Labour hits out over maths failures

Performance in the classroom is a major issue for the SNP. Picture: Susan Burrell
Performance in the classroom is a major issue for the SNP. Picture: Susan Burrell
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More than half of youngsters who left school in 2015/16 did not have a key maths qualification.

Labour is demanding urgent action from Education Secretary John Swinney after figures showed that 43.4 per cent of all school leavers passed maths at National 5 level or above – the equivalent of a Standard Grade credit level under the previous exam system.

The party has already highlighted a drop in the number of Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) teachers, saying this had fallen from 6,821 in 2007, the year the SNP came to power, to 5,995 at the most recent count.

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “Nicola Sturgeon promised to make education her top priority – but now we discover that attainment in this critical subject is declining.

“This should be setting alarm bells off in Bute House. We need to be future-proofing our economy by giving our young people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future.

“We need more young people with the right skills in maths, not fewer.”

Gray, pictured above, continued: “Under the SNP the numbers of Stem teachers have plummeted, while £1.5 billion has been slashed from schools and services since 2011. The SNP’s decision to pass on Tory austerity to Scottish communities will harm the future opportunities for our young people and hold back the Scottish economy years from now.

“John Swinney needs to urgently address the falling attainment in maths, and explain how he plans to improve outcomes in this key subject.”

But a spokesman for Swinney attacked Labour for having failed to put forward a “single positive idea for change” in schools.

The spokesman said: “We have recognised the challenges schools face. That’s why we have only last week launched the most radical reform of education in decades.

“This will see more power and money going to schools and teachers – the people best placed to improve education.”

The row comes after the latest figures showed the number of youngsters from the poorest parts of Scotland leaving school with at least one Higher had increased – but was still just over half the rate of pupils from the least-deprived communities who do so.

In the most-deprived areas, 42.7 per cent of those leaving school in 2015-16 had a minimum qualification of one Higher, up by 1.5 points from the previous year.

However, in the most-affluent parts of the country 81.2 per cent of school leavers in 2015/16 had one Higher or more, a rise of 0.9 points from 2014/15, data from the government showed.