This week, John Swinney was reshuffled into a Covid recovery role after five years as Scotland’s education secretary – the last year of which was tumultuous to say the least.
The reliable man in a crisis and deputy first minister has presided over unprecedented times in our schools – and come in for a lot of flak along the way.
He will predominantly be remembered for the last fifth of his five-year stint in charge of schools, and particularly the controversy around exams – or the lack of them – in 2020, creating a stormy backdrop to this week’s reshuffle.
As of Wednesday, the country has a new education secretary – Shirley-Anne Somerville.
We asked teachers and parents what they thought of his time in the job, and they gave him a report card of his own. You can also have your say in our poll at the bottom of this page.
Jo Bisset, organiser for UFT Scotland
Jo Bisset, who spoken out previously about how schools have dealt with Covid, was scathing about Mr Swinney’s tenure.
Jo said: “The way we see it is that children and schools have been treated quite appallingly.
“During the pandemic, it soon became clear that children were not the main drivers of transmission and that school closures have done a lot of harm.
“So much of children’s lives is focused on school and the associated activities.
“There have been a lot of mental health problems like depression brought about because of the closure of schools.
“It is terrifying what has happened to children. I think as adults we should be able to create conditions for our children to thrive.”
Alistair Bell, secretary EIS Highland branch
Alistair said with a new session at Holyrood there is always going to be change.
He believes whoever takes on the job next will be coming to it with a fresh perspective.
Alistair said: “Whenever there is a new parliament elected there is going to be an axe falling somewhere.
“He’s had a hard time with the Covid situation but someone else will come in with fresh eyes and ears.
“Somebody with a fresh perspective would positive but it is going to be trying for anybody. A change at the top will hopefully be a change for the better.”
Margaret Wilson, chairwoman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
Margaret believes progress was being made to improve education before the pandemic struck.
She said: “We at NPFS are sad to see him move on as we found him very approachable and he engaged with us by attending our meetings and even more during Covid.
“We do believe he was making progress in a lot of areas of education until Covid struck.”
Councillor John Finlayson, chair of the Highland Council education committee
Mr Finlayson spoke well of Mr. Swinney as a person and MSP. But he also said there were systemic issues in the education system that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and teamwork is needed to drive the necessary changes.
“I have always found Mr. Swinney to be supportive and responsive but, I genuinely believe that the Education job is too big for one minister and in recent years as the portfolio has continued to expand, Scotland has also received more and more criticism about its educational standards compared to other countries.
“Of course, this might be due to the fact that we have a system that is outdated in terms its structure and assessment methodology in an ever-changing world, which I believe is now firmly under review because of the experiences of the last two years.
“I wish Mr. Swinney well in his new role and I thank him for his support in recent years and I also wish our new Education Minister well in her post and I look forward to working with her in the future.”
Larry Flanagan, general secretary EIS
Larry said he got on well with the deputy first minister while he was in the top education job.
He said: “The EIS maintained a constructive working relationship with Mr Swinney over the past five years. While we have not agreed on every issue, we welcomed the fact that he was always willing to engage with the EIS and was supportive of genuine social dialogue.
“His time in office saw agreement on significant pay uplifts for many teachers and lecturers, together with a range of joint initiatives providing additional support in tackling the impact of poverty in education.”