THE SCOTTISH Government chose to “sneak out bad news” over detailed education analysis after a six-month battle for the information, the lecturer who demanded it has claimed.

Conservatives say that saga has left the Scottish Government’s reputation on education “in tatters”.

After the 2019 school exam results were published by the Scottish Government in August, Education Secretary John Swinney insisted that yearly variations are to be “expected”. But opposition politicians questioned the reaction to the results, pointing the finger at budget cuts, the number of  teachers and subject choice.

It was then revealed in September 2019 that Mr Swinney told his officials to privately draw up in-depth analysis of the failures, despite publicly moving to reassure the public over the statistics.

READ MORE: John Swinney: More time needed for exam improvements after pass rate drop

In the same month, the Scottish Government called for a full review of the senior phase of education in secondary schools – following a scathing report by MSPs.

The Scottish Parliament’s education committee concluded there had been a narrowing of the subject choices which were on offer for some pupils. Education Secretary John Swinney said the review would identify any areas for improvement.

In January, Nicola Sturgeon defended Mr Sweeney over claims he secretly ordered an inquiry into the falling Higher pass rates.

At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw quizzed Ms Sturgeon over an investigation requested by Mr Swinney in the wake of the slump in pass rates.

Ms Sturgeon said the Education Secretary had told Holyrood’s Education Committee about his plans for a review in November and the Scottish Government would “publish findings as and when we have them”.

Addressing suggestions Mr Swinney had “secretly” called for the review, she said the Scottish Conservatives were “flatly wrong”.

Ms Sturgeon agreed that a wider inquiry into Scottish education will take place after opposition politicians teamed up to demand one. 

Journalist and lecturer James McEnaney submitted a Freedom of Information request for the analysis information in August last year - sparking the six-month fight with Scottish Government officials for its release.

Mr McEnaney has accused officials of attempting to “sneak out bad news”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, he said: “It’s hard to see this in any other light than an attempt to sneak out what is a fairly uncomplimentary documentation.

“When they first responded, I got some fairly thoroughly redacted briefing documents – they refused to hand over some on cost grounds.”

He added: “There were a couple of extra FOIs and each one was getting appealed so that has taken six months to get to the point where finally the stuff that I was ultimately looking for, we’ve managed to get hold of.”

Also speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Mr Swinney denied the Scottish Government was attempting to hide from scrutiny.

He said: “We had a Freedom of Information request that had to be responded to. So we felt it appropriate, because so much of that material was included in the report that I promised I would publish, that we just published all of it at the same time.

READ MORE: Horror show as damning Scottish exams report is unveiled

“We did that in order to make sure we fulfilled the commitments we made to Parliament that this information would be published.”

The Tories have now accused the Scottish Government of attempting to duck responsibility for the tumbling pass rates.

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, Jamie Greene, said: “These revelations are a matter of grave concern to every parent, teacher and young person.

“John Swinney was told by his civil servants back in August that there were serious issues about the downturn in Higher passes for four consecutive years yet he told us that there was nothing to worry about.

“He said Scottish schools had produced a ‘strong set of results’ and that the downturn was due to ‘annual variation’.

“That was patently not true and this information proves it.”

Mr Greene added: “What is worse is the fact that, on several occasions since August, John Swinney has not come clean to either the Scottish Parliament or to the Education Committee about the reasons for the problems.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon refutes claims of 'secret investigation' into falling Higher pass rate

“The Scottish Conservatives asked both him and the First Minister on several occasions to provide this information but it was never forthcoming.

“The SNP’s record on schooling has always been poor but this latest episode leaves its reputation in tatters.

“Even when faced with these terrible figures, the SNP is still trying to spin its way out of this.

“Instead of addressing the failings and improving things, ministers want to pull the wool over the eyes of the public – that’s a complete disgrace.”