Declining scores for Scottish pupils in maths and science can plausibly be blamed on Tory austerity.

The Institute for Government has clearly been primed to try to influence the Scottish elections by providing ‘oven-ready’ bad news for the MSM to pass on to voters just in time.

On the 31st March they announced, ignoring all the sounds coming from the EU, that we’d wait 10 years to join the EU and only yesterday we were told that, based on estimates, breaking away from the UK would leave Scotland facing sizeable fiscal deficits.

Today it’s this:

Declining scores for Scottish pupils in maths and science can plausibly be blamed on Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), according to a major report. The study from the Institute for Government (IfG) says results for the two subjects in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) are lower than in 2006, despite a claim in the SNP’s 2011 manifesto that the drop had been “halted”.

I say without hesitation ‘bullshit.’

First, curriculum change has little effect on attainment in core subjects but changes in levels of equality and poverty are far more influential. See:

Declining scores for Scottish pupils in maths and science can plausibly be blamed on Tory austerity?

Second, PISA scores are meaningless at best and destructive at worst. See:

Third, The IFG has no expertise in Education and even less in Scottish education.

Pre-election propaganda.

10 thoughts on “Declining scores for Scottish pupils in maths and science can plausibly be blamed on Tory austerity.

  1. Indeed. I’ve just read this article
    and almost despair at both the lack of critical analysis and the use of such “reports” prior to the elections.

    Re education – are the different types of schooling not a significant factor alongside inequality? I feel Scotland/England comparisons are useless if they don’t take into account the ratio of private (and priviliged) schools via comprehensive schools, surely results from the likes of Eton etc are bound to skew averages in attainment. Scotland has far fewer private schools, I wonder how the bulk of schools would measure against genuinely comprehensive schools elsewhere

    As for the oft quoted slipping down the Pisa rankings a) we need to measure like for like and b) maybe we’re no longer standing out because other countries are catching up rather than our performance getting worse. Fundamentally though we need better systems to measure and compare education, health etc. For example (and I may be wrong here) I’m sure I read somewhere that Scotland’s drug deaths include things like overdoses of non prescription drugs like paracetamol not just banned or restricted substances which is the measure used elsewhere in the UK

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I had been sent a copy of the similar piece which had appeared in the bumptious Guardian and had made a similar response to yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gove is cheating on tests. Inflating results. They should be 14 points lower. There was a report about it.

    Pisa tests are not the way to judge results. Many countries are only including higher groupings. Manipulating the results.

    Scotland has the best education system in the world. More people pro rata go to uni than anywhere else in the world, More universities pro rata. 15 pop 5,5million,
    Scotland the first place to have tertiary education. The ability to learn not the ability to pay, Grants for lower household income. Private schools get charitable status. Unequal. Everyone else pays for it.

    Life long learning. 30% go from School. 20/25% mature students. 15% EU students + foreign students. 70%+. The highest number in the world. The next is Canada 56%.

    There will be more pupils going from school. Labour were means testing on household income. Pupils of average household income could not get a full loan. That has been changed. The figures will be working through. Colleges and apprenticeships. Study while earning. P/T courses. Tradespeople earn a good living. HNC/HND. Students can go on to second year at university. Support for additional needs. Pupils can do very well with the right support.

    There is no attainment gap. More people go to uni in Scotland than anywhere else in the world. The education system could be even better without Westminster colossal interference in the Scottish economy. ‘Scotland the land of discovery and invention’.Chinese. The Premier came to Scotland first. ‘Britain a small island without Empire’, or influence. TV, radio, telecommunications. Led on to the internet. A 40million disporia. Scotland is renown the world over.

    More unionist propaganda. Westminster corruption.


  4. Exactly, actual Education experts like Prof Mark Priestley and Dr Marina Shapira argue that the big “decline” in Maths in PISA came in 2006 before the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence- see Supposed declines since then are not statistically significant (maybe UK education systems should be better at teaching journalists statistical literacy!)

    The declines between 2003 and 2006 actually seem pretty odd to me and I would probably guess they are due to sampling methods.

    PISA is clearly seriously flawed and I was disappointed the Institute for Government gave it so much weight (though to be fair the actual report is more nuanced than the reporting of it suggests).

    As mentioned in another comment above, it looks like England’s good performance in Maths in 2018 was likely due to sampling bias (and there is hard GCSE data to show that the sample was definitely biased). It appears England has been including too many schools with high attainment and too few schools with low attainment in its sample.

    I imagine this issue (and similar) is widespread in the PISA study (the actual study reported in the Guardian also criticised Scotland’s sampling methods but there was no hard data to show a definitely biased sample like there was for England and Wales). Given there’s no OECD post-PISA analysis (once exam results are known) to find out if samples were actually biased, it doesn’t look like OECD are interested in fixing this issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I saw the Front page article in the Herald today. Several things struck me. In no particular order:

    1.Much of the material/findings/research referred to in this study seemed to be culled from the 2015 OECD report ‘Improving Scotlan’s Schools’. Culled moreover from the negative parts of the report while the many positive things the OECD had said in the report were ignored. Thus the impression was given that the report as a whole had been critical of Scottish Schools. When the report was first published in 2015 it was given scant attention in the media but seems to have been resurrected now in order to provide ammunition in this election. Another OECD report is due but is still at the draft stage hence the recourse to the earlier report.

    2. Read further into the Herald article and you find that the apparent fall in the PISA scores are not statistically significant thus confirming the statement in the OECD report that the Scottish Gov had managed to stabilise what had been a precipitous fall in the PISA scores from 2000 to 2006. Of course the article takes 2006 as the baseline year. To go further back would destroy the premise of the article – SNP Bad.

    3. For information the PISA scores from 2000 – 2018 were as follows:
    Reading: 526, 516, 499, 500, 506, 493, 504
    Maths: 533, 524, 506, 499, 498, 491, 489
    Science: 522, 514, 515, 514, 513, 497, 490
    Note: a) the steep fall in the scores for reading and maths between 2000-06.
    b) science scores remain more or less the same until 2015. The overall average for the PISA scores seem to have dropped in 20015 and 2018 suggesting that the algorithm used to calculate the final scores may have been tweaked leading to what appears to be a world-wide fall in Science.
    Just to emphasise this point: the PISA scores are calculated using a computer algorithm.

    4. Curriculum for Excellence was adopted in 2004 by the Labour-LibDem Scottish Executive as the way forward for Scottish Schools. This followed research into education in Scotland in the early noughties.

    I could go on but I have probably already strained your patience to the limit.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Aye, a blatant propaganda piece intended to influence the Scottish election, I doubt many will look at it otherwise…
    Misreporting Scotland will be all over it as arranged, with on-camera snippets from the three unwise monkeys talking it big on the devastation for parents over their little Darlinks…
    Anaswiteeth will do his “sincere and concerned” routine, ensuring nobody mentions private education…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s quite a lot of back-story to this, as defining educational policy is a rather effective way of bringing about radical social change you’ve no democratic mandate for. So there’s literally been a war between the radical-right and the radical-left, since the creation of the welfare state, to see which ideology gets to shape educational policy. As those who shape the minds of children today, exerts control over the values held by tomorrow’s voters.

    Transformative Education, Critical Education, Marxist Education: Possibilities and Alternatives to the Restructuring of Education in Global Neoliberal / Neoconservative Times

    Click to access Transformative%20Education,%20Critical%20Education,%20Marxist%20Education-%20Possibilities%20and%20Alternatives%20to%20the%20Restructuring%20of%20Education%20in%20Global%20Neoliberal%20Neoconservative%20Times.pdf


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