Oh no it doesn’t!

Honorary Professor Jim Scott’s unsolicited (?) report to the Scottish Parliament does NOT demonstrate a significant impact of any kind on pupils.

Indeed, in a telling section (p14) he reads a two-year decline (0.8%) from 2010, in the percentage of pupils leaving with no qualifications followed by another two-year increase (0.6%) by 2014 back to almost the same level (2.1%) it had been before the decline as evidence that Curriculum for Excellence changes were somehow responsible. Any statistics pupil knows that a two-year change does not a meaningful trend make. Any social science graduate knows that education is affected by multiple external factors and that finding cause and effect in any curriculum change is a fool’s errand. Could an increase in pass rates followed by a return to the earlier level have been the result of assessment panels responding to accusations of dumbing down? I’ve seen that happen many times. As for the level in 2018 (2.3%) being exactly the same as it had been in 2010, what does that tell you about long-term curriculum changes? Don’t count on them!

The report is about the impact on the curriculum, on tradition and on the attainment gap. In a revealing paragraph he writes:

Many parents and learners, whether based on parental experience or a view of the learner’s future vocation, appear to have opted for either “two Sciences and a Social Subject” or “two Socials and a Science”. This undoubtedly reflects a societal (and school?) perception of the hierarchy of importance of subjects but does not fit well with the relative breadth of curriculum experienced traditionally in Scottish education. Those learners who wish to take three Sciences MAY be able to achieve this (see Section E) but they are then left with one curricular choice to cover Expressive Arts, Languages, Business, Health & Wellbeing, ICT, Social Subjects and Technology. This does not constitute a broad Scottish experience; it as far more akin to the narrower specialisation seen in the English curriculum.

Click to access Subject_Choices__Submission_Jim_Scott.pdf

I’m intuitively in agreement with that but I am getting on a bit and we can’t be hidebound by traditions for their own sake. There may be wider societal, cultural, technological changes triggering this curricular change and none of us can be sure how it will turn out. However, it gets a good reception in the Unionist and Tory press. Just search for him and you’ll find him all over the Telegraph, the Scotsman and the Herald. They and the Tories love his stuff.

There is of course no comparative element in the report, yet we need that kind of thing if we are to know how well our system is coping. Here’s one

‘Only 66.9% of GCSE entrants in England got 1 or more GCSE awards compared to the 86.1% in Scotland achieving 1 or more SCQF Level 5 awards.’


Not for the first time, the National has given space to flawed research which might undermine the reputation of the Scottish Government:

Both BBC Scotland and the ‘pro-Independence’ Sunday National use unpublished or unreliable evidence to accuse Scottish schools of ‘unlawful’ actions

EIS survey on Scottish teacher stress is stupidly covered in National then disappears before leading academic can mark it its ‘methods.’

Scotsman, Herald and National (!) contradicted as evidence shows Scottish Ambulance Service in ‘excellent condition’

Should the National have denied the BMA the chance to spread anxiety about NHS Scotland?

I’m not saying Trojan Horse but WTF Richard? And if a ‘quality’ newspaper reports on education then it needs to provide a fuller more contextualised picture. Here are some data that suggest there have been some pretty positive impacts in recent years:

Conservatives FAIL to close achievement gap as SNP school policies cut it by half!

International Council Finds Improvements in Scotland’s Schools in only Two Years

Educational attainment gaps much smaller in Scotland than in England after 10 years of SNP government: JRF Poverty Report Extract 6

SNP Government increases teacher numbers to create far superior pupil/teacher ratios and much smaller attainment gaps than in England