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.
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.