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I understand that Professor Scott carried out a great deal of detailed work. I cannot say for sure whether it is 100 per cent accurate. We can throw statistics around, but I cannot say that for sure. I am more interested in outcomes, and we have a record of successful outcomes, which are far more important than someone criticising curriculum for excellence.
Under the present Scottish Government, the number of young people leaving school with five highers or more has gone up, and last year was the first time ever that 30 per cent of pupils got at least five highers or better—an increase of 22.2 per cent from 2009-10.
That was one of the points that I raised with Professor Jim Scott during his evidence session at the Education and Skills Committee’s review of the senior phase of education. Frankly, he was at a loss to answer it. In relation to a further question from my colleague Jenny Gilruth, however, he said:
“We have a situation in which CFE should be a world-class initiative, and it has the potential to be so. I have debated with a few people in this room what the first committee started with in terms of ... a view of education, and I do not think that any of us disagreed that CFE is other than a good idea.”—[
Education and Skills Committee
, 24 April 2019; c 19.]
There are record numbers in higher education, and record numbers of students from deprived areas are going on to further education and achieving qualifications. Indeed, the gap between those from the most and least deprived areas achieving a higher or better is at a record low, having reduced for the eighth consecutive year. We should be celebrating that, instead of talking it down.
The Scottish Government is building on that success and is continuing its dedication to the young people of Scotland by committing to provide a further £750 million during this parliamentary session to raise attainment, including £120 million of pupil equity funding going directly to schools, on top of the £50 million for attainment challenge authorities.
I am proud to say that, although it is to some extent still a work in progress, curriculum for excellence has transformed learning experiences for children and young people across Scotland, and that was precisely the intention. It moves the focus from solely academic attainment, giving greater attention to the capacities that children need to make a success of their lives, with tailored experiences guided by the current and new generation of great teachers in this country so that children can fully achieve their potential.
Under CFE, young people can choose from a broader range of pathways than before. What matters is the qualifications that pupils leave school with. We have a forward-thinking, modern, flexible system, which treats every child as an individual.
The Scottish Government is getting on with the job of improving our education system so that it works for all. Perhaps it is time that, instead of talking down the achievements of teachers and pupils in Scotland, the Opposition parties celebrated them.