BBC Scotland’s James Cook’s research methods fail us all again

Moving on from his previous campaigns to open the economy early, against the tide of scientific advice but using instead the views of individuals with with a vested interest in doing so, his latest takes the opportunity to join the playground chants suggesting that the SNP has failed to narrow the gap on attainment before comparing state and private responses based on one teacher working in the state sector while sending her children to a private school.

First, on attainment, Cook relies on one source:

The SNP says progress has been made but a report last month from public spending watchdog Audit Scotland concluded that “the poverty-related attainment gap remains wide and existing inequalities have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Cook completely misses or ignores the wider picture which his readers deserved to read and which friend of TuS, Leah Gunn Barrett, put succinctly in a letter to the Scotsman responding to similar confusion promoted by Labour MP Ian Murray:

Ian Murray (March 25) misses the connection between education and levels of poverty and inequality, which the pandemic has exacerbated. While the Scottish Government has mitigated these negative impacts using the limited powers under devolution, the education attainment gap mirrors the wider societal income and wealth gaps that have grown under years of Tory austerity.

Nevertheless, the Scottish Government has halved the gap between children from the most and least deprived communities since 2009/10. More pupils are leaving school with passes at Higher Level of better, and more from both backgrounds are heading to positive destinations.[1]  In August, the BBC reported that the learning gap between England’s richest and poorest students widened for the first time since 2007, whereas Scotland reported improvements in literacy.[2] As for higher education, because it believes in the ability to learn not the ability to pay, the Scottish Government abolished tuition fees in 2008 while Labour introduced them in 1998. 

Schools don’t operate in a vacuum, but within the wider context of society, which under the Tories has grown increasingly unequal. In order to build a fairer society, Scotland must first break from a Union that has stolen our wealth and suppressed our potential for too long. It’s too bad Scottish Labour doesn’t understand this. 

Then, in a further, bizarre attempt to undermine the Scottish Government’s achievements, Cook tells us:

Jaspreet Kaur is in a good position to compare the public and private sectors. She teaches chemistry at a state school in Glasgow while paying for her children to attend a private school in the city. She insists the quality of education being provided by the state is good but she also reckons the private sector’s access to greater resources during the pandemic helped it to respond more nimbly in the switch to online learning. Teachers in the private sector, she said, were generally more IT-literate with better access to computers and tablets so “when it came to delivering lessons online, private schools were already a step ahead”. While her state school was offering one live lesson per week, she explained, her daughter was able to benefit from face-to-face online tuition every day. There has already been a noticeable increase in the attainment gap as a result of the pandemic, says Jaspreet, with pupils’ abilities, motivation, IT skills, access to technology and parental involvement in their education all playing a part in whether they are pulling ahead, remaining static or falling behind. She does not see any reason why state schools should not be able to provide the same level of support which private schools have been able to offer over the past year.

So, one teacher of undisclosed experience and qualifications is competent to make this judgement and to share it with us? One teacher happy to take advantage of secure employment in the state sector, does not trust it to educate her children and we are expected to trust her? One teacher who does not know why fee-paying schools can afford more personal tuition than state schools? They have always done so, assisting their pupils into university places ahead of the rest.

Propaganda based on shoddy journalism.


Leah Gunn Barrett

7 thoughts on “BBC Scotland’s James Cook’s research methods fail us all again

  1. Scotland has the best education system in the world. 30% go to university from school. It will be more because Labour means testing has been stopped. All students will get a full loan. Students of households of average earning did not get a full loan. They could not go. The figures will be working through. Scotland has lifelong learning,

    30% from School. 20/25% mature students, 15% EU students, (reciprocal) + foreign students (pay in full). 55% + 15% 70% + foreign students. The highest in the world. Canada 56%.

    Japan 50%, Israel 49%, Korea 46%, UK 45% US 45% (33% Batchelor degrees), FInland 43%, Luxembourg 42%.

    Scotland has the most universities (pro rata) 15 pop 5.5million. Colleges and apprenticeship. People can do a degree while working. Or a HNC/HND. They can go to uni from college into 2nd year. Skilled trade person can earn a good living. There is vulnerable people support and additional needs support. People in foster care receive additional support until they are 29 years. Additional educational support and they do not pay the council tax etc.

    Scottish invention and discovery shaped the world. TV, radio, telecommunications led on to the internet. How the world connects.
    Chinese ‘Scotland the land of discovery and invention’ ‘Britain a small island without Empire’.

    There is no attainment gap. More people go to university in Scotland than anywhere else in the world. The first country to have tertiary education.

    The education system could be even better without Westminster colossal bad interference. Class sizes could be kept lower and teachers get less paper work. Computers are improving that. Each child to get a devise. Will help improve learning.

    The BBC and statistics. They have no got a clue. They should go back to school. Dunces. £5Billion for nonsense. Enough to eradicate poverty.


    1. The plan was to remove charitable status from the private schools, in Scotland, they do not function as charities, yet benefit from such status, eg, lottery funding for huge state of the art science buildings. The plan to stop these very well off businesses from claiming to be charities, is it seems, postponed due to the pandemic.
      Shame, no doubt councils could do with the money these lucrative businesses would have had to pay in council tax! Let’s hope the debt can be backdated after the pandemic.
      These schools own big chunks of land in Scotland, they could sell it instead of relying on freebies like exemption from council tax. They sell the land sometimes to private developers for example, to bring in lots of cash, must have good accountants.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite bizarre, Cook makes no attempt to recognise shrinkage accomplished in the attainment gap by SG by policy over the years, but plays much on it’s increase due to the pandemic in only the last.

    Granted that learning has been severely disrupted by Covid, but by what datum is Cook measuring attainment ? Personal opinion on the extent of disrupted education are not a valid measure.

    One to one tuition will always accomplish more, usually sought for pupils who struggle in a particular subject, and generally funded tutelage, but usually a matter of affordability.
    There is a massive difference between augmenting state education and wholly privately funded education, and however fortunate the 3rd lady Kaur is to afford the latter, having spent all that money she is unlikely to criticise the advantage she has purchased whether it exists or not.

    Yet I have the greatest difficulty with Cook’s ultimate paragraph quoting McGuire, “…it’s just going to be harder for the young people that don’t have that access..(ability to pay)”…
    The richest yet thickest pupil on the planet is not going to progress via educational attainment but family wealth, it is a utter nonsense to insist everybody else is disadvantaged on education due to lack of wealth.

    Look at Boris Johnson, then look at Nicola Sturgeon…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I shouldn’t think it matters how IT literate your teachers are if your parent(s) struggle to pay for silly day-to-day things like rent, food and heating, let alone paying for WiFi and the hardware/software to access it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. James Cook ( and the BBC ) should be getting a fee from the Private Educational Sector for their blatant advertising of ‘independent’ schools .
    ‘Independent ‘ in name only – without hidden subsidies ( rates relief etc ) their fees would be beyond many of their supporters – except a ‘man-of-the=people ‘ like Sarwar and his weans !


  5. Propaganda based on shoddy journalism.

    Sums BBC Scotland up perfectly.

    That and their Orwellian claims about their own journalistic integrity and incredible impartiality.


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