First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s “defining mission” to close the attainment gap between rich and poor children is being hamstrung by wide variations in the quality of education around Scotland, a new analysis of school inspections suggests.
The analysis also shows that budget cuts are hitting some schools and local authorities harder than others.
Education Scotland today released a detailed summary of findings from inspections and other reports published between 2012 and 2016. Chief inspector Bill Maxwell said it had highlighted “important areas” where education leaders and teachers “need to be more focused”.
The report, which covers the pre-school and college sectors as well as both state and independent schools, states that “the quality of education children and young people experience within and across sectors is still too variable” and that students do not receive “consistently high-quality learning experiences”.
It adds: “Unless this variability is addressed, we will not achieve the national ambition of excellence and equity for all learners.”
'Continual improvement' in learning
In a speech last Thursday, education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney said the status quo in education was “not an option” if Scotland was to close the attainment gap. He announced that the government would set out its proposals in June in response to Scotland’s Education Governance Review.
Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly stated that her government should be judged on its education record and, more specifically, the narrowing of the attainment gap – which, by some education measures, can leave some children more than a year behind their peers by the time they start P1.
Today’s Education Scotland report praises the “continual improvement” in pupils’ learning experiences, while more types of achievement are recognised in schools than in the past. Other strengths are leadership and “highly inclusive” approaches across all sectors.
But schools and other education establishments are not “exploiting fully” the “flexibility” that Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence provides to meet the needs of all learners.
There is also room for improvement in getting parents more involved in education, and in encouraging collaboration between schools and other establishments and services.
Ms Sturgeon met Prime Minister Theresa May in Glasgow today to discuss their differences over a proposed second referendum on Scottish independence. On 13 March, minutes after announcing her intention to hold a referendum, Ms Sturgeon said education was “still my defining mission”.