IT made for disturbing listening both for Education Secretary John Swinney and the public.

Marie, a mother of twins, contacted a live radio phone-in with Mr Swinney to raise the treatment of her disabled daughter at school.

Now educating her children at home, Marie told the minister her daughter was given little or no help despite being unable to get dressed or go to the toilet.

She said: “When there was no learning assistant about her class teacher asked her twin to take her to the toilet. Obviously at 10-years-old … both of them were very upset.

“She was left in the changing room, the teacher never got her changed, her twin had to do that, then got in trouble for taking too long.

“If she approached a supply teacher to ask for help they would say a child of her age should be able to get dressed herself.”

Mr Swinney said her experiences were “totally unacceptable” and pledged to look into the situation.

“Individual local authorities have got to make the assessment of how to fulfil the needs of individual children, but what you’ve recounted to me is very clearly not acceptable,” he said.

It was one of a number of difficult calls Mr Swinney fielded during his hour-long appearance on BBC Scotland’s Kaye Adams Show, hosted by Stephen Jardine.

Mr Swinney conceded it had been a challenging time in Scottish education and it was clear the parents, grandparents and teachers who phoned in from across the country shared that view.

Lesley, from the Scottish Borders, said pupils were being placed under too much exam pressure and were not taught properly.

She said her granddaughters had sat exams with questions that had not been covered by their school.

Mr Swinney stressed the importance of pupils being supported and said they should be fully taught courses.

“But they’re not,” came the frustrated reply. “I don’t think the system is working and it is punishing children very badly. It is robbing them of their confidence.”

Susan, a primary school teacher and headteacher for 39 years, accused Mr Swinney of failing to address workload pressures and teacher shortages.

She said the profession was “haemorrhaging” teachers because morale was “so low”, telling Mr Swinney: “You have a real crisis with recruitment and retention.”

“A number of my friends started out as teachers at the same time I did and out of all of those talented committed individuals I was the only one that lasted until 60.

“I don’t hear anything there that you have said this morning that would convince me that you have got a handle on this.”

Another listener from North Lanarkshire texted to say her secondary school had been short of a chemistry teacher for five years.

Mr Swinney said he accepted teaching was demanding, but said he had engaged with teachers to reduce their workload.

He added: “What we have got us a very challenging period in education. We have some staff shortages,” he said.

Predictably, Mr Swinney was also put under pressure on primary school testing.

The Education Secretary said the assessments would help teachers identify issues as pupils progressed, but there was strong opposition.

Tommy, a teacher from the Highlands, said the tests jarred with current classroom practice.

“The requirement for recording assessments in primary school is bordering on the ridiculous. It’s another thing added to the list.”

And Stuart, who starts a primary school teaching qualification on Monday, said he had “real worries” arguing the tests were “not needed and not wanted”.