SCOTLAND'S schools were once the best in the world, but today this is not the case by any measure.

When compared to other systems internationally, we are now just average. But just average is not good enough for Scotland's young people.

As we look to recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, we in the Scottish Conservatives believe that restoring excellence in Scotland's schools should be a key objective for any Scottish Government.

This month, we set out our own approach for how to restore Scotland's schools.

One of the biggest challenges that schools face is our overworked teachers.

Teacher numbers have continued to decline since the SNP came to power in 2007 and have fallen by nearly 3,000 in total.

Fewer teachers means larger class sizes and individual pupils not being given the attention that they deserve.

There are particular shortages in some subjects like STEM, which may explain why Scotland is declining internationally in mathematics and science.

The Scottish Conservatives want to see this problem addressed as a matter of urgency. We would invest £550million in a new workforce strategy to recruit 600 teachers each year over the next parliament to reverse the SNP's cut of 3,000 teachers.

We would also set up a new campaign to encourage the best and the brightest people to join the teaching profession, encouraging not just graduates but also career switchers move into teaching.

We would do this by expanding the existing bursary schemes while focussing on shortage subject areas.

Subject choice at secondary level is something on the decline and pupils from more deprived areas are likely to be the most constrained in their choices.

The Scottish Conservatives want to encourage more school clusters where secondary schools work together to allow pupils to study a chosen subject at another school if they cannot do it at their own.

Currently this happens informally but we would like to see this become a more established part of school subject choice and allow pupils to use schools outside their own council area.

Some existing problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The closure of schools has likely contributed to the widening of the attainment gap by different schools offering different levels of home and online learning and some pupils not having the necessary equipment.

The Scottish Conservatives would like to use £350million of UK Government funding to introduce a national tutoring programme using supply teachers, student teachers and other qualified individuals to give these pupils additional support and help them to catch up.

Nicola Sturgeon has long stated that education is her number one priority, but we all know that this is not the case.

The SNP will never prioritise schools over their obsession with independence.

Until Scotland has a government that is prepared to move on from the constitutional debate and onto the issues that really matter to people's daily lives here in Scotland, the SNP will continue to fail an entire generation of young people.