But something must be done, otherwise the SNP’s tattered reputation on education could drag the party down altogether.
Perhaps that is for the best, if the nationalists were elected under false pretences.
John Swinney’s appointment as Scotland’s new cabinet secretary for education is being widely regarded as a statement of intent by Nicola Sturgeon. Swinney is one of her most formidable ministers and the first minister has asked us all to judge her on her government’s ability to close the educational attainment gap. Swinney was not two weeks in the job before the latest data from the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy was released. On the face of it, the figures were depressing and indicated a decline or at least no improvement since 2011. At primary 4 level, standards of numeracy have retreated and at S2 level there has been no improvement on figures that weren’t originally encouraging.
The underlying pattern in these figures, though, was not merely depressing – they were nothing short of a national disgrace. By every indicator and at every stage of primary and secondary schooling, children from our most disadvantaged communities performed much worse than those from more affluent neighbourhoods. At S2, there is an educational attainment gap of 28%.
This trend has been apparent in Scotland since before the SNP assumed government, but they have now been in power for more than nine years. That is more than enough time to have considered all possible solutions and to have listened to the submissions of all stakeholders.
Yet Swinney’s response was merely to talk about teachers requiring more understanding of the importance of numeracy and literacy. No they don’t, John – your government needs to start now to address educational inequality in our poorest areas.
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