New figures make for worrying readingby Willie Rennie / December 20, 2016 / Leave a comment
In the run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections in May, during a speech at Wester Hailes Education centre in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke of her priorities if the Scottish people were to give her party another mandate to govern.
Rather than banging the drum for a bitter and divisive second independence referendum, she was reasonable. “My priority for my time as First Minister—and let me be clear I want to be judged on this—is that every young person should have the same advantage that I had when I was growing up in Ayrshire.” This, if we are to take her at her own words, is the “central mission” of Sturgeon’s SNP government. Her aim, she said, was to close the attainment gap “completely.”
Well the report card is in and the message is clear: under the SNP Scottish education has undergone a decade of decline.
Statistics published two weeks ago by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that Scotland’s performance in science, maths and reading was average among OECD countries in 2015. In the previous PISA survey in 2012, Scotland was above average in reading and science. This is a drastic drop. What’s more, UCAS data shows that just 9.7 per cent of those from the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland have been accepted to university, compared to 17 per cent in England and 13.9 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Estonia, Canada, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Ireland, Vietnam, New Zealand, Russia, France and England; these are just a handful of the countries which now appear above Scotland in the educational rankings—and I suspect that it is the latter which will rankle the nationalists the most. After nine years of SNP rule, Scotland is not even up there with England any more.
These international comparisons do not lie. We used to have one of the best education systems in the world, now we are going in the wrong direction.
Yet when I put it to the First Minister in the chamber that her “central mission” was an abject failure, she was incapable of providing any explanation for why Scottish education had been allowed to slip so far.
During the SNP’s time in power we’ve had four education secretaries, all…