THE number of pupils failing to achieve “significant” mathematics qualifications has nearly doubled in the past four years, according to the Scottish Labour Party.
A total of 3,228 pupils left schools in 2014/15 without passing Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level three or higher - roughly equivalent to a Standard Grade foundation pass.
Labour claims the figures show one in every 16 school leavers in Scotland in 2014/15 had “no significant maths qualification”. In 2011/12, 1,890 Scottish pupils or 3.8 per cent left school without the qualification.
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However, the Scottish Government said the figures misrepresented the picture of attainment because they did not take into account pupils securing qualificaiotns at a more advanced level.
The row comes weeks after the international education ranking scheme Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) gave Scotland its worst education report with a decline in science and stagnant progress in reading and maths.
Iain Gray, Labour’s education spokesman, said: “Earlier this month, a worldwide survey delivered Scotland’s worst report card on education since devolution.
“Now Labour can reveal that the number of young people leaving school with no significant maths qualification has rocketed in recent years - close to doubling.
“The SNP has slashed funding for our schools, with £500 million cut from local budgets last year alone and £327m set to come, 4,000 fewer teachers and an 18 per cent fall in support staff.”
Mr Gray said Labour would bring forward amendments to the Scottish Budget to use the Parliament’s tax powers to “stop the cuts” and invest in schools.
However, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “This analysis does not recognise the increased proportion of school leavers attaining in maths at higher SCQF levels and its assumptions about class sizes do not stack up.
“We know more needs to be done to encourage young people to take up and attain in all science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.
“That is why we are introducing a Stem strategy which will help young people gain the training, knowledge and qualifications they need to develop skills for Stem careers, and we will work with partners to implement the making maths count report that aims to encourage greater enthusiasm and enjoyment of maths and build maths achievement in Scotland.
“We have taken action to maintain teacher numbers and committed £88 million this year to make sure every school has access to the right number of teachers.”
Earlier this week the drop in school standards identified by Pisa was blamed on the controversial practice of teaching pupils different qualifications in the same class.
David Cole-Hamilton, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at St Andrews University and a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s education committee, said so-called multi-course teaching was one of the reasons for the decline as well as the confusion and additional demands placed on pupils by the new Curriculum for Excellence.
Pisa concluded that Scotland’s performance was now “average” compared to other developed countries in science, as well as in maths and reading.
In 2000, when Scotland first took part in the OECD survey of 15-year-olds, its performance in all three disciplines was above average.
Multi-course teaching has become more common as a result of teacher shortages because schools can timetable pupils studying different qualifications together.