The SNP has promised Scotland's schools greater decision-making powers over how new funds aimed at closing the attainment gap are spent.

Its manifesto says that, if the party triumphs in next month's Holyrood election, investment in efforts to reduce the difference in learning outcomes between poorer and better off pupils will increase to £1 billion over the coming parliamentary term.

"We will make sure that schools themselves directly control how more of it is spent because they know best how to help individual pupils, including who needs individual tutoring and extra support with specific subjects," the document adds.

It says an SNP government would "intensify" its approach to "empowering the teaching profession and ensuring that the decisions that affect the education of our children and young people are taken closest to them".

READ MORE: Scotland's schools 'to inspect each other'

The pledges come after recent research suggested progress to date in closing the poverty-related attainment gap had been slow and limited. 

They also echo previous efforts by Deputy First Minister John Swinney to deliver an Education Bill that would have introduced a Headteachers’ Charter giving school leaders the power to set the curriculum, hire staff and control their own finances.

However, it was confirmed in 2019 that the legislation would be shelved amid opposition from unions and political opponents. Instead, Mr Swinney announced some of the proposals would be taken forward through an agreement with local authorities.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS is not commenting on individual party manifestos as it is for our members to decide on how they wish to vote.

"The EIS manifesto makes clear, however, that we need to see an end to temporary funding streams which have served to create a precarious employment landscape with over 10% of teacher posts being temporary in nature. National action to cut class sizes and reduce teacher contact time would create a positive framework for supporting education recovery and meeting the needs of young people.”

The SNP's manifesto contains a raft of other planned measures.

Among them are promises to provide free school meals to all primary age pupils, recruit 3,500 additional teachers and classroom assistants, give a digital device to every child, expand free early years education to one and two-year-olds, and axe fees for instrumental music tuition.

HeraldScotland: The SNP wants to axe fees for instrumental music tuition.The SNP wants to axe fees for instrumental music tuition.

In addition, the party wants to expand the teaching of LGBT topics, and has commissioned the charity Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) to help grow provision.

Its manifesto also says there is a need for countries to "face their colonial history", adding: "We will fund the development of an online programme on Scotland and the UK’s colonial history throughout the world that can be delivered to schools, and we will encourage Local Authorities to adopt the programme in all schools.

"Taking the widely acclaimed TIE campaign as a model, we will create a new programme of anti-racist education in schools, including support for teachers’ professional development, allowing every school to access highquality anti-racist education.

"To track progress, we will improve the reporting and publication of data on racist incidents in schools."

HeraldScotland: The teaching of LGBT history and topics is also set for a boost.The teaching of LGBT history and topics is also set for a boost.

Another sector set for a significant boost is Gaelic Medium Education (GME), which has seen pupil numbers rise strongly in recent years.

The SNP says it will encourage the creation of GME primary and secondary schools across Scotland, backed by investment to increase the number of staff who can teach in the language.

New GME primaries will also be supported in Edinburgh and the Lothians "as an important step towards the creation of a standalone GME secondary school" in the heart of the capital. A national strategic approach is to be drawn up to ensure "faster rates of progress" for Gaelic. 

Manifesto proposals of relevance to the higher and further education sectors include plans for a new exchange system that would rival the UK Government's post-Brexit Turing scheme.

READ MORE: John Swinney ditches flagship Education Bill

It comes after Britain decided to leave the EU's Erasmus+ programme, which the party document says has "helped transform the lives of thousands of our students, schoolchildren, teachers, adult learners and young people".

"In Scotland proportionally more participants have gone abroad through Erasmus+ than from anywhere else in the UK, while proportionally more visitors from the rest of Europe have visited Scotland in return," the manifesto states.

"We remain committed to Erasmus, and will continue to advocate for Scotland’s inclusion in the programme.

"Until then, we will create a Scottish programme of exchange to provide mobility and cooperation opportunities in higher education, vocational education and training, school education (including early childhood education and care), adult education, youth and sport.

"We will produce a new International Education Strategy that will promote education alliances with other countries across Europe and the world."