Scottish Conservatives choose weak plank for latest education campaign

The Scottish Conservatives have today launched a new aspect of their well founded attack on the state of education in Scotland today, from primary to tertiary.

They are pressing the First Minister to ‘swallow her pride and re-instate Scotland in international league tables’ which benchmark how schools are performing.

Their campaign is based on the call for this action from Keir Bloomer, an independent education consultant whose views they have decided to back.

This is an unthinking position of support showing a lack of independent and informed thinking on the part of the Conservatives which does  them no favours at all in the thrust of their election campaign to become the opposition to the SNP Scottish Government in the next Parliamentary term.

Because someone is called ‘an expert’ should never mean that respect and followership should automatically be accorded. An intelligent persn or intelligent group must form their independent view on the basis of evidence and an informed opinion.

The Scottish Conservatives are validating their championing of the Bloomer call on the fact that he was one of the Reform Group who wrote the SNP’s Curriculum for Excellence.

It awarded this title to itself and has been accepted to be such by all political parties – and, presumably, parents – virtually without question.

The hard evidence is that standards in the basic skills of numeracy and literacy began markedly to fail shortly after the introduction of this approach to education – yet no one was sufficiently engaged or informed to start asking the questions that must be asked.

Here is the Education Scotland website entitled What is Curriculum for Excellence. Read it. Follow any of its links that you imagine will assist your understanding.

We have substantial and qualified expertise and experience in education and have returned endlessly to this site, hoping each time that we will see a glimmer of focused meaning and direction we had been unable to see before.

It is a case of the Emperor’s new clothes, which no one has the courage to say they cannot see.

It has introduced a regime of learning guided by the individual teacher and  not restricted by the boundaries of traditional subjects , in order to pursue a broad understanding of the interrelationship of ideas and insights and opening up an understanding of the relevance of one thing to another.

It is devoid of rootedness in fundamental skills and foundation information – and the impact of that has been formally measured nationally , recording sharp drops in competence in literacy and numeracy.

It is essentially an ‘anything goes’ regime, shaped by the individual teacher.

It has a large and vague philosophy that almost wilfully – or self-defensively –  avoids linkage to  the practicalities of guidance to teachers on specific learning programmes and on their delivery.

It reflects no sense of the universal necessity of common skills and knowledge bases.

No one would dispute that the abilities of managing and using numbers, words and language, of understanding and testing evidence, of reasoning out conclusions and solutions – but this inflated lightweight and damaging system that is wasting generations of young Scots has been implemented without objective interrogation.

The best we can say of it is that it has a woolly notion of positive generalist outcomes which are achieveable only under regimes akin to Plato’s wish to see children brought up and educated by Philosopher Kings and Queens – people of substantial and wide ranging wisdom, benevolence and authority.

While there are some first class school teachers who could meet the vision of a Philosopher King or Queen, this is not the generality.

New recruits are a major and important element of any teaching staff. Many of these have been narrowly trained and have not personally lived long enough to acquire wide ranging and well informed interests – or stable judgment. They lack, through no fault of their own, the ability to deliver the vague overarching outcomes envisaged in the Curriculum for Excellence. They simply cannot be expected to deliver anything except mediocre and halting competence – at best.

More than this, many of today’s teachers have themselves been loosely educated and can neither see nor correct inaccuracies or imperfect understandings in their pupils. Where the content of learning experiences is largely left to the individual teacher within this nebulous conceptual framework, Scottish education will continue to produce pupils who need remedial classes kn literacy and numeracy when they go to University.

That is further evidence of the shocking impact of this foolish, indulgent and intellectually incompetent regime for primary and secondary education.

From the regime to its ‘architect’

If the Scottish Conservatives [amongst all other parties, including the SNP itself] have been culpably remiss in not interrogating the Curriculum for Excellence themselves, there is the added issue of the credibility of the man himself.

Local and documented  evidence shows that when Keir Bloomer was employed by Argyll and Bute Council as an education consultant to guide them in their catastrophically ill-judged and ill-fated school closure programme of 2009-10, he was pr0ved to be no more than a hack for hire.

He was content to do the business of his paymasters with disregard for hard evidence of the serious proven abilities of certain schools – and to advice the suppression of evidence that might have made the case for some closures impossible to justify. These matters were revealed in Freedom of Information releases published here at the time.

So at a personal level, there is good reason to discount the professional integrity and care for probity of the ‘expert’ upon whm the Scottish Conservatives are pinning their latest campaign n improving Scotland; as there is good reaon to dismiss the validity of the Curriculum of Excellence.

The evidence

In 2010, the SNP Scottish Government pulled Scotland  out of the Trends in International Maths and Science Survey [TIMSS] and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study [PIRLS] league tables – to save £800,000 and to reduce the burden on schools.

Following this, the 2013 Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy, reporting in April 2014 and surveying 10,500 pupils in 2,200 schools, found a 7% fall in Standards between 2013 and 2011.

A year later, published April 2015, the same official survey – Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy – of the same year groups, P4, P7 and S2, found that reading and writing standards across these groups had fallen between 2012 and 2014; and that standards at S2 had also dropped.

