SOME years ago a regular survey of Scottish primary schools found a potentially catastrophic decline in the performance of Primary 4 children in a particular mathematical topic.

Upon further investigation it was discovered that a recent tweak in the curriculum meant that the topic was no longer taught in Primary 4. I would agree wholeheartedly with Professor Donald Gillies and Bill Brown (Letters, December 5) that, when viewing educational surveys, even those as exhaustive as Pisa, we should always look beyond the headlines and consider the finer details.

This is not to say that some criticism of the Scottish education system’s performance is not justified, but the figures from the earliest surveys lend no credence to the myth that we were a top performing nation before the current Scottish Government took office.

What is sadly lacking in responses to the results from politicians, letter writers and even educational experts are potential solutions to the perceived problems.

Do we adopt the successful Asian model, which seems to involve pupils spending every spare minute of the day studying and an alarmingly high teenage suicide rate, or perhaps the Finland/Estonia model, where compulsory schooling starts at the age of seven after three to four years of quality pre-school education, with the emphasis on social and emotional skills, an aversion to unnecessary testing, all-ability classes, and high levels of teacher autonomy?

I don’t think anybody would seriously advocate the former but the Scandinavian model seems to contradict everything that our politicians and we, perhaps as a consequence, hold dear.

Every model adopted during my teaching career and since has become become weighed down by bolt-ons such as National Testing and a desire for punitive Inspection models.

Trusting teachers and running the system for the benefit of the pupils seems to work in Finland (population 5.5 million!). Perhaps we should try it here.

Robin Irvine, Helensburgh

THE Pisa report is widely regarded as being not definitive, and I hope that those who criticise the SNP for Scotland’s Pisa figures will also criticise the Tory/LibDem austerity policies which have seen an appalling rise in the numbers of children who turn up at school hungry, with in many cases the breakfast they are provided with at school being their only nourishing meal of the day.

And I hope that credit will be given to the SNP government for providing free school lunches to all children in primaries 1-3, for introducing a national £100 school clothing grant, and for expanding the Education Maintenance Allowance, which supports pupils and students in low income families.

Nobody is disputing that more needs to be done, but children in more than 900 schools throughout Scotland are now learning in comfortable, modern facilities, updated by the SNP since coming to power.

Ruth Marr,