Tory School Review After 'Collapse In Standards'
4 March 2017, 08:36
The Tories are to conduct a root-and-branch review of school reforms in Scotland, claiming they are responsible for a "collapse in standards'' in education north of the border.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will announce the work as she makes her address to the party's conference in Glasgow.
The review of the Curriculum for Excellence school reforms will make clear there is a "better way'', with Ms Davidson pledging it will come up with "practical recommendations'' for change.
She will tell activists at the conference: "It is time to get rid of the waffle, and the theories that have failed - and restore Scotland's reputation as providing the best education in the world.''
She will condemn the SNP's record on education after 10 years in power in Edinburgh, branding it a "disgrace''.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly said closing the attainment gap between rich and poor children in Scotland's schools is her top priority.
Ms Davidson will say that "if we want to lift children out of poverty, they have no greater aid than an education that provides them with the knowledge and facts to do so''.
She will go on to state that "this SNP Government's handling of our education system over the last decade in power has been shameful - and change needs to happen''.
The Curriculum for Excellence was brought in more than a decade ago, with reforms including the introduction of new exams in Scotland.
Ms Davidson will say: "Standards in reading, maths and science are all now getting worse according to an international survey.
``Scotland does not perform above the international average in anything.
"The Sutton Trust, a leading education charity, last month said this: 'There is no specific area where able children in Scotland really excel'.
"What an absolute disgrace. What a mark of shame.
"So much for your social justice, Nicola.''
She will insist teachers are "not to blame'', and thank them for the "fantastic work they do day in, day out in spite of the SNP incompetence that's hampering them from doing their job''.
Instead she will argue the "blame lies with a school system that, thanks to this SNP Government, simply isn't working''.
She will say: "We can change this. So today I can announce we are going to undertake a root-and-branch review of one part of the system that is failing - and that is Curriculum for Excellence.
"Here's what we're not going to do - teachers tell us they don't want yet another top-down reform, so we don't propose scrapping it altogether.
"But we do have to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy which has led to this collapse in standards, which thinks of facts and knowledge as of secondary importance, which puts the latest fashionable theory before the basic need for a teacher to teach and which has left a generation of teachers, parents and pupils utterly confused about what is going on, or what Curriculum for Excellence even is.''
A spokesman for Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney said: "There already has been an independent review of Curriculum for Excellence carried out by the OECD - and not a hand-picked Tory party commission - who considered it to be a bold and successful reform that was delivering a broadened education experience for young people within Scotland.
"The Tories have supported Curriculum for Excellence since its inception - indeed, (Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman) Liz Smith was right when she said recently that CfE is the way forward for Scotland's schools.
"The Pisa results made for uncomfortable reading - but in difficult times, leaders do not abandon their principles, retreat and run for cover. They hold fast to what is right.''