Wednesday, April 24, 2024
HomeNewsSturgeon’s dunces scramble to keep schools ‘failure’ report secret  

Sturgeon’s dunces scramble to keep schools ‘failure’ report secret  


UNDER the SNP administration, in power since 2007 and now joined by the unprincipled Scottish Greens, Scotland grows increasingly like the North Korean capital Pyongyang in the heather. Control and secrecy are of paramount importance. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD ) compiled Curriculum For Excellence: Into The Future, a report examining the SNP’s educational reforms, introduced in 2010.  

The draft report was issued to the administration for its reactions in January last year, with the expectation that it would be published in final form in February, well before the Holyrood elections in May 2021. 

For some reason, and it would be churlish to assume that it was because Nicola Sturgeon’s party didn’t want it published until the election was safely over, the final report was not published until late June. 

Senior figures in Scottish education ‘could see no reason’ why the review could not be published straight away. Dr Keir Bloomer, one of the architects of Curriculum for Excellence, was eager that it should be published without delay.  

‘The whole purpose of the OECD review was so that we can learn from the many, many mistakes which have been made in the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence,’ he said. ‘The sooner the report is in the public domain, the better. 

‘The only reason the government can possibly have for seeking to maintain secrecy over this review is that it’s trying to get the OECD to alter what it says, and that to my mind is completely insupportable.’  

It may have been insupportable, but that is precisely what happened. The National, the SNP daily print mouthpiece, claimed that the delay was ‘due to the coronavirus outbreak’ – an excuse about as believable as ‘the dog ate my homework’.  

John Swinney, Education Secretary at the time, said: ‘We remain committed to the review of Curriculum for Excellence and are progressing this by providing the OECD with a comprehensive written evidence pack which we are co-developing with partners. However, it is critical that we do not make any additional demands on the system at this time.’ 

In other words, having seen the draft report which was critical of Curriculum for Excellence, the SNP was scrambling to get the OECD to alter the report to make it less unfavourable.  

Even then, the final edited version warned that Scottish teachers were overwhelmed by long hours, poor leadership, constant assessments and a curriculum cluttered with bureaucracy and jargon. 

The final report reveals the chaotic nature of the implementation of the SNP flagship education programme. ‘While the policy environment is crowded with multiple initiatives, gaps and misalignments remain – such as that in assessment, for example – and where new policies are introduced (or old ones revisited), alignment and coherence is an issue. Another gap in the policy environment is an established systematic review for Curriculum for Excellence supported by robust data and evidence.’ 

If this is what the final report reveals, many wonder what the draft report said before the SNP provided ‘comprehensive written evidence’ to refute the OECD’s initial findings. The unedited findings plus recommendations for change have still not been released, despite requests being made shortly after the final report’s publication. 

Scottish ministers initially refused to publish the draft on the grounds that to do so would cause ‘substantial prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.’ This is a catch-all exemption often applied by public bodies in order to maintain secrecy.  

What it actually means is: ‘To release this report would be so embarrassing that we wouldn’t be able to get on with our jobs due to being defeated at the polls.’ 

The Scottish administration has been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for its attempt to maintain secrecy regarding the draft report. When they became aware of this, Holyrood ministers changed tack.  

So determined is the administration to avoid public scrutiny of its mistakes that it has now invoked a law designed to protect international relations in order to keep hidden the SNP’s reaction to a report highlighting the failure of its educational reforms which affect every secondary pupil in Scotland. 

The SNP is now claiming that publication ‘would prejudice substantially relations between the UK and any international organisation’, namely the OECD, which has its headquarters in Paris. Fortunately, the ICO say that such claims must demonstrate ‘a genuine link between disclosure and harm’ which ‘cannot simply be a remote or hypothetical possibility’. 

We must hope that the ICO rejects the SNP’s claim, otherwise the concept of substantially prejudicing relations with an international organisation would give the SNP an escape hatch.  

Whenever any contentious issue arises which demands an investigation, and there are a great many in Scotland today, all the SNP would need to do would be to outsource the inquiry to an international body and then use the claim to cover up any embarrassing results. 

As it is, the report into Curriculum for Excellence, although compiled by an international organisation, refers to purely Scottish matters and has no relevance to international relations. French president Emmanuel Macron has enough on his hands at the moment to worry about the SNP’s reputation. 

The SNP, determined to cover everything in a cloak of secrecy, is clutching at straws in its desperation to try to avoid criticism. If the energy and resources expended in attempting to maintain secrecy were instead spent in trying to actually improve things,  Scottish education might not be in the state it is. 

The days when Scottish education was a thing of which we could be proud are long gone. ‘Judge me on education’ Sturgeon once said. Oh, we do Nicola, we do. 

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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