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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 Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

If Mr Swinney is trying to say to me that he showed that pupils in S4 are currently able to choose as many subjects as they used to be able to choose, I say first that I do not recall that, and secondly, that I do not accept that he has evidence that that is the case.

That is not really the argument that he has made today. He has argued today that fewer traditional subjects are being chosen but other courses are available. That might or might not be true. Clare Adamson was right to say that Labour supported the developing the young workforce programme. However, as Liz Smith pointed out, evidence is not available with regard to what choices, in that respect, are being made available to young people.

My worry—Mr Swinney’s intervention rather argues for this—is that, even with all the evidence and the report from the Education and Skills Committee, the Government still does not really accept that there is a problem. I was quite taken aback when I read a report about a fringe meeting at the SNP conference at which Mr Swinney talked about the Education and Skills Committee’s report and said that “the logic” of it risked “alienating” pupils. He said that we should not worry about a narrowing curriculum because it would be “daft” if “old duffers” like him required children to do particular subjects.

Let us stop and think about what he is saying. He is saying that declining exam results, which mean that pupils might not have the skills that they need in science, engineering, computing and modern languages for the jobs of the future, can be shrugged off as just a “daft” concern of “old duffers”. If that is the new philosophy that underlies the Government’s education policy, we are—to be frank—in more trouble than we had realised.