We all want the best for our children and that is why education and helping the next generation on their path to success is so important.

With exams, coursework and the general school year being thrown off kilter in the last 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable that voters will be anxious to know how their future MSP will deal with the challenges ahead.

So, in the last of our interviews with the Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley election candidates before the Scottish Parliament Election on May 6, we asked them just that.

SNP's Elena Whitham:

Ayr Advertiser: Elena Whitham.Elena Whitham.

As the parent of a young apprentice and a first-year pupil, I am keenly aware of the impact the pandemic has had on them and their friends and it is vital that we support all young people as we recover and look to the future.

As Depute Council Leader I saw first-hand the huge strides being made prior to Covid in closing the attainment gap and if re-elected the SNP will commit a further £1bn towards this goal. We will also drive down the cost of the school day by providing every child with a digital device and connection; increase school clothing grants; remove all costs for core curriculum activities; support schools to offer inclusive school trips and provide all primary pupils with a free breakfast and lunch.

Further to the 1,400 teachers recruited during the pandemic, the SNP will recruit an additional 3,500 teachers and classroom assistants allowing teachers more time out of the classroom to prepare lessons and improve their skills and we will take forward the recommendations from the OECD curriculum review.

We will support the recovery and wellbeing of our young people from Covid through a programme of summer activities to allow them to play, socialise and reconnect.

Our Young Person’s Guarantee will ensure everyone aged 16-24 has the opportunity of a job; training; free further education; an apprenticeship or volunteering opportunity.

Scottish Labour's Carol Mochan:

Ayr Advertiser:

When I was a pupil at Auchinleck Academy, Scotland was seen as having one of the best Education systems in the world. Fourteen years of SNP government have seen that reputation trashed as we slipped down the rankings. A landmark report from Audit Scotland has found that the SNP have failed to close the educational attainment gap and our young people are paying the price. Nicola Sturgeon promised this would be her “defining mission” to judge her on.

Scotland deserves better government and better opposition. The good news is Scottish Labour has a national recovery plan to catch up classroom time lost to Covid and deal with the SNP’s failings. Every pupil will have a “personal plan” combined with a mental health assessment. They will be offered tutoring, as well as a “re-sit guarantee” if exam results were negatively impacted by the pandemic – alongside the offer of a fully-funded college place to retake national qualifications.

There will be funding to give young people free access to sport, transport, outdoor activities and culture. We will also guarantee school places for probationary teachers to help pupils catch-up.

Our plan will help restore the reputation of the once world-renowned Scottish education system and make sure every child has a decent start in life. 

Scottish Conservative's Sharon Dowey:

Ayr Advertiser:

In the last year our young people have missed out on months of education due to the pandemic, but long before this our schools were in crisis. Under the SNP our education system which once was envied around the world has gone backwards, with the International PISA results showing Maths and Science scores at a record low, teacher numbers slashed and their flagship Education Bill abandoned.

The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party want to restore excellence in Scottish schools so that every child has the chance to succeed.

We would restore teacher numbers by investing £550million to recruit 3,000 new teachers.  

A Rural Teacher Fund, creating financial incentives for teachers who take up posts in rural areas with the most need, encouraging people to move to teach in these areas, but also motivating locals to join the profession.  

Investing £120million in catch-up funding delivered directly to schools.  

Introduce a national tutoring programme, allowing schools access to high quality tutors to give extra support.  

Give every primary school child access to a free school lunch and breakfast.

We would also invest in our schools through fair funding to councils.  

We need a Scottish Parliament that is 100 per cent focused on our recovery from coronavirus. A vote for the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party on both ballot papers in May will give you exactly that.

Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for South Scotland Catriona Bhatia (for election candidate Kirsten Herbst-Gray):

Ayr Advertiser:

As a parent of four children, and former Chair of Scottish Borders Education Committee, I have seen how the school system, through debatable curriculum changes, has created more and more bureaucracy making it difficult for teachers to do what they do best - teaching our future generations successfully and giving them the best start in life.

Austerity measures have led to limited subject choices in secondary schools and have created a widening attainment gap between the wealthiest and poorest pupils. Annual cuts to school budgets have left needy pupils unsupported in the classroom and some teachers buying classroom resources themselves.

Last year’s exam results fiasco has shown that grades are likely to depend on the post code rather than on the performance of individual pupils who are best assessed by those who teach them.

As your MSP, I would want the following: improved literacy and numeracy results, decluttering a rather overcrowded primary curriculum, more learning assistants supporting our young people in secondary schools, teachers in charge - and a copy of the most recent OECD report (wherever it lies hidden).

The SNP asked to be judged on their record in education. No algorithm needed – they failed.

Please put recovery first for Scottish Education, and give both your votes to the Scottish Liberal Democrats.