Reading competency fell by 5% in P4; by 2% in P7; and by 4% at S2.

In writing, a full third of P4 and P7 pupils were either below the level expected at that stage or just about managing it. At S2 a whopping 45% were in this condition in their writing ability.

In listening and talking , a good third of P7 were below or at the level expected; and almost half of the pupils at P4 and S2 were in this same state.

If the First Minister responds positively to the call to reinstate Scottish education in the specific international league tables requested by Keir Bloomer and by the Scottish Conservatives and identified above – which focus on numeracy and literacy – only the Scottish Conservatives can gain from this as Scottish education can currently only show badly in the tables- supporting criticism to come.

The major losers would be the SNP government, responsible for the mandatory introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence; and Keir Bloomer who sees himself credited as ‘the architect of Curriculum for Excellence’.

The question is now open as to whether the Scottish Conservatives are simply less informed and less independently watchful than they should be on a subject as important as education; or are being sophist in supporting an SNP guru’s call for the SNP government to put Scottish education back into internationally measured league tables where, these days, it can only look pretty dismal.

Either way, this has not been an adroit move.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • And so at a stroke the Conservatives dismiss the entire Scottish education system. The existing teachers inadequately educated not knowing how to correct inadequacies with new teachers being very much the same due to inexperience. Decades of rotten teaching and all the fault of the SNP, I doubt there are many that would share the Conservative view that what we need is privatised schools. Indeed, if privatised school buildings and maintenance are proving disastrous, privatised teaching would prove calamitous. Personally, I unlike the Conservatives, think the vast majority of teachers the length and breadth of the country, do and have done a good job, and I don’t accept the Tory view that it’s all bad, bad, bad, and that privatisation is the answer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

    Willie April 15, 2016 5:21 am Reply
  • ‘good job’ based on what evidence willie?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

    JB April 15, 2016 6:42 am Reply
    • JB, Willie hasn’t got a clue, perhaps he can offer some statistics to prove his point but whatever he says the First Minister has admitted that the Scottish education system is not performing and she has hung her hat on it improving, lets wait and see the results.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

      richard April 15, 2016 10:40 am Reply
  • Willie

    It is quite clear you have not understood FA’s article. With a re- read and better comprehension, you may understand that the
    Scottish Conservative are in fact supporting the SNP ‘s own educational guru, Keir Bloomer. But it would appear the SNP are reluctant to endorse some of the proposals of their own educational guru. Bloomers is on the advisory board of REFORM SCOTLAND, a SNP sympathetic ThinK Tank.

    Where in the whole issue of Scottish Education have the Conservatives proposed, to use your own words, ‘privatisation is the answer’? You provide no evidence to support your statement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

    Scotnat April 15, 2016 10:51 am Reply
    • Wasn’t Keir Bloomer Labours man in the curriculum for excellence thinking?
      When the SNP became the party of government they decided to keep him involved?
      Most of this article runs to “for argyll” usual inaccuracies, but interestingly it does challenge the Tory thinking on education.
      Scottish education while facing the challenges of financial restraints is still performing to really high standards with higher education passes continuing to improve year on year. The envy of many countries.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

      Keitho April 15, 2016 1:19 pm Reply
      • I take it keitho you don’t have children of your own at school age, or nieces/nephews/grandchildren who are? You’re not a former teacher either?

        If we weer, or had, I think you’d be questioning the ‘really high standards’.

        The passmarks set by the SQA are meaingless.

        But don’t take my word for it – why don’t you find some papers children in high school sat in, say , 1970 or 1980, and then find the equivalent from today.

        Come back and report your findings.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

        JB April 15, 2016 2:58 pm Reply
        • You really do post some uneducated crap JB.
          If you have nothing to say, best say nothing.
          You disappoint me, when you first started posting on here I was hopeful of some meaningful debate but you are now becoming more like Richard the tulip. Not quite as useless…………yet.
          Scottish education with all its challenges, financial and social society is doing a wonderful job.
          You want to go back to the seventies and the eighties for comparison, ………there is no comparison.
          REMEMBER SNP X 1st and 2nd VOTES

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

          Keitho April 15, 2016 3:49 pm Reply
  • Keitho

    I detect complacency. Keir Bloomer put complacency in Scotland’s educational perspective when he stated:-

    ‘If Scotland is to become again a country
    with a genuinely cutting-edge education
    system that is perceived as world leading,
    the complacency and the selfcongratulation
    must go’.

    Keir Bloomer was a member of the review group which wrote “A
    Curriculum for Excellence” (Scotland’s national curriculum), which in view of your paranoia re anything critical of the SNP /Scottish Govt you will find the names of the review panel go to

    Please re read FA post and then read

    After which, eureka, and you may know a wee bit more about the issues, rather than remain complacent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    Scotnat April 15, 2016 4:17 pm Reply
    • Panama Papers,Conservative mantra!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

      Hugh Jazz April 15, 2016 6:07 pm Reply

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