– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th September 2019.
6. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reports that one in 10 pupils are taught in substandard schools. (S5O-03538)
The number of poor or bad schools has decreased from 993 in 2007 to 288 in 2019. It is the statutory duty of local authorities to maintain the school estate across Scotland, but the £1.8 billion schools for the future programme and the £1 billion learning estate investment programme are means by which the Government is demonstrating its commitment to improving Scotland’s school estate.
The Scottish Government’s guidance advises caution when comparing 2019 figures with figures from previous years, because the measurements have changed. Last week, the Scottish National Party compared 2019 figures with figures from previous years, and the Deputy First Minister just did so again. The Deputy First Minister is a serious politician—or, at least, he used to be—and he has a choice. He can either spin stats or acknowledge that the SNP is failing thousands of pupils across Scotland. Is the cabinet secretary interested in accuracy, or is he interested only in papering over the cracks—in this case, literally?
I am, of course, interested in the facts. I am also interested in improving the physical condition of Scotland’s schools and the quality of education. That is what I focus on every day of the week.
Mr Tomkins gives me the opportunity to place on the record further detail in relation to the school estate survey, which it is important for me to do. Mr Tomkins’s reference to the statistical bulletin relates to the effects on individual schools that might have changed their classification as a consequence of the change to the guidance that was applied in 2017. I am advised by statisticians that that affects a small number of schools. The statistical publication, which is a publication not from me but from the chief statistician—I do not control the data; it is controlled by the chief statistician—presents and demonstrates year-on-year comparisons since 2007.
Of course, since 2007, the percentage of pupils who are educated in poor or bad conditions has declined from 36.6 per cent to 10.3 per cent. I accept that one in 10 pupils being educated in poor or bad conditions is unacceptable, but that is a colossal improvement in the situation. That improvement in the school estate around the country as a consequence of the investment by the Government and our local authority partners is visible to the naked eye.