Fall in literacy skills in Scottish schools

STANDARDS of literacy in Scottish primary and secondary schools are falling, according to a worrying new survey.

Official figures show performance in reading dropped in primary schools between 2012 and 2014 – as well as in the second year of secondary school.

Recorded performance in writing at some levels in primary school and in S2 also fell over the same period, according to a report from Scotland’s chief statistician.

The results come as a blow to Scotland’s new school curriculum – the Curriculum for Excellence – which was supposed to improve standards and put more of a focus on basic skills such as literacy.

Following the publication of the 2014 Scottish Survey of Literacy, the Scottish Government said work to improve pupils’ reading and writing would be stepped up.

Angela Constance, the Education Secretary, said inspectors from Education Scotland would be asked to focus on raising attainment in literacy when visiting schools.

She said ministers would lead the setting up of a new national improvement framework drawing on the best of international practice.

And teachers would also be given extra learning resources, supported by a strategy for every school to raise the quality of literacy education, she added.

Ms Constance said: “Literacy and numeracy are vital skills for our young people. That’s why the survey was commissioned – to get a clear picture at various stages of school. And it is why we all must act on its findings.

“Put simply, while Scottish pupils perform well, these results are not as good as they should be. They demonstrate the need to re-double efforts to ensure that every child can succeed in school and so gain the skills they need for life.

“This Government has already made clear that tackling the attainment gap is a key priority. In the last six months I’ve seen excellent work in our schools, to support learners and parents. It is essential that we both promote this positive practice in schools and identify where improvements can and should be made.”

The survey showed that last year around two-thirds of P4 and P7 pupils and 55 per cent of S2 pupils performed well, very well or above the relevant level for their stage in writing. However, this was lower than in 2012.

Around 8 out of 10 pupils at all stages are still performing well or very well in reading in 2014 – also lower than in 2012.

The largest drop in standards was in writing in S2 where those performing well or very well fell from 64 per cent in 2012 to 55 per cent in 2014.

Liam McArthur, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, called on SNP ministers to improve urgently the levels of support for schools.

He said: “These results show that the performance of Scotland’s pupils in reading and writing has either stagnated or is going backwards. This will have alarm bells ringing with parents across the country.

“While the SNP focus has been on their independence plans, ministers have taken their eye off the ball in government and given the crucial importance of literacy to our children’s life chances they need to get their priorities right.”