ELECTION: SNP rigging educational survey to deflect poorer performance

By Lucy Ashton

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has accused the SNP of rigging the Pisa educational survey to deflect poorer performance after an academic found the number of pupils withdrawn or deemed ineligible in Scotland is “much higher than in any other country”.

Analysis by Professor John Jerrim published shows that the proportion of Scottish students withdrawn or deemed ineligible from the 2018 Pisa test – which measures 15-year-old students’ performance in maths, reading and science – doubled from 4.1 per cent in 2015 to 9.3 per cent in 2018. The average student withdrawal rate across all the countries that took part in Pisa 2018 was 1.7 per cent.

Many more tests were taken in S5 in 2018 than in previous years, meaning the survey will capture far fewer people who leave at the end of S4 and causing these pupils to be marked “ineligible”. It also means more pupils are assessed in S5 when they have been in school for longer.

Professor John Jerrim stated that if non-participants had actually taken the Pisa test, Scotland’s scores “could change quite dramatically” and a plausible scenario is that Pisa 2018 results for reading would be 13 points lower.

The 2018 PISA results recorded Scotland’s worst ever scores in maths and science, with England performing better in every measure.

Willie Rennie said: “Scotland’s rate of withdrawn students looks suspiciously like an attempt by the Scottish Government to rig the PISA results to distract from their disastrous handling of Scottish education.

“By shifting when many of these tests are taken pupils who leave at the end of S4 have been removed.

“For these international rankings to provide useful insights into the state of Scottish education, they must be rigorous. Selective sampling might make the picture look a little rosier in the short term but that will come at the expense of Scottish education in the long run.

“John Swinney, right,  deserved to lose his job over his handling of exams last year. There is chance for change at this election. Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first for education.”

Meanwhile, Willie Rennie has set out his party’s “Doorstep Dossier” which highlights a series of broken SNP promises designed to help activists to win over disenchanted SNP voters.

The initiative is part of the Liberal Democrat campaign to put recovery first, and they say it contrasts with the negative track-record of the SNP Government.

The dossier highlights broken promises over 14 years which the Lib Dems say are “among the longest broken promises in the world”.

  • Scrapping the council tax in 2007
  • Maximum class sizes of 18 
  • Ending the attainment gap 
  • A public power company 
  • Ending delayed discharge 
  • 12 Week Waiting Time Guarantees 

Willie Rennie said:  “Enthusiastic Lib Dem activists have been meeting voters and speaking to them on the telephone. All the feedback is that SNP support is very soft.

LibDem leader Willie Rennie serving up coffee while delivering his party’s doorstep dossier.

“There are two kinds of wavering SNP voters. The first set are concerned about the dash for a referendum immediately at the end of the pandemic. Our “put recovery first” plan works for them.

“The second group are the people who are disenchanted by the slipping record of the SNP Government.

“Our Doorstep Dossier is designed to give activists the tools and information they need to win over former SNP voters unimpressed by the years of broken promises.

“From council tax and class sizes to superfast broadband, their record is that promises get broken.

“We are facing a government that has been in power for 14 years. That means some of the SNP’s broken promises are among the longest broken promises in the world.

“This initiative is part of our plan to win new voters from the SNP. The gains we make from them will stop an overall majority and allow the new parliament to put recovery first.”

 Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has set out his party’s plans to end homelessness.

Mr Rennie highlighted the party’s plans as part of a package designed to win over SNP voters disappointed with the government’s record on domestic politics.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto commits to:

  • Take forward the Housing First and Rapid Rehousing principles to end rough sleeping and homelessness, by providing both housing and other support services to individuals in need. 
  • address the additional challenges for young homeless people with special pathways to link suitable jobs and training to housing. 
  • Bring forward new legislation which would strengthen the duties on public bodies to prevent homelessness. 
  • Build 60,000 affordable homes to help address homelessness, including 40,000 for social rent 
  • Offer help to Renovate loans to bring derelict homes back into use. 

Scottish Liberal Democrats have campaigned for an increase in the number of homes constructed for social rent and to re-establish social renting as a valid long-term option for people.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie said: “Whether it’s living on the streets, sofa-surfing or shuttling between temporary accommodation, these situations take a huge toll on people’s mental and physical health. It also exerts a huge toll on children’s education and development. It stops people getting on in life.

“Homelessness in Scotland and across the UK has long been a national scandal. The work that was done at the outset of the crisis was striking, but it also raised questions about why interventions on this scale couldn’t have been done before.

Out on the street with no home to go to and (above right) a warm welcome at the reception of a new homeless hostel project in Glasgow. Picture by Bill Heaney

“Many nationalist voters that I speak to have seen doubts creep in over the way that the Government finds time for new independence legislation but not for cracking down on the scourge of homelessness.

“As we build back from the pandemic, we have a chance to do things differently. I want to deliver new homes and an end to homelessness and rough sleeping through new prevention legislation and by taking forward the Housing First and Rapid Rehousing principles.

“However that opportunity will slip away if we get a nationalist majority who will spend the next five years arguing about independence.

“I want to win over new voters to the Scottish Liberal Democrats who can help us to put recovery first.”

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