Saturday, 6 June 2015

SNP baaaaad!

This week at First Minister's Questions Kezia Dugdale decided to raise the subject of the decline of Scottish pupils' attainment in foreign languages.  Her question was based on research done by Dr James Scott of Strathclyde University  This showed a decline in the number of pupils gaining a Standard Grade pass in French or German, down from ~40,000 in 1996 to below 20,000 in 2014.  This was portrayed, as usual, as a crisis which was all the fault of the SNP government at Holyrood.

The first thing that occurs is to wonder how pupil numbers have trended over a similar period.  I managed to find this graph, which shows a gradual decline in pupil numbers since 2000.  However, this doesn't look like the whole explanation, as the decline is not quite so precipitous as that for language qualifications.  There is another explanation though, as outlined by the BBC:
But there is an important - and vital - explanation which puts the significant drop in 2014 into context, if not the long term decline - the replacement of Standard Grades with the new National qualifications.
Students studied for their Standard Grades over third and fourth year. Most students studied seven subjects, sometimes more.
The National 4s and 5s are taken in fourth year and the courses only last a year. The number of subjects being studied varies from school to school but it is not uncommon to only study six subjects to qualification level.
Inevitably, this means there has been a drop in the numbers taking a qualification in many subjects.
So a little bit of research shows us that, while certainly an issue, the decline in pupils gaining a language qualification is by no means the crisis that Ms Dugdale claims.  Indeed one of the teachers' unions has said as much.

 This is yet another instance of SNP bashing by Labour, a popular pastime that extended this week to blaming them for the sad and untimely death of Charles Kennedy.  Many people took to Twitter to excoriate the SNP for having the temerity to contest his seat in the General Election and win.  To them it was self-evident that the cause of his death must have been related to this.  Well, as we now know, his death was actually related to his alcoholism and had nothing to do with his General Election defeat.  Will these same people apologise for their Tweets?  Will they hell.

And so it goes on and on and on, the relentless negativity about the SNP from Labour, the LibDems, the Conservatives.  Everything is the SNP's fault, what are they going to do about it?  Never a positive solution in sight, just criticism.  Is this really what our politics has descended to?  No robust debates, just relentless blame.  The opposition really are going to have to up their game if we are to have politics worthy of the name.

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