Lack of sub­ject choice ‘is a scan­dal’

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Michael Black­ley Scottish Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

ONLY two schools in Scot­land’s poor­est ar­eas of­fer a dozen or more sub­jects at Ad­vanced Higher level.

Scottish Con­ser­va­tive leader Ruth David­son yes­ter­day called for an in­quiry into the ‘scan­dal’ of schools in de­prived ar­eas cur­tail­ing sub­ject choice for se­nior pupils, say­ing that 70 per cent of pupils in the wealth­i­est parts of the coun­try are of­fered a se­lec­tion of 1 or more sub­jects.

She also high­lighted fig­ures show­ing that the ma­jor­ity of schools only al­low stu­dents to study up to six sub­jects in S4, rather than the tra­di­tional eight.

Miss David­son said: ‘There is a scan­dal go­ing on in sec­ondary schools.

‘The Gov­ern­ment is cur­tail­ing the choice for our young peo­ple. We sup­port the idea of a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the is­sue. Will the First Min­is­ter back it?’

Miss David­son said pupils who wanted to study sev­eral science sub­jects or lan­guages were among the worst af­fected.

But First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon replied: ‘When we look at exam passes in our schools the ev­i­dence doesn’t bear out her ar­gu­ment.’

She said that in the poor­est parts of Scot­land, the num­ber of youngsters leav­ing school with Ad­vanced Highers had in­creased by 40 per cent – six times more than the rise in the most af­flu­ent dis­tricts.

How to de­scribe Nicola Stur­geon’s per­for­mance at First Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions? Dis­mal? Too gen­er­ous. Hope­less? Closer. Dun­der­hei­ded? Yes… that’s about right. (Be­sides, us­ing a Scots word prob­a­bly en­ti­tles us to a grant now.)

The First Min­is­ter dun­dered and blun­dered and chuntered her way through 45 min­utes of the great­est hits of SNP fail­ure. Ed­u­ca­tion, health and trans­port, with a sam­ple of Brexit-re­lated griev­ance to change up the record a bit.

what­ever she was try­ing to do, it didn’t work. It’s not just her Gov­ern­ment that is hap­less these days; her efforts to jus­tify it are in­creas­ingly hare-brained.

Take ed­u­ca­tion. Ruth David­son asked if the Na­tion­al­ists were keep­ing their prom­ise not to re­strict sub­ject choice in sec­ondary schools.

The First Min­is­ter: ‘The num­ber of young peo­ple who are leav­ing our schools with Ad­vanced Highers is in­creas­ing.’

wait, that’s not what she asked…

Miss David­son per­se­vered. Pupils in the wealth­i­est parts of Scot­land have a 70 per cent chance of choos­ing from a dozen Ad­vanced Highers. what was the fig­ure for the poor­est ar­eas?

Miss Stur­geon didn’t know but, she added: ‘I think that what mat­ters is the num­ber of our poor­est pupils who are get­ting Ad­vanced Highers.’

The Tory leader gave it an­other shot. Just two schools in Scot­land’s most de­prived com­mu­ni­tamp ties give youngsters a choice of 12 or more Ad­vanced Highers. Did the First Min­is­ter sup­port an in­quiry into the mat­ter?

‘There are more young peo­ple leav­ing school with Ad­vanced Highers…’

Had she mal­func­tioned? would some­one have to take the robot back to Cur­rys for re­tun­ing?

No, it was Nicola Stur­geon re­ly­ing on a fa­mil­iar trick: Don’t an­swer the ques­tion you’re asked, an­swer the ques­tion you wanted to be asked. That way, the First Min­is­ter could pre­side over woe­ful in­puts while talk­ing up vaguely pre­sentable out­puts.

As my granny, God rest her, used to say: ‘She could buy you and sell you with the one breath.’

Con­fronted with a damn­ing study by Pro­fes­sor Jim Scott, the FM cooed: ‘I make no crit­i­cism what­so­ever of Dr Scott’s work…’ then pro­ceeded to crit­i­cise his sam­ple, method­ol­ogy, re­sults and anal­y­sis. oK, but did she at least like the type­face?

No mat­ter how hard she tries to it down – and, hon­estly, she doesn’t try all that hard – the First Min­is­ter’s im­pa­tience with in­ter­rog­a­tives not ap­proved in ad­vance by her equer­ries is al­ways pal­pa­ble. Miss Stur­geon is the Volde­mort of Scottish pol­i­tics: She who Must Not Be Ques­tioned.

BRAV­ING the usual squalling and guf­faw­ing from the Na­tion­al­ist back­benches, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised the plight of young peo­ple who had come for­ward for men­tal health sup­port but been turned away.

I don’t have any jokes about those MSPs who chor­tled over a ques­tion about sick chil­dren plead­ing for help but I do have a few ex­am­ples of what the afore­men­tioned Granny Dais­ley called ‘lan­guage’.

Mr Leonard revved up like a steam en­gine and thun­dered into the First Min­is­ter’s dreary record. what hap­pened to her au­dit into re­jected men­tal health referrals for young peo­ple? The SNP loves noth­ing more than an au­dit, ex­cept maybe a good review or a half-de­cent lis­ten­ing ex­er­cise. It would be out at the end of June, she said. Fif­teen months af­ter it started, she didn’t say.

Her cool com­pla­cency and the scorn­ful ar­gle-bar­gle be­hind her sharp­ened Mr Leonard’s tone. Since her slow-coach au­dit was an­nounced, Scottish chil­dren had been knocked back for help a fur­ther 5,000 times.

Drip­ping venom like an apoplec­tic Yorkshire roast, Mr Leonard crack­led: ‘The First Min­is­ter once said that she had “a sa­cred re­spon­si­bil­ity – to make sure ev­ery young per­son… gets the same chance… to suc­ceed”. where on Earth is that “sa­cred re­spon­si­bil­ity” to those chil­dren?’

within the first 20 min­utes of FMQs, Miss Stur­geon had been skew­ered by two politi­cians she only ever looks at in a down­wind nasal direc­tion. Pure dun­der­hei­dery.

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