First Minister’s Questions: Nicola Sturgeon accused of causing ‘education chaos’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon walks to FMQs. Picture: SWNS
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon walks to FMQs. Picture: SWNS
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Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson challenged Nicola Sturgeon’s record on education during a heated First Minister’s questions.

Ms Davidson also demanded a complete overhaul of the Curriculum for Excellence system which applies in all of Scotland’s schools.

The Tory leader said a reduction in subject choice for pupils in the later years of secondary school meant pupils had missed out on 622,000 qualifications over the last five years.

She told MSPs: “The crash in subject choice we are seeing is a symptom of a wider malaise and it is caused by the chaotic introduction of Curriculum for Excellence.

“Under this Government we have seen reduced subject choice, we have seen teachers left in the dark, we have seen our Higher pass rate falling, we have seen attainment in National exams down by a third compared to the old standard grades and yet on education this Government shows no sign of listening to the evidence, of listening to this Parliament or of listening to parents or to teachers.”

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The Conservative demanded: “The solution is a complete overhaul of Curriculum for Excellence and for once will this Government listen?”

Ms Sturgeon dismissed the figures on lost qualifications, saying that changes in the exams system meant the research was “like comparing apples and oranges”.

She insisted performance was improving in schools, telling her Tory rival: “Here’s some figures for Ruth Davidson to chew over - the proportion of pupils getting passes at Higher level has risen more than 10 percentage points, it was 50.4% in 2009-10 in 2016-17 it was 61.2%.

“When we look at National 5 level, the proportion leaving school with an award has risen nine percentage points, it was 77.1% in 2009-10, it was 86.1% in 2016-17 and at Higher level the gap between the richest and the poorest has fallen by almost seven percentage points.”

She also noted that in Drumpchapel High, in one of Scotland’s most deprived areas, the number of pupils leaving with at least one Higher had risen from 8% in 2006 to 53% in 2018.

After the Tories voted against P1 assessments in Holyrood on Wednesday, the First Minister claimed Ms Davidson and her party had been left with “zero credibility” on education issues.

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She hit out: “I don’t think the Tories have got a shred of credibility on education left after the U-turn they did yesterday, voting to scrap P1 assessments that they have spent the last four years demanding that this Scottish Government introduce. Zero credibility for Ruth Davidson.”