The Scottish Conservatives have today said that Nicola Sturgeon must apologise for putting a second independence referendum above everything else and breaking her promise to make education her number one priority.
Despite trying to hide her own record by removing Scotland from international and established tests, all the key measures indicate Scottish education has gone backwards on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch.
In the Sunday Times today, Keir Bloomer, one of the architects of the Curriculum for Excellence, said that “Much less is known about how Scottish education is performing today than at any time since the 1950s.”
However, when Sturgeon became First Minister, she heralded record Higher passes, the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, and strong PISA performance as the signs of a strong education system.
Since then, the Higher pass rate has fallen for four straight years and the Curriculum for Excellence is under review. New PISA results will be published on Tuesday.
Scottish Conservative analysis, published in the Sunday Times today, shows that in 2017-18, the first year of the SNP’s attainment funding, in 105 of 216 secondary schools (48%), the poorest pupils fared worse than the year before.
Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary said:
“By almost every measure, the SNP are failing and any data that they don’t like, they simply scrap to avoid scrutiny.
“They have removed Scotland from international tests and the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN), creating a data gap of several years where we can’t fully judge performance. As Keir Bloomer highlights today, we know less about Scottish schools today than at any point in the last 60 years.
“From the information we do have, all the signs point to Scottish education going backwards because Nicola Sturgeon has spent five years obsessing about a second independence referendum, instead of sorting out our schools.
“And we know that behind the scenes, John Swinney’s own civil servants are telling him they are alarmed by the continued fall in the Higher pass rate and the declines to subject choice.
“Nicola Sturgeon asked to be judged on education and she will be – her legacy will be the failure of a generation of parents and pupils. It’s time she said sorry for putting independence above every other issue.”
Notes to editors
Scrapping of data: Keir Bloomer says it’s been 60 years since we knew so little about Scottish schools. He said: ‘The data on Scottish education is sadly deficient and has deteriorated in recent years...Much less is known about how Scottish education is performing today than at any time since the 1950s.’ (Sunday Times, 1 December 2019, link).
SQA results: Attainment at Higher and Advanced Higher is at a record low – and the Higher pass rate has fallen for four straight years. Pass rates at Higher and Advanced Higher fell to the lowest level since the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) was introduced over the last five years. The National 5 pass rate rose slightly compared to last year, however, it is still at the second lowest level since CfE began (SQA, 6 August 2019, link).
International tests: PISA results show that Scottish education has gone backwards. Since 2006, reading has dropped from a score of 499 to 493. The mathematics score has from 506 to 491, whilst the science score has taken the worst fall from 515 to 497. England and Northern Ireland now outperform Scotland in every category, as does Ireland, Estonia and Poland (OECD, PISA 2015 results, 6 December 2016, link).
Teacher numbers: Total teacher numbers are down by 3,141 since 2007-08 (Scottish Government, Summary Statistics, 11 December 2018, link).
Subject choice: The number of schools where pupils take fewer than six subjects has more than tripled in five years. Scottish Conservative research found that in 2013, there were 46 schools where S4 pupils took fewer than six subjects. Now, there are 165. In contrast, the number of schools where pupils take seven or more has almost halved in that timeframe, from 308 to 182 (Scottish Conservatives, 13 June 2019, link).
Parents opinions: A household survey found opinions of local schools have plummeted under the SNP. The Scottish Household Survey shows satisfaction with local schools peaking at 85 per cent in 2011 and falling to 70 and 71 per cent in the last two years. When Sturgeon came to office, it was 79 per cent. (Scottish Government, Household Survey, link).
Attainment gap: In June this year, John Swinney said closing the attainment gap will take ‘in excess of ten years’ - despite the SNP being in power for 12 years already. Swinney said: ‘we’ve made it very clear that this will take us probably in excess of 10 years to close that poverty-related attainment gap’ (ITV Borders, 25 June 2019, link).