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Revealed: Officials told Swinney subject choice has been reduced under Curriculum for Excellence

The Scottish Conservatives have revealed that Scottish Government officials told the Education Secretary, John Swinney seven months ago that subject choice had been reduced across the entire senior phase from S4 to S6.

In advance of their debate on subject choice in Holyrood today (Wednesday), the party has published a freedom of information response which shows Mr Swinney was informed in May that pupils were taking fewer subjects now than prior to the SNP's curriculum changes.

However, after receiving the analysis, both the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney continued to insist that subject choice had not been reduced and the problems were only limited to S4.

Scottish Government officials wrote in internal briefings that “A range of data and information confirms that there are, on average, fewer subjects taken by pupils now than was the case prior to the introduction of CfE and the new qualifications.”

Civil servants said that on average, school leavers entered 10 subjects in 2012/13 but as of 2017/18, they only entered 8 subjects.

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary said:

 

“This is conclusive proof that subject choice has been reduced across the entire senior phase from S4 to S6. 

“Scottish Government officials told John Swinney exactly what was going wrong in our schools but he has spent months ignoring the evidence and pretending that all is well. 

“Both Mr Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon have misled parliament by insisting that subject choice has not been reduced when their own civil servants told them the opposite. 

“This SNP government is clearly in denial. Ministers refuse to listen, even to their own civil servants, education experts and Holyrood’s education committee.

"The Scottish Conservatives have offered constructive solutions to fix the serious issues afflicting the curriculum and it is past time that the SNP listened and acted before the situation becomes any worse.”

Ends

Notes:

The full Scottish Conservative motion to be debated tomorrow (Wednesday) is as follows –

Curriculum for Excellence

That the Parliament is committed to the principles of excellence and equity to underpin policy approaches to education and to improve the delivery of the curriculum for excellence (CfE), but notes with growing concern the recent analysis of CfE, in

The Scottish Conservatives have revealed that Scottish Government officials told the Education Secretary, John Swinney seven months ago that subject choice had been reduced across the entire senior phase from S4 to S6.

In advance of their debate on subject choice in Holyrood today (Wednesday), the party has published a freedom of information response which shows Mr Swinney was informed in May that pupils were taking fewer subjects now than prior to the SNP's curriculum changes.

However, after receiving the analysis, both the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney continued to insist that subject choice had not been reduced and the problems were only limited to S4.

Scottish Government officials wrote in internal briefings that “A range of data and information confirms that there are, on average, fewer subjects taken by pupils now than was the case prior to the introduction of CfE and the new qualifications.”

Civil servants said that on average, school leavers entered 10 subjects in 2012/13 but as of 2017/18, they only entered 8 subjects.

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary said:

 

“This is conclusive proof that subject choice has been reduced across the entire senior phase from S4 to S6. 

“Scottish Government officials told John Swinney exactly what was going wrong in our schools but he has spent months ignoring the evidence and pretending that all is well. 

“Both Mr Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon have misled parliament by insisting that subject choice has not been reduced when their own civil servants told them the opposite. 

“This SNP government is clearly in denial. Ministers refuse to listen, even to their own civil servants, education experts and Holyrood’s education committee.

"The Scottish Conservatives have offered constructive solutions to fix the serious issues afflicting the curriculum and it is past time that the SNP listened and acted before the situation becomes any worse.”

Ends

Notes:

The full Scottish Conservative motion to be debated tomorrow (Wednesday) is as follows –

Curriculum for Excellence

That the Parliament is committed to the principles of excellence and equity to underpin policy approaches to education and to improve the delivery of the curriculum for excellence (CfE), but notes with growing concern the recent analysis of CfE, including the recent publication from Professor Jim Scott, which draws the conclusion that the attainment gap is widening and highlights that there are failures in the delivery of CfE; notes in particular that these failures are imposing proportionately greater barriers to success among the pupil cohort who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and calls on the Scottish Government to urgently address these concerns.

The civil servant analysis can be found on page 87 of the attached FOI. The analysis is in response to research by Mark Priestley, who sits on the Scottish Government Curriculum and Assessment board. 


When Ruth Davidson raised it at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said ‘Ruth Davidson never quite manages to respond to the actual evidence, so let me set it out for her again’, ‘the evidence does not bear out Ruth Davidson’s analysis’ and ‘the facts are, quite frankly, proving her wrong’ (Scottish Parliament, Official Report, 13 June 2019, link)


Sturgeon said ‘what matters is the qualifications that they [pupils] take over the entirety of the senior phase of education.’ She said: ‘As we have discussed many times in the chamber, it is not simply a matter of the qualifications that young people take in S4. What matters is the qualifications that young people leave school with—the qualifications that they take over the entirety of the senior phase of education… I come back to this fundamental point: the evidence does not bear out Ruth Davidson’s analysis’ (Scottish Parliament, 13 June 2019, link).

Swinney said he ‘does not think there has been a narrowing of choice.’ He said: ‘I don't think there has been a narrowing of choice. I think there's been a broadening of opportunity for young people… The second issue that your question raises is whether there has been a narrowing of choice for young people in general in Scottish education. I do not think that that is the case’ (The Scotsman, 29 May 2019, linkScottish Parliament, 29 May 2019, link).

cluding the recent publication from Professor Jim Scott, which draws the conclusion that the attainment gap is widening and highlights that there are failures in the delivery of CfE; notes in particular that these failures are imposing proportionately greater barriers to success among the pupil cohort who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and calls on the Scottish Government to urgently address these concerns.

The civil servant analysis can be found on page 87 of the attached FOI. The analysis is in response to research by Mark Priestley, who sits on the Scottish Government Curriculum and Assessment board. 


When Ruth Davidson raised it at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said ‘Ruth Davidson never quite manages to respond to the actual evidence, so let me set it out for her again’, ‘the evidence does not bear out Ruth Davidson’s analysis’ and ‘the facts are, quite frankly, proving her wrong’ (Scottish Parliament, Official Report, 13 June 2019, link)


Sturgeon said ‘what matters is the qualifications that they [pupils] take over the entirety of the senior phase of education.’ She said: ‘As we have discussed many times in the chamber, it is not simply a matter of the qualifications that young people take in S4. What matters is the qualifications that young people leave school with—the qualifications that they take over the entirety of the senior phase of education… I come back to this fundamental point: the evidence does not bear out Ruth Davidson’s analysis’ (Scottish Parliament, 13 June 2019, link).

Swinney said he ‘does not think there has been a narrowing of choice.’ He said: ‘I don't think there has been a narrowing of choice. I think there's been a broadening of opportunity for young people… The second issue that your question raises is whether there has been a narrowing of choice for young people in general in Scottish education. I do not think that that is the case’ (The Scotsman, 29 May 2019, linkScottish Parliament, 29 May 2019, link).

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