Readers' Letters: Stop worrying about educational standards

Brian Wilson (Perspective, 21 May) says “barely half” of children from poor backgrounds can read, write or count to a standard which will give them a decent chance in life.

Just what this is, he does not explain. Surely it varies hugely according to the kind of jobs they are likely to have? There are many for which other skills are far more relevant. Physical fitness, technical and social skills, imagination, empathy, resilience and perseverance are examples. Given that technology now enables far more calculations to be made instantly, faster than any person could do mentally, just what levels of personal numeracy are now needed? There is, then, no more reason most children should have similar levels of literacy and numeracy than they should be similar in any other subjects. Many services and decisions involve teams with a much wider range of knowledge and skills than any individual could possibly have.

The needs of pupils and wider society are best met if education is geared to individual capacities and interests. Pushing children into learning subjects in which they have no interest or ability does them harm, not good. It damages self-image and may foment misbehaviour. What matters is that pupils enjoy their schooling (which is only one aspect of their education).

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The focus on “standards” is obsolete. There is no reason to assume that those who set these really know what will matter for pupils or the community as a whole. Children are natural learners and should have far more choice as to what they study. What matters most is their mental and physical health.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon creates a TikTok video with pupils in Coatbridge earlier this year (Picture: Jane Barlow/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Laura Preston, Glasgow

Cunning plan?

We're missing the point on Nicola Sturgeon's retraction from her “Closing the attainment gap” aim. She has realised that being poorly educated and thoughtless is a major attribute to fortifying the numbers of her followers. So perhaps her next promise will be to close all private schools, so increasing the chances to achieve a zero attainment gap at a mediocre level, providing more fodder for the Indyref2 machine.

Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire

Reject mediocrity

It's hardly an auspicious start to the public ownership of ScotRail that the train operator has cut 700 daily journeys on a “temporary” basis from its new timetable. In an industry bedevilled for years by cancelled services and lack of drivers, one would expect the Scottish Government to provide a blueprint on how a successful and modern rail transport network could come about. They have had enough time to formulate one.

However, with the Transport Secretary seemingly suggesting that reduced services are a good thing and Employment Minister Richard Lochhead urging ScotRail and the unions to try to make progress in pay talks, it appears that the government doesn't have a clue as to how to proceed.

For a start, ministers should remember that they are accountable to the people for the successful running of publicly owned utilities and they shouldn't shirk their responsibilities by keeping problems at arms length and shifting thorny issues onto the shoulders of unelected quangos. The “It wisnae me” culture is endemic within the Scottish Government from the top down and the Scottish people should not be asked to accept mediocrity as the norm.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

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Dodging bullets

The current line regarding the Scottish Government’s responsibilities with regard to the ScotRail negotiations, no doubt fed to it by its army of spin doctors to enable it to distance itself somehow from the proceedings, is totally disingenuous. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Transport Secretary Jenny Gilruth tell us, whenever interviewed on the current dispute, that they are not involved in the negotiations – are “not in the room” – but urge ScotRail and the unions to get round the table.

Let me draw an analogy between the Scottish Government and a corporation with several companies. I worked for one such company in the construction sector. We had a Group Board (like the Cabinet), a Chairman (First Minister), and Directors (Ministers) each responsible for a company within the Group. We had Construction, Mining, Housebuilding and Commercial Developments. The Director in charge of each was hands-on, accountable for the success or failure of his company.

ScotRail is a nationalised company wholly owned by the Scottish Government. Its employees, including its management, are public service employees paid for by the Scottish taxpayers. CalMac and Ferguson Marine are also in public ownership. If Ms Gilruth really feels she has no remit to involve herself in the current running of these companies which are vital to the people and economy of Scotland perhaps Holyrood should dispense with the post of Transport Minister and save the taxpayers the £106,000 salary and costs of a chauffeur-driven limousine.

Come to think of it, why stop there? There are several other departments that are requiring close scrutiny.

Donald Lewis, Gifford, East Lothian

Firing blanks

Anyone believing Nicola Sturgeon's claim of “firing the starting gun on Indyref2” will doubtless be on every charlatan's junk mail address list. As Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute.On 13 September 2014, Sturgeon said she was firing a starting gun on a five to six-year plan to independence: this was reiterated on 23 June 2015 on the pretext of the Brexit vote and again on 15 October 2015 at the SNP's annual conference. After a year's silence and elections looming, it was resurrected on 13 March 2017 and again on 23 May 2018.On 23 April 2019, Sturgeon promised it to Holyrood “before 2020”. On 23 January 2021 it was promised yet again, despite the continuance of the very Covid epidemic which had been the excuse for the previous deadline never being met.There's a clear propensity towards grandiose Sturgeon announcements in the middle or 23rd of any given month in order to mask the latest calamity of her regime: whether scandals regarding Holyrood ferry contracts or a party members' financial or sexual improprieties. That people keep falling for it proves H L Mencken's dictum that people admire most extravagantly the most daring liars and detest most violently those trying to tell them the truth.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Look homeward

Stan Grodynski criticises my contributions to your letters pages listing “perceived failures” by this incompetent SNP administration is almost laughable if it was not so serious (Letters, 23 May).

As with most independence supporters, he asks those against independence in effect, not to criticise but instead compare the “relative performance” of the UK government and governments elsewhere as against this hapless SNP Government. Like his esteemed First Minister, he trots out the usual “lessons can be learned from mistakes made” line! He singularly fails to comment on the astronomical costs of these “mistakes” which, should they have been made in the private sector, would have resulted in people losing their jobs. As regards comparing the performance to the UK government, it will be of no relevance to those passengers trying to get a train from Glasgow to Dundee after 7pm or from Glasgow to Stirling after 8pm. It will be of no relevance for our hospitality sector to look elsewhere in the UK when they have no customers after 8pm in Scotland!

The plain truth is that we in Scotland, via this SNP administration, must put our own house in order. Only then will comparisons with other parts of the UK have any relevance whatsoever.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

It ‘wis’ you

Having been in the driving seat for quite some time, the SNP administration appears to have learned precisely nothing from their own failings. Scotland was given significant devolved powers over many matters including taxation, but Nicola Sturgeon and her party prefer to rely on the excuse that “it wisnae me but the big boy doon the road” to excuse the abysmal state in which Scotland finds itself.

The general public are only too well aware of the myriad failings of this administration – just count the number of people who haven’t given their vote to the SNP compared with those who voted for pro-unionist parties.

EP Carruthers, Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway

Seeing sense

I note that the Youth Wing of the SNP want us to continue in Nato if independence is achieved (your report, 23 May). Is that because they have realised like those young people in Ukraine they would be expected to stay in Scotland and fight if we were attacked? Perhaps they will also back keeping Trident on the Clyde as it was when Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons that Putin launched his invasion.

Elizabeth Hands, Armadale

Seeing little

Having watched the Scottish Cup Final on TV, part of the time through a haze resembling a winter fog, how were spectators able to bring in stocks of smoke flares? Given recent moves to restrict the use of fireworks, why was Hampden so lax in allowing what I thought were prohibited items into the arena?

Richard W Perry, Burntisland, Fife

Cash penalty

Mark Boyle doesn't seem to know much about Heart of Midlothian FC or Scottish football (Letters, 23 May). Over the past month Hearts had injuries to five key players who had very limited game time, a situation not helped by the fact that the SPFL does not have a reserve league, and that Rangers have a much larger squad of highly paid players.

The performance was disappointing but the financial gap between the Old Firm and the rest is massive.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

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