It is naïve of politicians to think differences in attainment between children from contrasting backgrounds can be eradicated since they are due to innate features, health, income levels, diet, housing, environment and attitudes, all of which will remain.
Teachers know the attainment levels of pupils and there is no need for more testing.
Results are of no use if there is little that can be done to improve them. The most crucial criteria are not easily measured.
Recent improvements in test results for literacy and numeracy in England are lauded as showing the success of policies there.
However, a study by the Childrens’ Society and York University found that pupils in that country are more unhappy than those in any other one except South Korea, where school exam results are a national obsession.
Children in both countries reported enduring stress, emotional problems, feelings of fear, bullying and lack of confidence.
This and their poor average health makes it likely that within 20 years many will suffer mental and/or physical illnesses.
High levels of literacy and numeracy will be of little help to them or society.
This will exacerbate problems for the NHS. The assumption that good academic qualifications inevitably lead to better jobs is disproved by the finding of the Chartered Institute for Personnel that about 50 per cent of graduates are in low-paid work which can be done by others without formal qualifications. We accept that medical services, however good, cannot bring excellent health for many.
Why, then, assume that “raising standards” (meaning higher exam results) in schools will mean higher levels of education? Only a small proportion of what we know and can do was learned in schools and colleges.
Providing many more adequate homes of all types will do far more to improve education (in the best sense of the word) and society in general than any amount of improvements in school test results.
That should be the priority for governments.
To travel on a train into or out of towns such as Airdrie and Coatbridge, when young mothers with babies and small children are on board, is to realise where a priority for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should lie – on spoken English.
This was a notable omission from the primary school “learning targets” where clear, comprehensible English should be an essential aim, in addition to recognising any dialect that children may have.
For many young Scots, English would be a second language.
(Dr) I A Glen