Any government which has a plan to tackle inequality by reducing the attainment gap in our education system deserves our support. However, on reading Angela Constance’s thoughts on the issue I am not exactly sure what she plans. Given that her SNP Government has had full control of education in Scotland at all levels since 2007, this is quite concerning.
The context is grim. The authoritative “2014 Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy” found that attainment in Scottish schools has dropped in recent years. Worse than that, the attainment gap between the least and most deprived students has increased in both relative and absolute terms.
Further to this, last year the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSA) noted with concern that the SNP Government was withdrawing Scotland from two key international benchmark studies: Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and Trends in International Maths and Science Survey. It remains part of a third study, the Programme for International Student Assessment, which the RSE concluded was of “limited value to an evaluation of a curricular reform” such as we have seen in Scotland. These moves carry all the hallmarks of a government which has no confidence in its own education system.
Indeed, in her speech Ms Constance said “Every school and every local authority must own its attainment gap and take action”. Closing the attainment gap is therefore now the responsibility of our cash-strapped Local Authorities, not her Scottish Government – although I am sure she will take the credit for any success.
To close the attainment gap Ms Constance must invest in our most vulnerable communities. Above all else, she must reverse her government’s cuts to teacher numbers and education spending.
It is time for action. As Kezia Dugdale said this week: The SNP have spent the last eight years tapping their pencil and staring into space on educational inequality. Parents are anxious, teachers are over-worked and stressed. Students are losing out.