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Radical reform needed if schools are to pass performance test

The belief that the performance of Scottish schools has improved under devolution is a myth, it emerges today. [MON]
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\r\nAnalysis of unpublished official data by the independent think tank Reform Scotland shows that despite a huge rise in educational spending over the past 10 years, attainment in state schools has remained flat.
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\r\n‘It is clear from the research that the extra spending – more than double per pupil in both primary and secondary schools since 1999 – is simply not delivering value for money,’ said Reform Scotland’s Geoff Mawdsley.
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\r\n‘Put another way, billions of pounds have been spent in the last decade to little or no effect.’
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\r\nFor its study, Reform Scotland collated the most robust data on exam performance – information which is not published officially but is collected by government statisticians at the behest of the Office of National Statistics.
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\r\nThe data measures the number of pupils who achieve five good grades by the end of compulsory education in year S4.
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\r\nThe definition of ‘good grades’ is either Standard Grade at 1-3, Intermediate 2 at A-C or Intermediate 1 and A. These are the accepted equivalents of English GCSE grades A*-C.
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\r\nThe measure was established by education experts in England as the best test of school performance because it includes all pupils and the key academic subjects of Maths and English.
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\r\nIn comparison, attainment in English schools has steadily improved and overtook Scotland in 2007.
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\r\nReform Scotland, which published a major research paper on education in January, said the Scottish Government needed to focus much more on output measures for Scottish schools’ performance.
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\r\n‘Publishing and using the measure of pupils attaining five good grades by S4, including Maths and English, would be a good start,’ said Mr Mawdsley.
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\r\n‘It is clear that Scottish school education suffers from a major productivity problem.
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\r\n‘This and other measures show little improvement over the last decade despite major increases in spending. This implies a major unnecessary economic burden as well as missed opportunities for our children.
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\r\n‘The Scottish Government should study best practice from abroad and consider reforms such as those laid out in Parent Power, our report published earlier this year.’
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\r\nIn Parent Power, Reform Scotland said priority needed to be given to improving opportunity for disadvantaged children if Scotland was to restore its reputation as a world leader in education.
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\r\nIt said the key to better education for all in the long term were more power for parents to choose where their children were taught and greater autonomy for schools.
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\r\nThe report found that too many children from poorer backgrounds were ‘falling through the gaps’ and not being offered the education they needed to help them fulfil their potential.
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\r\nOne of the key recommendations in the report was the introduction of an ‘entitlement scheme’ giving families much wider choice over which schools to send their children, including new, state-funded, independently-run schools.
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\r\nThis would encourage the setting up of more diverse schools that would increase competition and drive up educational standards across the system.