2005-12-18

Stats: Scottish Education Getting Better

More than three in ten pupils at S2 level -- their second year at high school -- are failing to achieve the basic standards in reading, while just under half failed the standards for writing. Just six in ten pupils achieved the requisite standard for maths. The one bright spot is that the number of pupils achieving the basic standards has increased on all three measures since 2002. The worst-performing authority is Glasgow, which had the lowest pass rates for all subjects. Almost six in ten pupils failed the Level E assessment for writing in 2005. Other poorly performing areas include West Dunbartonshire, Clackmannanshire and North Lanarkshire. The new figures will, for the first time, allow parents to compare the performance of pupils at S2 level -- seen by experts as a vital stage in their academic development. The Level E assessment is a national benchmark of attainment across the school curriculum, which the majority of pupils should have reached by the end of S2, when they are typically aged 13 or 14. 'The Scottish Executive' remains opposed to publishing school league tables, although such information is available in England & Wales. Westminster MPs have argued that the publication of results encourages excellence and allows parents to make a more informed choice of which school to choose for their child. Scotland's Education Minister Mr.Peter Peacock, (New Labour Regional MSP for Highlands and Islands, tel: 0146 371 6299) has said parents should not have access to raw data unless the social status of pupils is included. Last night, opposition politicians and parents' groups called for an end to 'the culture of excuse-making' and said 'The Scottish Executive' needed to find ways of engaging with families who had rejected education across the generations. 'The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party' Education Spokesman Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, (Regional MSP for Lothians) [www.jamesdouglas-hamilton.msp.org.uk] said the percentage of pupils achieving Level E needed to be much higher and said Scottish education was suffering under the comprehensive model.
'These very poor figures once again illustrate that Scottish education is suffering from too many politicians and bureaucrats running our schools, too few parents being allowed a choice in selecting a school for their child and headteachers not having enough freedom to decide what is best in their own unique school environment for each individual child. '"The Executive's" comprehensive "one-size-fits-all" approach to schooling in Scotland is becoming more and more discredited. 'Tony Blair could not have put it better himself when he said: "For the better-off, the British education system is full of options. 'But for a middle- or lower- income family, whose local school is the option and which is underperforming, there is nothing they can do, except take what they are given".'
'The Scottish National Party' Education Spokesman Ms.Fiona Hyslop, (Regional MSP for Lothians) [www.fionahyslop.com] said:
'These statistics don't tell us anything new. 'The problem is that they allow "The Executive" to "hide behind" poverty as their excuse for failing these children. 'Generations of parents have been "switched off" by schools and need to be encouraged to get involved in their children's education.'
However, last night education bodies and 'COSLA', the Local Authority umbrella group, said the figures had to be interpreted with care and said what appeared to be poor results may be due to deep-seated social factors, such as poverty and ill-health. The 'COSLA' Education Spokesman Mr.Ewan Aitken said:
'It really infuriates me the assumption that, taken on their own, these figures in themselves tell us anything significant about the effectiveness of our schools. 'Every school has its own context. That context includes issues such as levels of poverty, levels of support from parents and the community, levels of support from business, transport, the quality of the school building, relative mobility of the cohort and much more. 'For example, one school I know of in a middle-class area has low results because every year up to 80 per cent of the school population can change because it serves a barracks. That does not mean the children are doing badly; it simply means that the cohort being assessed is not the cohort that the targets were set for.'
Head of the 'EIS' teaching union in Scotland Mr.Ronnie Smith:
'If the percentage rate in reading or writing changes, it could have something to do with the cohort of pupils being different, or perhaps the difficulty in finding English teachers that year. 'There is absolutely nothing wrong with gathering and publishing these figures, but it serves no real purpose unless we drill down and see if there are any underlying factors.'
'Thousands of pupils failing on the basics', Shan Ross, The Scotsman, 2005-12-17, Sa

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