Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has criticised the Scottish Government’s decision to delay the report of the OECD education review of Scottish education from February 2021 until after next year’s Holyrood elections.
Mr Cameron said: “This announcement will be greeted with dismay across the Highlands and Islands where there is widespread concern about narrowing subject choices, which are restricting the career choices available to our young people and reducing the options for study at university."
“The Scottish education system used to be the envy of the world but, in recent years, we have been slipping down the league tables, and this needs to be urgently addressed, rather than further deferred. While I accept that the COVID-19 crisis has made assessment visits and stakeholder events more difficult, frankly such a lengthy delay seems unnecessary.”
The four-month delay to the report was announced by John Swinney, the Education Secretary, in response to a government-initiated question, clearly an orchestrated one intended to suit the SNP.
The Scottish Conservatives campaigned for this wide-ranging education review after significant evidence of declining Highers results and narrowing subject choice, and the Scottish Government commissioned the OECD’s review only after losing a debate in the Scottish parliament. This review was not one that the SNP wanted and one that Swinney sought to do all he could to avoid.
The review will explore how the curriculum is being designed and implemented in schools, and identify areas for improvement across the country. It covers the Broad General Education in S1-S3 and the Senior Phase, and the articulation between the two. You can see the Framework for the Curriculum for Excellence Review 2020/21, published on 6 February 2020, at this link.
It is widely expected that the OECD review will be very uncomfortable reading for the SNP. The catastrophic decline in the performance of education in Scotland since the SNP has been in charge is a national scandal, one which the SNP has tried at every turn to blame on anyone else except the ministers actually responsible for the ill-though-through changes: changes all made under the SNP.
The decision to delay the report until - very conveniently - after the next Holyrood election is not going to fool anyone. Sturgeon and Swinney are not going to get away with hiding behind a delay: the SNP's failure to fund and sustain Scottish education is not going to be forgotten, nor forgiven.
The full Government initiated question was: Gordon MacDonald (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Scottish National Party). To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on progressing the OECD Review of Curriculum for Excellence, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The reply from John Swinney: The Covid-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for our education system. Our overriding priorities are ensuring the health and wellbeing of children, young people and staff and maintaining a continuity of learning wherever possible whilst schools are closed, as well as planning and preparing for a recovery phase.
We remain committed to the Review of Curriculum for Excellence and are progressing this by providing the OECD with a comprehensive written evidence pack which we are co-developing with partners. However, it is critical that we do not make any additional demands on the system at this time. Therefore, following discussions with national partners and the OECD, we have agreed to postpone engagement with policy stakeholders until September and engagement with practitioners and learners until October 2020. This approach would see publication of the final report in June 2021.
This is the current position but our approach will be kept under review, responding appropriately to changing developments.