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Education professor calls Scotland figures 'shocking'

Photo: PA

One of Scotland's foremost education academics has described today's figures on Scotland's standing in the world as "shocking".

Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy at Edinburgh University, says Scotland has gone from being at or above England to below its southern neighbour.

In analysis provided to ITV Border Prof Paterson says:

"Describing the Scottish results of the PISA study as shocking will rightly and quickly become the standard response to their release today. "In science, reading and mathematics, Scotland has gone from being well above-average in developed countries a decade ago to being average today."

– Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy at Edinburgh University
Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy at Edinburgh University Credit: University of Edinburgh

The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests look at the performance of 15-year-olds in a range of countries in the three "domains" of science, reading and mathematics.

"In all three domains, Scotland has gone from being at or above the performance of England to being below England.

"In all three domains, Scotland has a lower percentage of top-performing students than the OECD average or than countries which Scotland likes to emulate - such as Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, or England.

"And students who live in deprived social circumstances do worse in Scotland than elsewhere: the percentage of such students who have low performance in science is higher in Scotland than in, for example, Finland, England, and Canada, and similar to the percentage in countries with socially divided secondary-school systems such as the Netherlands and the USA."

– Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy at Edinburgh University

Prof Paterson highlights what he believes could be one of the causes of this decline - Scotland's 'Curriculum for Excellence' (CfE) the philosophy which underlies all school teaching north of the Border.

In an analysis which will be widely read, Prof Paterson asks: "What has changed that might explain this dismaying Scottish performance?"

He concludes:

The main policy change in the decade is Curriculum for Excellence. When the PISA 2012 results were released in 2013, the beginning of this decline was evident, but the policy response was that it would take time for Curriculum for Excellence to bed in. It now has.

"The students who sat these PISA tests have been educated under Curriculum for Excellence since they were age 10.

"Students in England in the same period have not suffered the same decline, and yet share an economic and social context that is broadly similar to Scotland's except in policy on schooling. "If Curriculum for Excellence is not the explanation of Scottish decline, then what is?"

– Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy at Edinburgh University

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