‘Least able’ learners worst affected by Scots curriculum model, report claims

John Swinney - seen here on a visit to a school - says a range of expert analysis should be taken into account, not just one paper. Picture: Contributed
John Swinney - seen here on a visit to a school - says a range of expert analysis should be taken into account, not just one paper. Picture: Contributed
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The curriculum model used in Scottish schools has had a “significant negative impact” on children’s attainment, according to a new report that claims it would never have been implemented if the full extent of how it would affect pupils had been known.

Professor Jim Scott, from Dundee University, found attainment in National Qualification levels three to five in fourth-year pupils has dropped by at least 32.9 per cent for each level since Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) was introduced in 2013.

The catastrophic drop in attainment in recent years presents us with the possibility of a Scotland lacking in new scientists, teachers, doctors ...

IAIN GRAY Scottish Labour education spokesman

The number of Higher passes in fifth year had also fallen by 10 per cent over the past four years.

Using national, local authority and individual school data, he found the introduction of CfE had the most severe impact on the least able children.

In his report, Prof Scott said had it been “suggested to minsters of the-then Scottish Executive around 2006 that the outcome of the introduction of the impending Curriculum for Excellence and ‘new’ National Qualifications initiatives would be a decline of a third ... it is to be assumed that the implementation of these initiatives might have been significantly delayed or even cancelled”.
According to Prof Scott, every set of learners had seen a negative impact.

However, the worst-affected pupils were those “least able and ‘lower-average’ learners” who had “suffered to a significantly greater extent than the able, and particularly the most able, in S4”.

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the report was a “damning indictment of a government unable to assess its failings”.

“The catastrophic drop in attainment in recent years presents us with the possibility of a Scotland lacking in new scientists, teachers, doctors and nurses,” he said.

“The SNP needs to realise these numbers are not mere statistics, but the future workers and voters of Scotland.

“It’s time the SNP face up to their failings regarding their implementation of Curriculum for Excellence before more children have their future damaged by a government too embarrassed to admit its failings.

“Only by taking a critical look at the issues hindering the success of CfE, and by listening to teachers and students, can we return Scottish education to the standard it once enjoyed.”

And in a debate on CfE in Holyrood yesterday, Tory education spokesperson Liz Smith said there were concerns about a downward shift in subject choice away from STEM, languages and social subjects, a decline in attainment in literacy and numeracy, and least able pupils losing out most.

However, education secretary John Swinney said a range of expert analysis had to be taken into account, not just one paper.

He denied the claim the attainment gap between the most and least deprived pupils was widening and confirmed a review called for by the Scottish Parliament in May would be carried out.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said in a statement: “The gap between the most and least deprived communities for young people entering work, training or further study is half what it was in 2009/10, while a record number of students from the most disadvantaged areas gained a place at university last year.”