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Curriculum for Excellence

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

I think that Mr Swinney should listen to what his civil servants have been telling him about their concerns about the downturn in the highers pass rate. That has happened four years in a row.

From the research evidence that we have available, it is increasingly clear that all groups of learners, from the most able to the least able, have suffered negative impacts from curriculum for excellence—despite all the good intentions. Particularly worrying, however, is the fact that the least able, or lower-level, learners have suffered to a significantly greater extent than those who are more able. It must surely be a matter of very considerable concern that the level of pupils with zero formal attainment has risen sharply, and has reached more than 3 per cent of the school-leaver population in a quarter of local authorities. If the cabinet secretary is going to tell me that extensive alternative provision of courses hides the true level of attainment, he will need to provide convincing evidence that is not currently in the public domain and is nowhere to be seen on most schools’ websites.

I know that time is short, Presiding Officer. I note that the cabinet secretary intends to support our motion. I hope that he will understand that we have very serious concerns about the direction of curriculum for excellence. The Education and Skills Committee has also said that it has concerns, employers have said that they have concerns and our educationists have said that they have concerns. It is time that the Scottish Government listened and acted.

I move,

That the Parliament is committed to the principles of excellence and equity to underpin policy approaches to education and to improve the delivery of the curriculum for excellence (CfE), but notes with growing concern the recent analysis of CfE, including the recent publication from Professor Jim Scott, which draws the conclusion that the attainment gap is widening and highlights that there are failures in the delivery of CfE; notes in particular that these failures are imposing proportionately greater barriers to success among the pupil cohort who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and calls on the Scottish Government to urgently address these concerns.