Prof Paterson is wrong again and again

In the Herald today, regular critic of all the SNP have done in education, Prof Lindsay Paterson claims:

The proportion of Scottish school leavers securing at least one pass at Higher or equivalent has fallen in the vast majority of council areas, sparking warnings that decades long progress in improving attainment has “stalled”. Analysis of data covering the 10-year period to 2018/19 suggests the percentage of school leavers with at least one pass at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework level 6 or better – which includes Highers and typically provides the standard for progression to university – has been flatlining since around 2015.

In 2020, the Higher pass rate was 78.9%, up from 74.8% in 2019:,Higher%20pass%20rate%20was%2079.4%25

From Maureen McKenna, Glasgow’s Director of Education, writing in December 2019:

22.3% The proportion of pupils achieving five or more awards at Higher or equivalent by the end of S5. This has almost doubled since 2009-10, when the figure was 11.3 per cent

44.4% Proportion of school leavers in the most deprived areas of Scotland achieving at least one Higher or equivalent in 2017-18. In 2012-13 that figure stood at 34.9 per cent

62.2% Proportion of school leavers gaining at least one Higher or equivalent in 2017-18, compared to 55.8 per cent in 2012-13.

Paterson goes on to make ludicrous, infantile, connections between curriculum changes and the plateau he sees emerge in 2015 and ‘sliding scores in international measurements’, none of which are considered useful by real educationists.

Paterson is a mere statistician who started off in agriculture research. It shows.

He has a political agenda too. That shows.

Paterson loves to get on UK media to undermine Scottish education, free of comparisons like these, of course:

Second, some comparative figures with our so-successful neighbour:

breakdown of GCSE results issued by the Department for Education (DfE) showed the gap between disadvantaged pupils and others increased for the second year in a row. The introduction of tougher exams appears to have halted the improvement seen in previous years. Just 456 of the 143,000 pupils classed as disadvantaged by the DfE achieved top grade 9s in English and maths last summer, compared with 6,132 out of 398,000 other pupils.

Meanwhile, in Scottish schools, the gap is closing. See:

‘94.4% of pupils had a ’positive destination’ including work, training or further study within three months of leaving school last year, official statistics show. The figures also reveal that the gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination has halved since 2009/10, with an increase in positive destinations for school leavers, from both backgrounds. Over the same period there have been increases at all levels of attainment – the qualifications young people are achieving. For the first time more than 30% of pupils left school with a minimum of five passes at Higher Level or better, up from 22.2% in 2009/10. The gap between those from the most and least deprived areas achieving a pass at Higher Level or better is now at a record low, reducing for the eighth successive year.’

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7 thoughts on “Prof Paterson is wrong again and again

  1. One might hope (in vain) that a statistician (Paterson) would know what is/isn’t statisticall significant.

    “PISA relies on a random sample of pupils, rather than testing all pupils, and as students do not receive individual scores the tests are not “high stakes” — which means they may make less effort. Rather than judging attainment based on the curriculum, PISA tests how pupils respond to “real life” challenges. John Jerrim, professor of education at the UCL Institute of Education, said PISA is “not a good measure of school system quality”.

    He noted that Scotland’s declining results coincided with changes to the PISA methodology, including the move to computer-based tests, which he said leads to the question of whether their results are “being driven by a genuine change, or a change of method (or a mix of both).”

    The National Foundation of Educational Research (NFER) administers the PISA tests in the UK. A spokesperson said PISA “provides a snapshot of performance”.

    “The scores are affected by the cumulative impact of a wide range of educational and other factors, and so provides one useful measure of the health of an education system—but one which should be considered alongside a range of other evidence.”

    NFER added that there is evidence the move to being computer-based in 2015 may have negatively affected science scores, but said the downward trend has continued since then in many countries including Scotland, which “suggests a decline in performance”—but added Scotland’s decline between 2015 and 2018 “was not statistically significant”.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Look again at some of the PISA performance by Scottish school students.

    “Scottish pupils are among the most likely in the developed world to understand and appreciate the perspective of others, demonstrate some of the most positive attitudes towards immigrants, and score highly on a test that assesses the ability to evaluate information and analyse multiple perspectives.

    Students from 27 countries and economies, including Scotland, took part in Pisa’s 2018 assessment of global competence, which included a test focusing on three areas: the ability to evaluate information, formulate arguments and explain issues and situations; to identify and analyse multiple perspectives; and to evaluate actions and consequences.

    Scottish students’ mean score on the global competence cognitive test was 534. Only two countries scored more highly – Canada (554) and Singapore (576). (Hong Kong also scored more highly, achieving a mean of 542.)”

    Perhaps many of these young people will go on to vote for an independent Scotland.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I heard Professor Paterson on a BBC Radio 4 discussion programme earlier in the week. Presented by Amil Rajin, it was entitled ‘Rethink Fairness: Education’. ( )

    At c. 26 minutes in Paterson contributed this to a UK-wide audience listening to a panel of educational ‘experts’. In the context of cross-UK comparisons, he was asked by Rajan if there is anything in the Scottish educational system that is working well or making it more fairer, anything to be learned from it.

    Paterson replies (in terms): “It is difficult to think of a single thing ..”. He then goes on to talk about Scotland having “an equality of mediocrity”.

    All the development effort; all the committed staff; all the pupil achievements; all the positive research findings of his peers etc. – simply, disdainfully set aside.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Paterson and his pal Chris deerin work for the herald and a company called “reform Scotland” and business with links to the Conservative party and annabel goldie .
    All in it together these people doing their worst for Scotland’s future but we are on to them.
    You see, before the internet , you just never got to know what they truly stand for and who their aides are but now their unionist badge can’t be hidden.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Education is the responsibility of some academics who keep criticising it. They are the management responsible.

    Countries like South Korea hothouse through selection. Private education. A high percentage leave school before 16. The PISA tests only test a small proportion of the population. Not inclusive. Or the majority.


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