Has there been a narrowing of subject choice at S4?
Is performance in Highers rising or falling?
What proportion of young people are leaving school without any qualifications?
The answer to these questions is: “Nobody knows.”
All of the above questions have been raised on the doorsteps by concerned parents and local businesses. The consistent lacklustre performance in PISA international tests, especially in maths and science, suggests a problem. Yet we cannot be sure, since there is an almost total absence of reliable data. As a Reform Scotland report released today put it, “We know less about the performance of Scotland’s schools that at any time since the 1950s.”
Alison Smith, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Banff and Buchan said, “On the doorsteps, parents of teenagers are most worried about lack of subject choice. What little data we have also shows that standards are falling. Yet the SNP have their heads in the sand. Tiny children in Primary One are subjected to tests, but we know less and less with every passing year about what’s going on in our secondary years. It’s almost an information blackout.”
“School is crucial for the improving the life chances of our young people. Good education is also the basis on which our economy thrives. The government must develop, in consultation with schools and education experts, measures of performance that allow us to understand what is happening at senior phase and at the point of leaving school.
“Once we can get a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, we can develop a plan to improve subject choice, develop consistency, and minimise the chance of pupils leaving school without qualifications and being left behind.”