Pressure is mounting on the Scottish Government to publish a review of Scotland’s education system now to aid pupils’ recovery from the pandemic.
A draft of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s report has been completed but publication has been delayed until June, after the elections.
Several politicians have told the Evening Telegraph that knowing the results now would help children in Tayside and Fife who have lost time in school due to the pandemic, and have accused the government of deferring publication for political gain.
What is the review about?
The OECD is analysing the Curriculum for Excellence, the national curriculum followed by Scotland’s nursery, primary and secondary schools for the last decade.
Its last review in 2015 found that a fifth of schools were rated only satisfactory and found declining achievement in maths.
The report’s publication, originally scheduled for this month, was put back last year but it has emerged that a draft is ready and it is understood it will be presented to ministers on March 3.
What do opposition politicians want?
Last week, cross-party MSPs won a vote calling on the government to immediately release any findings already delivered to minsters by the OECD.
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader and North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie had challenged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on reporting the findings after the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
Since then, North East MSP Bill Bowman has accused education secretary John Swinney of “running scared” of the verdict the report delivers on the SNP’s record on education.
He said: “This report is sitting on Mr Swinney’s desk right now but it is clear he doesn’t want to be transparent with voters ahead of the election.
“The Scottish Conservatives have demanded this report is published immediately and secured cross-party support for this in parliament. If the SNP refuse to do so, it is typical of their arrogant attitude.
“I am also supporting our party’s proposals to set up an immediate and urgent national catch-up and tutoring scheme to avoid a lost generation of pupils including many in Dundee and Angus who have had to endure such disruption.”
… its contents could help inform the desperately needed national plan that would support pupils, teachers and schools across Fife as they try to catch up after the massive disruptions they have endured.”
Dean Lockhart, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP
His Conservative colleague for Mid Scotland and Fife, Dean Lockhart, said: “It is damning that the SNP refuse to publish this crucial report.
“Especially at this time when its contents could help inform the desperately needed national plan that would support pupils, teachers and schools across Fife as they try to catch up after the massive disruptions they have endured.”
The Conservatives’ education spokeswoman on Fife Council, Councillor Kathleen Leslie, also accused Mr Swinney of running scared ahead of the elections in May.
She said: “What exactly are they hiding from parents, teachers and pupils?
“Additionally, we urgently need a national catch-up plan and a tutoring scheme to prevent a lost generation of pupils who have had schooling disrupted for nearly a year now.
“The SNP pretend that education is their number one priority when they are busy focussing on drafting plans for another reckless independence referendum.”
Why isn’t the report being published now?
During last week’s Holyrood debate, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the review had been delayed by the pandemic and that the report would be published “when the OECD decides that it should be published”.
She also said the preliminary review was provided to the government purely for accuracy checking, allowing stakeholders an opportunity to “inform the final report”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The OECD has been engaging virtually with stakeholders over the last few months and have met with a wide range of education bodies as well as undertaking virtual school visits.
“They will be holding an engagement event in March, where they will share emerging messages with stakeholders, providing a further opportunity for key partners and practitioners in Scotland to inform the final report, which will be published in June 2021.
“The OECD’s independent review is conducted by their own analysts and international experts.
“They decide how to do their work and which evidence to take.
“Their approach to considering evidence, engaging with stakeholders and the preparation of the report follows the OECD’s tried and tested methodology for assessments like this.”