Nicola Sturgeon’s request that we judge her on her record of dealing with educational inequality (your report, 19 August) was rather startling. This is because she wants Scots to judge her on her future performance, not the failings of her government since it came to power in 2007.
The most recent data from Ucas shows that the number of Scottish school leavers due to enter university from the most deprived households has risen by 0.1 per cent this year to just 9.7 per cent. In England the proportion increased by 0.5 per cent to 17 per cent. Scotland is lagging far behind and the gap is widening.
Ms Sturgeon’s government has tried to tackle this problem not by employing more teachers (there are 4,000 fewer) or by increasing the grant for the poorest Scots (they cut it), but by having the universities set themselves targets.
The problem universities face in meeting these targets is that there is simply not the supply of good students from deprived backgrounds to enable them to be met. Universities are therefore forced to accept students from poor backgrounds who do not meet the normal entry standard.
As an academic who runs one of the UK’s top engineering programmes, I know of courses in Scotland with empty places reserved for students from poor backgrounds that don’t exist, while those Scots who exceed the entry standard are being turned away.
This is not progress, but it is the record Ms Sturgeon must be judged on.
There is no easy or cheap solution to closing the attainment gap in Scotland. The first step in solving the problem we face, however, must be for Ms Sturgeon’s SNP government to be honest about their lamentable record in office.
The second thing she must be encouraged to do is work with the opposition parties, Scotland’s local authorities, teachers and parents to ensure every child reaches their full potential.
In a keynote speech last week, Kezia Dugdale made it clear that she wanted to work with the SNP government to tackle educational inequality and offered solutions to Ms Sturgeon.
Let’s judge Ms Sturgeon’s sincerity on these issues by her response, when it comes, to Kezia Dugdale’s offer.
(Dr) Scott Arhur
It is gratifying to see that Kezia Dugdale has hit the ground running in her new role. Her pledge to put education at the forefront of the Scottish election campaign has provoked a response from the First Minister to stake her own reputation on her record in education.
This is good news and the only winners could be children from deprived backgrounds – if Ms Sturgeon can deliver, that is.
And, judging by her party’s record, that does not appear to be a likely outcome. Professional educationist Carole Ford provides a detailed analysis of how the SNP has, in fact, “destroyed” our education system across the board over the last eight years.
Perhaps most damningly, Ms Ford accuses the SNP of “not listening to professional advice and the evidence from other countries”.
Interestingly, your report reveals that 17 per cent of those from the most disadvantaged areas in England gained entry to universities this year – a figure which compares somewhat unfavourably with that of 9.1 per cent in Scotland. Could Ms Sturgeon learn something from the dreaded enemy?
Braid Hills Avenue
Do you think our politicians read these letter pages?
On the very day that our dear leader Sturgeon announces yet another initiative for the Scottish education system, Carole Ford, an expert in the schooling of our children, wrote a scathing critique on just that very subject.
You could have bellowed it from the top of every educational establishment in the land for all the good it will do Carole, because politicians, when in power, never listen.
Politicians seem to feel that they must tinker to make it look like they are doing something, anything, and the outcome doesn’t really matter to them because they’ll fiddle the figures to suit their own ends anyway.
Only when they surrender power to the people who know what they’re doing, in this case, the teachers, will a sensible, coherent strategy emerge.
What makes politicians think that once elected they become boffins because of the titles they’ve been awarded?
This is an idiotic system and any fool can see that the best way to run any operation is to give the responsibility (and the funds) to the experts and then stand back.
We have been treated again to the somewhat jaundiced views of Scottish education, and the role in it of the Scottish Government, held by Carole Ford (Letters, 19 August).
At some time in the past, but not in the immediate past, Ms Ford was the president of School Leavers Scotland.
She does not speak for School Leaders Scotland and is no longer a head teacher.
I for one am content to know that the current management and office bearers of School Leaders Scotland are involved in very detailed and constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government over the future direction of Scottish education.
And people who write to The Scotsman need to make up their minds. Some write to castigate the SNP for over-centralising and excessive control while others appear to want the government to micro-manage every aspect of all the government departments.