Tories ‘whitewash’ warning as Nicola Sturgeon confirms school review

The First Minister said ministers would abide by the decision of the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Getty
The First Minister said ministers would abide by the decision of the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Getty
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Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed her government will order a review of Scotland’s education system – though the Tories have already raised fears it could be a “whitewash”.

The First Minister said ministers would abide by the decision of the Scottish Parliament after her administration was defeated in a debate on schools.

MSPs voted by 63 to 60 on Wednesday for a “full review” into the senior phase of the Curriculum for Excellence, as well as a full review of broad general education, which covers learning from the early years right up to the end of S3.

However, Ms Sturgeon yesterday appeared to question whether this was necessary, noting education secretary John Swinney had already instructed an examination of the senior phase of education, while a review into schooling up to the end of S5 was carried out a few years ago.

“But of course we will abide by the decision Parliament took yesterday, whether or not we consider that is necessary,” she said. Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw voiced fears the review would be a “whitewash”, claiming ministers consistently dismiss and undermine concerns about the state of the Scottish education system. He said the “suspicion” was “this review is going to be a whitewash, not a proper investigation into the real problems that exist”.

Mr Carlaw told Ms Sturgeon: “It is the things that are going wrong that this Government consistently dismisses, undermines and refuses to engage with.” He pressed the First Minister on the issue less than 24 hours after the Scottish Government was defeated on the subject at Holyrood.

During Wednesday’s debate, MSPs raised concerns about issues such as subject choice and classes where pupils studying for different levels of exams are all taught together.

Mr Carlaw, who challenged Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, said: “It is important we have a full inquiry, a majority of MSPs across parties have demanded that.”

He insisted it must “focus on the things that are going wrong” in Scotland’s schools.

Confirming a review will be held, Ms Sturgeon stressed the “Scottish Government will abide by the decision of Parliament”.

Mr Swinney will “set out in due course how that will be taken forward”, she added.

However, Ms Sturgeon said there had been a review of broad general education, which was carried out by the OECD in 2015 – and the same body has been tasked by ministers with carrying out a review of schooling’s senior phase.