In England schools are blamed but here it’s that SNP

The politicising of news

Nothing more clearly and shockingly for democracy captures the anti-SNP bias in our MSM. I’ve shown before how only BBC Scotland uses images of politicians with reports of NHS problems. BBC UK, England, N Ireland and Wales rarely if ever even mention a politician, but blame the health boards or contractors. The Herald today, as did Reporting Scotland last night, travel in their challenged little minds, from the exam results quickly past many potentially responsible groups to point the finger of blame at the SNP [Government].

The headline claim is risible.

First, these are one year changes which do not suggest any meaningful trend worthy of major intervention. N4 Mathematics students know this.

Second, most subjects had been modified in the previous year, so small reductions in the pass rate may be regrettable but largely unavoidable and temporary effects which will be smoothed out as teachers, note ‘teachers’, become more familiar with them. There is no need for an SNP commissar in each classroom!

Most of all, however, the notion that one single factor could be influential in any actual trend in the complex world of education, if there is one here, is stupid. Here are just a few which real researchers know can have powerful effects on young people, especially, and which might play some part in the very small percentage annual changes we see here:

  1. The cumulative worsening effects of austerity politics in the form of temporary accommodation, overcrowding, noise pollution and reduced diet.
  2. Fast-changing trends in social media/peer group pressures impacting on learner motivation or time.
  3. Changing patterns in alcohol and recreational drug-use.
  4. Changing conditions in part-time work as employers seek ever greater control and flexibility for themselves.
  5. Climate? 2019 was one of the warmest ever.

To reiterate, annual changes in exam results tell us next to nothing and longer trends require complex explanation but even these often remain beyond our understanding due to the enormous complexity of factors affecting pupils.

Politicians can and should be blamed for austerity and inequality and illegal wars but what happens in a classroom is beyond them.

13 thoughts on “In England schools are blamed but here it’s that SNP”

  1. On the subject of how well your blog is doing John, I am always interested to see any references to your articles: here I saw a comment from a professor on education in Scotland and how the BBC really is not reporting on it in any kind of balanced or meaningful way:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/DChristieProf/status/1230941296526864389

    I thought it would be of interest, then on checking the comments and his profile, saw that the article by stewartb had been referenced in a reply, as well as being retweeted in his own thread. It always nice to be referenced, it adds to the ‘peer review’ quality of articles. Even though articles here are effectively opinion pieces, I think the opinions are considered and thoughtful, in the main, and give a true perspective on what we hear in the outside world – I always check here when I hear some garbled report from GMS!

    Can you do something about the weather though? I’m getting really fed up with it now.

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    1. And, we hit over 9 000 visits yesterday. Biggest by some way but average climbing above 4 000 per day recently. This correlates strongly with the increasing number of contributors and posts of course, you included. Credit all round.

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    2. Hah, I’m barely contributing anything, there’s far too much competition! πŸ˜‰

      I just meant that others were referencing in relation to his post – I know I know, not a direct link there, but it ups the profile of this blog, and gets the messages out into the wider public consciousness, so is good. This does seem to be reflected in the number of visitors – the more people that realise that there are other viewpoints – and that apparent news can be given perspective and context – can only be a good sign.

      The trouble I had trying to promote positive action for pushing towards independence – those were the Forward as One legal action and the Covenant, which I know are just my opinion on what would be useful but still, while everyone was scrabbling around focusing on criticsing/praising the SNP for their strategy at the end of January – going around all the blogs explaining my reasoning etc and just generally trying to stop complete stagnation. Well, John, you were the only one to even consider putting them up there as a post, no other blogger even made much comment on it (in my nastier moments of thought, phrases like ‘too busy navel gazing’ or ‘yeah rinse and repeat what you’ve always done and said, that’s going to work’ sprung into my head unbidden). Your widening of subjects covered in the blog is much appreciated, along with your continued analysis of news, and your trust in us contributors too. It’s turned into quite a project eh? πŸ˜€

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      1. Thanks Contrary. I value your part greatly.

        Yes, things are happening here ‘but you don’t know what it is do you Mr Jones?’

        Dylan in case you don’t recognise.it

        Everything reminds me of songs. Is that a mental health condition? Lyricamania?

        Heading up past 6 000 tonight but I don’t think I’ll get the 10K I lust for.

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      2. Haha, no I shouldn’t think so, more to do with the importance of music in your life, and being able to remember the lyrics! I often get a little lyrical analogies popping into my head,,, hmm, but I’m probably not the best person to make comparisons with, so forget that.

        Sometimes pretending you aren’t interested in something you want – keep working towards a goal but don’t make it the overarching desire, come at it sideways, think about,,, I dunno, satisfaction from producing a certain number of articles a day instead? Then if the numbers accidentally appear, you’ll be doubly happy! (The surprise from not expecting it, and satisfaction of achieving it). Don’t quote me on this as a valid technique though πŸ˜‰

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  2. The level at which a pass is awarded is not fixed but changes from year to year. In fact “pass level” is an almost fictitious entity. Many years ago I marked Standard Grade English. At the Examiners’ Meeting it was explained that the pass mark was modified each year to take account of externalities: ie the different cohort, the different exam which might be easier or harder than the previous year, different markers, different teachers and so on. (though they tended to stress different level of difficulty) So they fudged the “pass mark” so that more or less the same percentage passed each year. Of course, this is complete nonsense. It’s simply unknowable whether any one exam is more or less difficult than another, whether one cohort is more or less stupid than the previous cohort – but you have to do something, and make a load of silly assumptions.

    This “adjustment” still occurs: “It would not be fair to get a higher grade simply because the exam was easier than intended, or a lower grade because it was more difficult than intended. If this happens, adjustments are made to the grade boundaries to ensure fairness for all candidates, and that the national standard of the course is maintained.” (https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/files_ccc/SQASettingTheGrade2018.pdf)

    Therefore how it happens that the overall pass rate can improve from one year to the next, or, in this case crash so catastrophically that the entire SG must resign is beyond my simple understanding.

    Of course, if the opposite had happened, and grades had improved “catastrophically” we would hear the BBC bellowing “Grade Inflation” and hearing calls for the entire SG to resign.

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