An independent office of education statistics should be introduced to cut through “nationalist spin” and provide an assessment of Scotland’s educational performance, it has been claimed.
The proposal was made in response to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD)’s June 2021 report which warned that there is a lack of robust data for assessing school performance in Scotland.
In March this year, Professor Ken Muir, an independent advisor to the Scottish Government, recommended the creation of a new, independent inspectorate.
It would help to support improvement, evaluate major changes in the education system and report annually, Muir stated.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have now called for an independent body to be set up so that there can be accurate data so that problems can be assessed.
Willie Rennie, the party’s education spokesperson, criticised the actions taken by the Scottish Government on education.
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has stated that official statistics already comply with the code of practice issued by the UK Statistics Authority.
However, Rennie accused the Government of “nationalist spin” serving political interests rather than those of the country.
“After they saw that Scotland was falling behind countries such as England and Vietnam, the Scottish Government’s response wasn’t to hire more teachers, reform the curriculum or cut class sizes. Instead, it was to withdraw from the surveys,” said Rennie.
“We know that ministerial fingerprints were all over the long overdue OECD report and we saw the same impulse on results day a few weeks ago. The education secretary claimed the attainment gap had shrunk when actually it has grown.
“If we are to get Scottish education back on track we need accurate data to assess where there are problems, rather than rely on nationalist spin that serves political interests and neglects those of the country.
“That’s why I am calling on the government to introduce an independent office of education statistics.”
Rennie acknowledged the impact of Covid-19 on the learning experience of young people.
“We all know that the pandemic was life-changing for young people, who were taken out of schools, banned from seeing friends and family, made to sit altered exams in unprecedented circumstances without in-person teacher support,” he continued.
“Right now, young people are still reeling from the after-shocks of that loss of learning and opportunity.
“You might expect the government to rise to the challenge and champion its young people, but the SNP and Greens are too busy launching the next instalment of a bad Braveheart rip off.”
He added: “Unlike the Scottish Government, my party and I are determined to promote the interests of young people and ensure that Scotland becomes a world leader in education once more.”
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville explained that the Government is undertaking a reform agenda.
She said that this will deliver “real change” in the way that Scotland’s education system operates.
“Official statistics already comply with a code of practice issued by the UK Statistics Authority to ensure they are free from political interference,” she said.
“We are undertaking a reform agenda which deliver real change in the way our education system operates, following Professor Ken Muir’s report.
“This will see the creation of three new education bodies underpinned by new values, new governance and new ways of working.”
She continued: “A national discussion on education will be carried out to feed into this process, seeking fresh ideas and views far and wide outside of government.
“This will include teachers, school staff, parents and those at the very heart of the reforms – young people themselves.
“We would encourage anyone with an interest in the future of Scottish education to get involved in this discussion.”