DURING the run up to the last elections to the Scottish Parliament and over the course of the more than two years since, we have repeatedly been told that education is the number one priority of the current Scottish Government.

You would, however, struggle to guess that this is the case from the SNP's extremely poor record of managing our schools.

Education in Scotland continues to undergo significant change with the Curriculum for Excellence, which is still in its infancy.

Change can be both a good thing and a bad thing but it is difficult to know which it is if you fail to properly measure its impact.

The scrapping of annual numeracy and literacy surveys by the SNP has made evaluating the new curriculum very difficult.

Instead the Scottish Government have been barking up the wrong tree with the introduction of standardised tests for P1 pupils.

While the Scottish Conservatives are supportive of standardised testing in later years, pupils at this age are too young. In fact, the overwhelming evidence suggests that they do not deliver any meaningful results and are, thus, unnecessary.

Therefore, one of the few measures that actually tells us anything is exam results and their direction of travel is clear. Since 2015, the pass rate for Highers has fallen from 79.2 per cent to 76.8 per cent.

At the same time, the limited range of subjects offered in some schools have seen the number of pupils taking modern languages and sciences fall dramatically.

The Scottish Government have also made little progress towards reducing the attainment gap despite stating it to be one of its top priorities and making university tuition free.

Their own figures show that just 24.9 per cent of the poorest school leavers go on to higher education, compared to 60.6 per cent from wealthier families. This is quite simply unacceptable.

SNP cuts to local authority budgets have made themselves felt on teacher numbers, too, which have dropped significantly since the SNP took office with around 3,500 fewer in the classroom than in 2007.

At the same time, increasing workload among other factors has made it more and more difficult to recruit people into the profession and 231 schools across Scotland were still searching for staff to fill vacancies as they went back after the summer.

With all of these many problems facing Scotland's education system, it is all the more disappointing that the Scottish Government have scrapped their flagship education bill in favour of a voluntary agreement with local councils.

We in the Scottish Conservatives believe that reform is needed and that reform is needed now.

We are and have always been committed to working with the Scottish Government to improve the standards of schools in Scotland and restore our education system to its rightful place as one of the best in the world.

By refusing to work with us to make this happen, the SNP are putting party politics above getting the best deal for our children, parents and teachers