Scottish education not in crisis, says new SNP education secretary Jenny Gilruth

Scotland’s new education secretary has rejected suggestions Scottish education is in crisis as she promised the Government’s planned reforms would be “radical”.

Jenny Gilruth, who worked as a teacher before moving into politics, also recommitted to closing the attainment gap and said a return to league tables would help keep her and the Government accountable.

She was visiting her former school, the Royal High School in Edinburgh, ahead of the beginning of the summer exam diet, which is set to start on Monday.

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The SNP MSP also rejected the demands from some pressure groups to remove a lesson plan on transgender identity from Scottish schools.

First Minister Humza Yousaf with Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth.First Minister Humza Yousaf with Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth.
First Minister Humza Yousaf with Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth.

Ms Gilruth inherits a challenging portfolio from her predecessor, Shirley-Anne Somerville, with significant planned reforms, including the replacement of the Government’s education agency Education Scotland, and abolishment of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

However, the minister rejected the suggestion education in Scotland had been in crisis since the pandemic, despite former education secretary John Swinney almost losing his job in 2020 and consecutive years of intense criticism around exams.

Highlighting the “fantastic work” of young people supported by “hard-working teachers”, Ms Gilruth said she fundamentally thought the “characterisation of education in Scotland being in crisis is not an accurate one”.

She said: “Where we came to in the pandemic was a challenging time. I don’t think the-then Cabinet secretary shied away from that. A resolution was found, but I very much recognise the challenge that was put to Government at that time.

"That’s one of the reasons we have to drive forward the reform agenda to ensure that our new qualifications agency works better for children and young people and, of course, teachers.”

Stating the decision to re-join league tables was done to ensure “accountability” of Government and to provide a “greater granularity of detail”, she committed to a “radical reform agenda”, including the introduction of a potential Scottish Diploma.

“If you look at the Muir report and some of the suggestions brought forward in 2021, there can’t really be any doubt in that regard,” she said.

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"Of course we have the Hayward review coming forward with potential changes to the way in which we deliver qualifications and what those might look like in the future, might we have a Scottish Diploma. That would be a radical departure from the types of qualifications we have in Scottish schools at the current time.

"I need to work as education secretary with our children and young people, but also with our teaching staff to better understand their views on that approach.”

Ms Gilruth rejected accusations from experts the 2022 exam results had been “manipulated” to ensure overall results were more in line with pre-pandemic attainment, stating “I don’t recognise that”.

The former teacher also said she did not see lesson plans that state it is acceptable to identify as neither a boy or a girl were worthy of controversy.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a lecturer and former Brexit Party candidate who claims it is “biologically impossible” for people to change sex, called on the plan to be removed from Scottish schools.

Ms Gilruth said she was happy, “very much so”, to see them included in schools, adding: “Fundamentally people who work in Scottish schools should be trusted to use their professional judgement to teach children and young people about these topics and that will always be my approach.”



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