The decline in performance can be seen at every stage of schooling and should “shame us all”, Labour’s Jackie Baillie told MSPs today.
This week education secretary Angela Constance called on teachers to do more to improve the performance of children in the so-called 3Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic.
MSPs were debating the impact of education failings on Scotland’s economic performance yesterday.
“Despite having full control of education for nearly a decade, the SNP’s track record on it – especially on attainment – is a national scandal,” Ms Baillie said.
“A party in its second term in office cannot avoid taking responsibility for its own failings. Our children’s ability to read, to write, to count has all gone backwards under the SNP.”
Labour said the number of youngsters gaining national 3-5 qualifications dropped 20 per cent in a year – by more than 100,000 young people.
Ms Constance was told that the number of teachers in classrooms has fallen by more than 4,000 since the SNP came to power, while the average class sizes in the early years of primary is 23 after the SNP pledged it would be cut to 18.
The education secretary hit out at Labour’s “errors” in its claims about exam achievements. She said youngsters were now taking fewer qualifications in S4 which was partly behind the fall in the numbers.
She said: “The new qualifications are a shift towards deeper learning where we have more analysis, engagement and understanding, where pupils generally study a wider range of subjects and focus on a smaller number of qualifications at S4.”
The percentage of pupils leaving school with no qualifications has “reduced drastically” in recent years and now stands at just 1.5 per cent.
Ms Constance added that the Scottish Government was also investing £100 million in a national attainment fund, following a report which found reading standards among eight and nine-year-olds in Scotland have fallen by 5 per cent since 2012.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also hit out at the SNP’s education record.
“They need to reflect on their eight years in power and their eight years of failure,” the Lib Dem leader said. “This government has had eight years to tackle inequality of attainment and has failed to do so.”
And he said Ms Constance could not claim a “new start” as she was only six months into the job. He added: “Children who started school in 2007 are now well established in secondary school – they don’t get a second chance.
“The class of 2007 has witnessed this government’s failure – its failure to deliver its promises to reduce primary class sizes in P1-3, its failure to improve teacher-pupil ratios and to improve standards in maths, science and literacy.”