Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish Government’s record on education as she denied there was a lack of transparency in the publication of an analysis of exam results.
Challenged by Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw on the falling exams pass rate, the First Minister pointed to an increase in children leaving school with qualifications.
Ms Sturgeon also addressed the publication of a key analysis of exam results last week, which was made public at 8pm.
The Tories argued that was done to ensure the Scottish Government could not be held to account for the results of the analysis – which showed drops of up to 10% in the number of passes between higher grades A and C.
When questioned by the Tory leader, Ms Sturgeon said 71.1% of young people left school with an SCQF level five qualification in 2006-07, compared to 85.1% in 2018-19.
On the performance at higher levels, Ms Sturgeon said the number of pupils leaving school with a higher qualification rose from 41.6% to 60.5% in the same period.
She added: “This Government will never shy away from the improvements that need to be made.”
The Tory leader also took aim at comments made by Education Secretary John Swinney on Wednesday, who said changing the system “takes time”.
Mr Carlaw said: “First Minister, time’s up.”
He added: “You’ve had 13 long years in power, 13 years of failure – how much longer do you and this dreadful Government need?”
Referencing the accusation of a lack of trying to hide the analysis, the First Minister pointed to appearances by the Education Secretary in the media and the chamber over the past week.
She said: “We come back to this nonsense about publishing – not refusing to publish – but publishing it at 8pm in the evening.
“John Swinney was on the radio first thing in the morning the day after that.
“John Swinney answered a topical question in this very chamber on Tuesday afternoon and of course we’re standing here in this very chamber right now.”
She added: “The fact that Jackson Carlaw has to talk about all these process issues shows that on the substance, he knows he’s in the wrong.
“Scottish education is improving and we will continue to push forward with these improvements.
“Jackson Carlaw may not like it but it’s in the interest of pupils the length and breadth of this country.”