SCOTLAND’S Education Secretary has denied that attainment is worsening in Scotland – despite figures released today by the Scottish Government showing a drop across the board from last year.

The figures point to the number of pupils leaving school with at least one national qualification dropping at Level 4, Level 5 and Highers from 2017/18 to 2018/19.

Education Secretary John Swinney was responding to a question by Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Beatrice Wishart, who highlighted that attainment had fallen.

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Ms Wishart also raised concerns that Additional Support Needs (ASN) teachers are “at a record low”.

But Mr Sweeney said: “I have to correct the point that Beatrice Wishart makes about attainment falling. Attainment is not falling. Young people are acquiring more qualifications today, in terms of the number of young people who are securing one or more passes at SCQF Level 4,5 or 6 than in 2009/10 and in many circumstances before that.

“The data that we published this morning, for example, shows since 2009-10, an increase at SCQF Level 4, 5 and 6. That’s the facts of the performance of attainment. Yes, there will be annual volatility – but in comparison to 2009-10,  attainment is up.”

Speaking after Mr Swinney hit back at the attainment progress claims, Ms Wishart said: "Pass rates fluctuate year on year but falls across the board expose the serious challenges facing Scottish education.

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"This government has been in power for well over a decade. We urgently need cuts to ASN and support staff reversed, a McCrone 2 to value teachers and reduce their spiralling workload, and a separation of Education Scotland to stop it both setting policy and inspecting it.”

Labour education spokesperson, Iain Gray, who put the issue on today’s Holyrood agenda, tweeted that the Education Secretary “continues in denial”.

He added: “Figures show exam passes and literacy and numeracy attainment all falling and huge 33 per cent gap in university entry between low and high income groups.”