Scotland politics

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in New York school visit

nicola sturgeon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The first minister is hoping to learn from the American school system

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has visited a school in Brooklyn at the start of a four day trip to the United States.

She said hoped to learn lessons from the New York education system that could help raise attainment in Scotland.

The first minister has said that improving Scottish education is a "defining priority" for her government.

The Scottish government said Daniel Hale Williams elementary has "faced similar issues to schools in some of Scotland's most disadvantaged areas".

Ms Sturgeon visited the school with the head of New York city's education department, Carmen Farina.

Gap in attainment

She said: "Coming to Brooklyn today and finding out about how schools which face similar issues to those in some of Scotland's most disadvantaged communities have overcome their challenges will be vital as we move towards shaping a model that will work back home."

Ms Sturgeon has previously visited schools in London as part of a project to learn from "good practice" in the UK and overseas.

Critics point out that after eight years of SNP administration, standards in reading, writing and arithmetic in primary and early secondary are falling.

The latest Scottish survey of literacy and numeracy highlighted problems.

It found that 80% of S2 pupils performed well or very well in reading in 2014, compared to 84% in 2012.

In writing, it said 55% performed well or very well in 2014, down from 64% two years previously.

It also showed a marked gap in attainment between children from the poorest and wealthiest backgrounds.

In reading, for example, 90% of the least deprived S2 pupils did well compared to 68% from the most deprived circumstances.

In April, the Scottish government announced a £100m pound attainment fund to help tackle the problem over the next four years.

Possible solutions

At the time, the first minister said Scotland should learn from "good practice" in the UK and overseas.

Having already drawn on experience from London, she is now looking to New York for possible solutions.

The city is the largest school district in the United States, with more than a 1.1 million pupils in 1,800 schools.

These include Daniel Hale Williams elementary which serves a socially deprived part of Brooklyn.

It has been praised by school inspectors for its success in helping the lowest performing students do better.

The first minister visited the school as she began a four-day programme of engagements in New York and Washington.

The Scottish government said the tour would promote Scotland as a good place to live, visit, do business, study and invest.

It is the first time Nicola Sturgeon has represented Scotland in the United States since taking over from Alex Salmond as first minister.

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