Tories accuse Scottish Government of education system ‘neglect’

The party will use its debating time on Wednesday to raise the issue after the education system slipped down international rankings.

The Scottish Conservatives have claimed successive education secretaries have “neglected” the country’s education system, ahead of a Holyrood debate.

The party will use its debating time on Wednesday to raise the issue, a week after the education system slipped down international rankings.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rankings last week, showing Scotland’s attainment in reading, maths and science had dropped.

The report – which surveyed 3,300 15-year-olds in 2022 and includes 81 other countries – also found that 35.8% of respondents said they have seen someone hurt at their school, compared with a 17% average among the other nations.

It also said 40% of pupils have seen their schools vandalised compared with the 19.8% OECD average.

And 35.7% of pupils surveyed said they have heard a student threaten another student while the OECD average is just 20.2%.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Scottish Tory education spokesman Liam Kerr said: “Scotland’s education system, which was once the envy of the world, is in freefall after 16 years of SNP mismanagement.

“The latest Pisa report highlighted that Scotland is going backwards when it comes to reading, maths and science – and lagging way behind performance levels in England.”

But the rankings, Kerr claimed, are “just the latest evidence of the SNP’s shameful failure in education”.

“A whole generation of children have been failed by the SNP’s broken promise to eradicate the poverty-related attainment gap and their disastrous implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, while teaching staff have been subjected to unprecedented levels of physical and verbal abuse,” he added.

“For 16 years, successive education secretaries have neglected our education system, and students and staff have suffered the consequences. It’s simply unacceptable.

“That’s why the Scottish Conservatives will use our party business slot this week to turn the spotlight on the SNP’s abysmal record in education, and outline the measures we would take to restore standards.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As is well understood, Covid has impacted on attendance, behaviour and achievement but we cannot and will not accept this as the new normal. Since PISA was conducted, wider evidence from both the 2023 national qualification results show clear evidence of an ongoing recovery which we are determined to build on.

“Scotland’s performance in the PISA assessments was above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average in reading and similar to the OECD average in maths and science. This was also the case in the previous survey, in 2018. However we are not satisfied with these results and this Government’s focus is on improvement. 

“The Cabinet Secretary has welcomed views from a range of stakeholders on issues associated with changing behaviour in Scotland’s schools. It’s clear that post-pandemic behavioural changes in classrooms are affecting schools across the UK and the PISA assessment showed that pupils in Scotland were less likely to witness issues with behaviour in school than in other parts of the UK.

“The Cabinet Secretary has already committed to a joint National Action Plan, to set out a range of actions at national, local and school level, to support improved behaviour.”

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