SNP should "commit to putting their money where their mouth is" on education

Labour's Education spokesperson Iain Gray made the call in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper this morning, urging Education Secretary John Swinney to ask the Committee to investigate.


Gray wrote "It is just over two years since Nicola Sturgeon declared that raising attainment was her government’s “defining mission”, and that there was “no better person” than John Swinney to deliver it. In fact, rather than proving to be a safe pair of hands, he has fumbled the ball on education time and again."

"New school, and Parliamentary years are traditionally seen as a fresh start. If the Education Secretary wants that, he has to come to Parliament and explain his decision to allow Yammer to go ahead. He must drop, once and for all, that unloved, unnecessary Education Bill and its centralising reforms. He should end the testing of P1s, and go back to the drawing board on standardised tests generally."

"He should ask the Education Committee to launch an investigation into those worrying trends in exam results, and if he will not, they should investigate anyway." he added.

"But above all he, and the First Minister, should commit to putting their money where their mouth is on education and restoring those cuts to schools and colleges in the next budget. Thousands of pupils did do very well in those exams, and that is testament to their hard work and their teachers, with the support of parents and carers. They deserve a Government which backs them with the resources they need rather than warm words."

The comments come after news that attainment in level 3, 4 and 5 exams dropped some 34 per cent since the SNP government introduced their new National exams.

In 2013 pupils passed 60,000 Standard Grades at level 3, compared to 16,138 'National 3' passes in 2018, with overall attainment at standard grade equivalent level was down by 33.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, the gap between private and state schools has also grown under the SNP, with the gap between private and public school exam appeals doubling since the SNP introduced a charge back in 2014.

In 2014 the gap between state and private school appeals was 2.1 per cent – the most recent figures for last year show that gap has more than doubled to 4.9 per cent.

EIS Assistant Secretary Andrea Bradley said the changes seemed “to have exacerbated the existing inequalities between the state and private school sectors.”

She added: “The main factor in any decision to seek a marking review of a student’s script must always be a genuine belief, based on the professional judgement of teachers, that there is a strong chance of the review being successful.

“The issue of cost should never be, and should not have to be, a factor in the decision-making process.”

In response to The Red Robin, John Swinney said that "Our focus is on a young person's achievement at the end of their senior phase and the long term trend shows a greater proportion of young people staying on at school beyond S4.

"Young people are gaining a broader range of qualifications, with higher passes remaining stable, and the proportion of young people leaving school with qualifications has increased in recent years."

"Assessments are not a new concept and the vast majority of local authorities have been carrying them out for years. The Scottish National Standardised Assessments ensure for the first time, that all schools undertake the same assessments, providing consistency and an important means for teachers to identify children's next steps in learning. That is especially valuable in early years if we are to continue to close the attainment gap." he said.

"The Scottish Government is committing £750 million during the course of this Parliament to tackle the poverty related attainment gap and ensure every child in Scotland has an equal chance to succeed - including another £120m Pupil Equity Funding direct to schools this year."

"Local authorities are directly responsible for setting school budgets and the latest figures show that local authority spend on education increased from £4.95 billion in 2015-16 to £5.07 billion in 2016-17 - a real terms increase of 0.3%. Councils can choose to use their powers to increase council tax, by up to 3%, to increase funds at their disposal to support local services."

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