FMQs: state pupils losing out due to costly appeals

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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STATE school pupils are being priced out of a “second chance” in education Nicola Sturgeon was told today.

The accusation was made after it emerged the number of exam appeals has plummeted by 75% since new charges were introduced.

Labour today claimed that the system now favour private schools where parents can pay for appeals themselves.

Ms Sturgeon today came under fire over the issue at First Minister Questions and also faced criticims over warnings that colleges places in the key science and technology subjects have fallen by 30,000 since 2007.

But the First Minister told MSPs that exam pass rates are at a record high and more youngsters from poorer backgrounds are going to university.

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New figures published today by Scottish Labour show that the number of state school appeals in Scotland have fallen by 55,000 in the last year - a drop of more than 75%.

The proportion of appeals by private school pupils now stands at more than double that of state school pupils, although these have also fallen slightly.

“There’s real concerns from parents, teachers and pupils across Scotland and we know that from the past when there is a problem in our education system, it’s the kids from the poorest backgrounds that suffer the most,” Labour Deputy leader Kezia Dugdale said today.

Cost

The SNP Government last year introduced charges for exam appeals. The cost comes from the school or council but as budgets are squeezed, these have fallen.

In private schools, parents can pay for appeals themselves.

The reality is that parents of private school pupils can put their hands in their pockets to give their kids a second chance but state school parents can’t do the same.

Ms Dugdale added: “The First Minister might not want to admit it, but the reality is that the SNP’s appeals charges mean the system now favours private school pupils more than ever before. That’s not right.

“The SNP’s record on making our education system fairer is one of failure.”

But Ms Sturgeon said the Government has put in place a system that is “right and proportionate” in terms of appeals.

She said this will give “young people the best opportunity of fulfilling their potential at school.”

The First Minister said she was ready to listen to any Labour proposals for improvements in the system.

But she added: “Not for the first time I’ll be waiting a long time for Labour to come up with anything constructive.”

Ms Sturgeon’s first programme for government set the goal of increasing the number of people from most deprived backgrounds getting to university.

“That’s why we’re working to ensure the best possible school education for our young people and we’re seeing a record number of higher passes.”

The First Minister also pledged to protect free education in Scotland, insisting that tuition fees would be introduced “if Labour had its way.”

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson highlighted figures obtained by the party which show the number of college places in key science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects fell from 86,000 to 56,000 since the SNP came to power in 2007.

Ms Davidson added: “This Government is failing on science and maths. These are college courses that lead to jobs and they’ve been slashed by a third.”

It emerged this week that less than a third of pupils will sit the new science and maths exam.

“On the international tables in every measurement since this Government came to power, Scotland has gone backward in science and maths.”

Ms Sturgeon said that the most recent figures show that about 14,000 more student completed course leading to qualifications than 2008/09 - up by a third. The number of students getting degrees has also doubled.”