I’ve got a sair heid from reading this.
Here is McNab’s opening statement:
‘More than £400million of spending has been axed from Scotland’s education system since the start of the decade, official figures have revealed. Older pupils have suffered the brunt of the cuts with spending on secondary education falling by about £350m from budgets since 2010.Nurseries and primary schools saw a rise in spending, according to the figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe). Recent years have seen a worrying fall in Scottish education in international league tables and the SNP Government is now facing claims that it has failed to protect schools from the worst impact of Tory austerity.’
It’s a chaotic piece of writing, peppered with daft comments including that by Iain Grey, but I’ll concentrate on dealing with the two main issues – a fall in Secondary school spending, leading supposedly but with no evidence at all of it, to older pupils ‘feeling the brunt’ and to an implied connection to a fall in performance in international league tables.
Spending fall in Secondary schools not properly explained
McNab entirely misses these crucial figures:
In 2007 there were 798 275 pupils overall and 309 560 in secondary schools. In 2017 there were 688 959 pupils overall and 281 933 in secondary schools.
So, there was a 15.8%drop in the overall number of pupils and a 9.7% drop in the number of secondary pupils over the last ten years. McNab doesn’t tell us what the percentage change in budgets was for the same period and he doesn’t source anything, so I can’t trace it quickly. I guess, someone mentioned inflation and he decided not to bother with all that. He does later tell us this:
‘Secondary spending has fallen from £2.25bn to £1.9 bn last year. Primary schooling has risen slightly to £1.96bn, but now tops secondary spending. Nursery spending has also seen a slight increase by more than £50m to reach £410m.’
That suggests a fall of £.35 billion or £350 million from £2.25 billion in 2007 which is a 15% fall. That’s about the same as the overall percentage fall in pupil numbers but greater than the fall in secondary numbers. I’m sure secondary staff might complain at that, but does it not simply reflect a shift in resourcing from secondary to the historically less well funded primary and pre-school sectors, in line with both explicit policy, the research suggesting the shift was needed, and mentioned by McNab in his opening statements?
Do International league tables tell us anything valuable?
I’ve written about this before and the simple answer is that they are useless. Reading them, the Unionist media and the opposition parties scream out ‘crisis’ and reveal just how little they know about education, especially international comparisons. Here is the truth of the matter in ten statements which I elaborated on at the link below:
- Some tests just suit some countries’ education systems. Doing well in one test doesn’t make that country’s overall education system better than that of lower rankers and in some cases, especially in East Asia (China, Korea, Singapore), it is evidence of them being worse in many ways.
- The PISA results are based on unreliable estimates with huge scope for error and thus, I quote, ‘useless.’
- Summarising a country’s education system in just three numbers is, I quote, ‘madness.’
- Comparing countries with radically different cultures and educational structures is meaningless.
- PISA does not measure curriculum knowledge just general skills, so the so-called successes of Finland and South Korea or the middle-rank ‘failure’ of Scotland are not based on the quality of their teachers, their schools or their curriculum.
- The Finnish system is not that successful in other ways that PISA does not test.
- The highly authoritarian, ‘industrial’ East Asian systems are a form of child abuse we surely do not want to see in Scotland.
- The East Asian systems are not at all successful in developing the creativity, originality and innovation needed for future success in developed societies.
- The East Asian systems, in most cases, brutally abandon children with learning difficulties.
- The Scottish system is highly successful in feeding its universities with ever more and better qualified students, it is inclusive, caring and explicitly promotes creativity, originality and innovation.