an election bribe, and not a solution to the problem with education in Scotland.

READ MORE: Scottish Greens' co-leader Lorna Slater talks to the Advertiser

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Jonathan Rainey - Scottish Libertarian Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jonathan RaineyJonathan Rainey

AS somebody who has went through the main education system as everyone else has, it has become clear that the state-run education system overall needs reform.

What it does not need is reform in the way of more centralisation and bureaucracy in the existing system – which may not produce better results in the long term.

I am aware that home schooling is a bit of a dirty phrase in Scotland, but parental choice must be upheld, not taken away by local or central bureaucrats.

That includes the choice of what subjects pupils can be taught in school, and the right of parents to remove their child from any particular subject – especially non-grammar, non-STEM, religious or non-religious and expressive or subjective subjects. That right must be upheld, not taken away by local or central bureaucrats.

Regulations on the private school industry in Scotland also need to be loosened up so that parents can have better choice in whether to send their children to public or private schools.

Greater choice and competition means, in the long term, that fees come down.

READ MORE: Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie talks to the Advertiser

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Maurice Corry - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Maurice CorryMaurice Corry

OUR pupils have been devastated by the pandemic. They have missed out on vital learning, not seen their friends every day and had their exams cancelled.

The Scottish Conservatives will introduce a national tutoring programme as well as investing £120 million in a pupil catch-up premium to ensure that our pupils from deprived backgrounds do not miss out on vital learning.

Even prior to the pandemic, the SNP were failing our schools in this region.

Nicola Sturgeon asked to be judged on her education record and said eliminating the poverty-related attainment gap would be her defining mission. Instead, she has been too focused on another divisive independence referendum to only make limited progress on that front.

We would recruit 3,000 extra teachers for our classrooms across Scotland and have a laser sharp focus on reducing the attainment gap.

Pupils from deprived backgrounds, including communities here, are now more likely to fail Highers than to achieve an A grade. That is not the record of a government which has made education a priority as it claimed.

Only a vote for me and the Scottish Conservatives on your peach ballot paper on May 6 will ensure a focus on Scotland’s education recovery and not on another independence referendum.

READ MORE: Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross talks to the Advertiser

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Toni Giugliano - Scottish National Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Toni GiuglianoToni Giugliano

THE SNP is determined to tear down the barriers to education in Scotland.

Real progress has been made in closing the attainment gap, supported by the government’s £750 million Attainment Challenge Fund.

The gap between the most and least deprived pupils achieving a Level 5 award has shrunk by more than a third. At Level 6 the gap has shrunk by a fifth. Attainment overall is up, and record numbers of Scotland’s poorer pupils are receiving a place at university.

But more must be done. We’ll invest £1 billion over the lifetime of the next Parliament to close the gap further.

We’ve increased teacher numbers, which are now at record levels.

If we are re-elected next month, we’ll increase teachers and classroom assistant numbers by a further 3,500.

We’ll give teachers in Helensburgh and Lomond, and across Scotland, more time out of the classroom to prepare for lessons and more time for professional development.

Almost 1,000 schools have been replaced or refurbished under the SNP. We’ve expanded free school meals. We’ve doubled free childcare from 600 hours to 1140 hours. And we’ll introduce £20 million to help children re-connect, play and boost their wellbeing in response to Covid-19.

READ MORE: SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon talks to the Advertiser