English families boost Scottish exam results

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
A survey shows Scotland is the only country whose educational performance benefits from the children of immigrants. Sarah Cassidy reports

MIDDLE-CLASS children with English-born parents have helped to boost performance in Scottish schools, according to an international survey of maths test results.

Children whose parents were born south of the border got better marks than those of Scottish heritage, said the report by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Scotland was the only country surveyed where children of immigrants raised national results.

Nine-year-olds whose parents were both born outside Scotland got, on average, 5 per cent more marks than their classmates whose parents were both Scottish.

Nearly one in 10 children in Scotland has parents who were born outside the country - the vast majority of English origin.

This contrasts with England, where most immigrant families are of West Indian or south Asian origin, and whose children tend to lower the national results.

Lindsay Paterson, professor of public policy at Moray House Institute of Edinburgh University, said the 16-nation survey confirmed that most English families settling in Scotland had a good education and high-status jobs.

Meanwhile, a report on Scottish schools has found the vast majority need drastic improvement.

Ninety per cent of primaries and 85 per cent of secondaries were found to have weaknesses, said the HM Inspectors of Schools' report Standards and Quality in Scottish Schools 1995-1998.

Written work was judged poor in half of all primary schools, while 40 per cent of 14-year-olds had a poor grasp of English and maths.

Douglas Osler, senior chief inspector, emphasised there was "no crisis" in Scottish schools and that their strengths outweighed their weaknesses.

But he said: "The quality of leadership provided by headteachers has a major influence in schools. HMI found important weaknesses in the leadership of some 20 per cent of primary schools and 15 per cent of secondary schools."

The Scottish education system is highly regarded south of the border. It does not have a national curriculum or Office for Standards in Education inspections. It has managed a rise of 12.5 percentage points in pupils getting five or more top Standard grades (the equivalent of GCSEs) in the past decade.

The HMI criticism is believed to have fuelled Labour's plans to introduce legislation in the Scottish parliament to remove incompetent teachers. But teachers' organisations condemned the attacks on teachers and blamed weaknesses on poor organisation of the Scottish curriculum.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said teachers would see the report as "an unfair and unjustified spin on their performance".

John MacBeath, professor of education at Strathclyde University, said:

"There has always been a bit of a myth attached to Scottish schools - that everything is successful and easy there. But it is simply not true. Scotland is like anywhere else, with a whole spectrum of excellent and poor schools and some areas of extreme deprivation.

"This is not a crisis in Scottish schools but it does highlight the need for them to have much closer monitoring systems."

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