The National and a Dundee prof’s dodgy statistics feed the Unionist press, Boris rants and that AngusTory MP on QT last night

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


8 thoughts on “The National and a Dundee prof’s dodgy statistics feed the Unionist press, Boris rants and that AngusTory MP on QT last night

  1. Off topic, but I see the BBC News has used their dodgy A&E graphic again when ‘fact checking’ Ms Sturgeon’s speech launching the SNP election campaign

    The only other ‘fact checking’ in the article seems to be about the hit we will take from Brexit. Again some of what the BBC says looks a bit suspect.


  2. While blue britnat candidate Kirstene bumps her gums to tell fibs about Scotland’s public Service performance on beeb QT the SNP Scottish Govt find funding to recruit a further 70 Doctors in Training (for specialties experiencing particularly high demand). Link and snippets from below (over 6% increase in Doctors in Training in Scotland since SNP Scottish Govt took office:

    70 extra frontline medical trainees.

    Hospital patients and staff will benefit from the creation of 70 new posts for trainee doctors in several medical specialities.

    All of the additional posts will support hospital-based medical specialities which have been identified as under pressure from increased patient need, including radiology, oncology, anaesthesia, intensive care and obstetrics and gynaecology. 14 of the trainees will also spend time training in general practice and mental health placements.

    The Scottish Government will cover the costs of the trainee salaries, which will amount to £2.3 million in 2020-21, increasing to £3.4 million in 2021-22 and beyond. Successful applicants will start in their new posts in autumn 2020.
    Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

    “Scotland has an excellent reputation as a place to work and train for doctors. The number of doctors in training in Scotland has increased by more than 6% since 2006.


  3. Meanwhile some encouraging Ipsos Mori numbers demonstrate UK-wide population are, increasingly, anticipating the ‘union’ not surviving in current form even into the medium term. Link and snippets below:

    New Ipsos MORI research shows that people in Britain have become less confident that the UK will continue to exist in its present form in the medium term.

    Key findings:

    • 72% of British adults think the UK will exist in its current form in one year’s time, a similar figure to when Ipsos MORI last asked this question in 2014.

    • But people are split on whether the UK will exist in its current form in five years’ time, with 42% saying it will and 44% that it won’t. In 2014 the figures were 61% saying it will and 27% that it won’t.

    • Half think it won’t exist in its current form in ten years’ time, with 50% saying this, up from 34% in 2014. And 51% think it won’t exist in its current form in twenty years’ time – up from 38% in 2014.

    Emily Gray, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “While no one would expect public confidence in the Union’s future to be higher now than it was five years ago, what’s striking is just how much it’s dropped. These findings show that the British public are now much more divided in their expectations of the Union’s future than they were in 2014, when the Union’s future was under intense debate with Scotland just three months away from an independence referendum.

    With independence a key faultline in Scotland’s election debate, the findings will be concerning for those who want Scotland to remain in the Union, while those campaigning for an independent Scotland will hope that this is a continuing trend.”

    The more the ‘man+woman in the street’ south of the border come to accept that the ‘union’ game is up – the more straightforward and clinical the Indy negotiations become. This more informed climate in advance of Treaty negotiations will be beneficial for the populations on either side of the border (‘harder’ or ‘softer’ border depending on negotiations/agreements in due course).


  4. The number of student nurses and midwives has also increased again to 4006 for 2019-20. In 2012-13 the intake was down to 2400 after a series of cuts in part due to the, then, record numbers in training – just over 10,300 – which led to fear that there would not be enough jobs for them when they qualified.

    The intake has increased in each year since then to the current 4006.

    Their tuition fees are paid by the SG and they get a bursary. This year it is £8,100 up from £6,500 last year and intended to be £10,000 by the end of this Parliament.

    In addition there are Dependent’s allowances of £3640 for a dependent spouse/partner or for a child. Full details here:


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