Sturgeon: Maths and science performance ‘not good enough’

Jackson Carlaw said data showed the performance in the two subjects has 'never been lower'.

Sturgeon: Conceded performance is 'not good enough'.
Sturgeon: Conceded performance is 'not good enough'.

Nicola Sturgeon has conceded performance in maths and science in Scotland’s schools is “not good enough” as she came under fire over education.

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said international data showed performance in the two subjects has “never been lower”.

The latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) statistics, which were released this week, showed while reading had improved since 2015, Scotland recorded a mean score of 489 for maths, down from 491 in 2015, and 490 for science, compared to 497 previously.

Sturgeon said independent statisticians regarded performance in maths and science as “stable”.

But the Scottish Tory told her science had suffered the biggest drop in performance since 2003, adding: “Just one country out of 40 has seen standards in science fall further since 2006.

“And in maths, Scotland has experienced the fifth biggest fall.”

Carlaw said: “I welcome the figures in reading but it is a little bit like people celebrating the fact they have just had their kitchen redecorated when the front two rooms in the house are on fire.”

He went on to accuse the First Minister of being in “denial”, quoting education expert Professor Lindsay Paterson, of Edinburgh University, on the “disgraceful political spin” the Scottish Government had put on the figures.

Carlaw said after the last set of PISA results education secretary John Swinney had promised an “unwavering focus” on improving schools.

“That is not good enough in my view.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s unwavering focus has not been on improving our schools but on forcing another independence referendum on Scotland.”

The Scottish Tory leader asked: “How much more government failure does Scotland have to endure before you drop this obsession and get on with your job?”

Sturgeon said “compared to the last PISA study the performance in science and maths according to independent statisticians, is stable”. But she stated: “That is not good enough in my view.”

The First Minister added: “We want to continue with the efforts to see significant improvements in maths and science, as we seen significant improvement in reading performance recorded in the most recent PISA study.”

She said efforts such as the attainment challenge and pupil equity funding were leading to an improvement in schools, arguing: “What we are doing is working and we will continue to bring the same focus to maths and science as well.”

The SNP leader stressed: “I am not standing here saying the performance in maths and science is for me or the Scottish Government acceptable, I am not saying that in any way shape or form.

“But after we saw a significant decline in this study we have seen a performance that has stabilised and we now intend to bring to bear initiatives and interventions that will see a similar improvement in maths and science to the improvement we have seen in this survey in reading and literacy.

“I think that is the focus a government should bring.”

Looking at other measures of educational achievement, she said: “When we took office less than half of pupils in Scotland left school with a Higher qualification, now almost two-thirds leave school with a Higher qualification.

“When we took office just over 20% left school with the gold standard of five Highers, that is now over 30%.”

Sturgeon added: “I don’t think that is job done but that is an indication of the focus and the progress we are and will continue to deliver.”