Scotland’s curriculum is failing to teach literacy and numeracy skills adequately, Nicola Sturgeon admitted yesterday as she was forced to confront the SNP’s record on education.
The First Minister accepted that the Curriculum for Excellence was not focusing enough on reading and writing and needed reform.
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Ms Sturgeon insisted she still wanted to be judged on her record on education and promised that standards would rise by the next election.
But opposition parties said the SNP were presiding over a “lost generation” who could not wait five years for the government to bring up standards in schools.
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Results from the latest Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN) found that less than half of 13 and 14-year-olds are performing well or very well in writing.
The figure for S2 pupils has fallen from 64 per cent in 2012 to 49 per cent in 2016. Writing standards were also down across P4 and P7 pupils last year. Richer pupils performed better than poorer pupils across all categories surveyed.
The government has “identified a particular issue with literacy and numeracy”, the First Minister said, but she insisted that by other measurements, such as destinations for school leavers, the education system was performing well.
Ms Sturgeon said Curriculum for Excellence had been “praised by the OECD”, which compiles the internationally-respected PISA rankings, but that international experts had called for greater focus on reading and writing.
Last year’s PISA results gave Scotland its lowest ever scores in reading, maths and science since the survey was launched in 2000.
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Ms Sturgeon said she had “been very open” that literacy and numeracy standards were “not good enough”, adding: “I absolutely readily accept the areas where we need to do better. Curriculum for Excellence is about educating young people to be good citizens, to not just absorb facts and figures but to be able to analyse that and to make sense of the world they live in.
“But we have had some advice that we need to have more of a focus within that curriculum on literacy and numeracy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing right now.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “This was a bruising interview for Nicola Sturgeon, because she was faced with the reality of her own appalling record on education.”