TODAY’S Pisa results ("Scotland at record low for post-Covid exam results", The Herald, December 6) show how badly Scottish education has dropped since the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) back around 2011 by the SNP Government.

Many intelligent educators like Carole Ford and Lindsay Paterson stated right from the beginning that an educational system based purely on skills was a recipe for disaster. I remember analysing the maths document associated with CfE and was abhorred at the total lack of any reference to anything resembling a contents list. Statements like “I am confident with fractions” was only one of the vague criteria that peppered the maths curricular outcomes. No mention of what depth was required in what was an extremely sparse document. And now, 10 years later, even with repeated warnings from experts and classroom teachers, the results of Pisa have shown that the so-called gurus who advised the Government, along with the “sages” in the SQA, were totally and utterly wrong in their predictions that CfE would have a positive effect on Scottish education.

I, along with many experienced teachers and educators, have written letter after letter to various newspapers over the last 10 years as well as to the SQA and SNP Government pointing out the failures of CfE and our fears for the future of Scottish education should a new course of action not be taken, including a return to a more formal teaching approach, but we have been blindly ignored. Please, please listen now. The statistics don’t lie.

Tom Strang, Barrhead.

Read more: PISA 2022: A panicked and political response won't help

We now need radical reform

THE latest disappointing Pisa results on Scottish pupil performance must be further evidence of the need for radical reform of our education system.

I find that many people who hold executive power in the world of education too often appear to have very uncritical views of our existing schooling framework, which seems to me to be rather similar to how steam engine enthusiasts think. No amount of tinkering, oiling and polishing will make such engines from a bygone age more efficient as a power unit.

Coercive teaching simply does not work for all but I expect that some pupils are psychologically damaged by pressure to learn unpalatable subjects and pass exams. However, I feel that it is the attitude of parents which is often the problem in this respect. They have a moral duty to nurture a motivation to learn but I expect that many have little drive to encourage their child to outdo themselves in life’s expectations.

I consider that over-protective parents who cocoon their child’s ego and shield their self-esteem can often do as much damage in the long term as being neglectful and distant. I suspect that this ring-fencing from challenging realities was magnified during the most severe period of Covid restrictions.

However, those factors can be mitigated by the fact that programmable computing technology is very good at learning how individual young people learn and can customise learning to suit.

We should be working therefore with the aim of reducing the negative effects of both parents and indeed teachers in the fundamental learning process. There seems a reluctance within the “establishment” to even experiment with very novel approaches to learning which assume young people having responsibility for themselves.

Bill Brown, Milngavie.

Problems for the UK

I NOTE the balanced article by Garrett Stell ("Scotland’s education ranking plunges to a record-low post-Covid", The Herald, December 6).

Reading scores were high for Scotland and England, but much lower for Wales, which recorded the poorest UK nation score in each of the three primary categories assessed. Overall Covid had a negative impact on the latest Pisa scores of most countries, although these scores do not measure the broadly-positive educational work undertaken in Scotland through Curriculum for Excellence. What is disturbing news for all the four nations is that the UK sits second bottom (out of 81 countries) in the OECD measure of “life satisfaction”, perhaps reflecting the dissatisfaction with UK governance across all age groups today.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.

The big flaw in SNP tax plans

GIVEN the state of Scottish education fewer children will be able to attain the high qualifications required for medicine. This is a problem for the future, but even now the Scottish NHS is short of 439 consultants.

Michael Matheson, our embattled Health Secretary, has the solution. He says "we want to make careers in Scotland's NHS attractive and well rewarded". Mr Matheson seems not to have noticed that his colleague and supporter, Shona Robison, is almost certainly about to raise taxes for these self-same consultant posts here whilst the tax take in England will be consequently even lower for the same position.

This sums up the SNP dilemma: how to rob Peter to pay Paul without any consequences. The answer is it cannot be done. Given the state of Scottish education it is no surprise that the SNP has not noticed this glaring anomaly.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

Read more: Shame on both our governments for the harm they do to social care

Reflecting our values

CONFLICTING opinions have arisen between Anas Sarwar, the Labour leader in Scotland, and Sir Keir Starmer, the UK Labour leader. Unlike Anas Sarwar, Sir Keir Starmer supports the two-child benefit cap and refused to support a call for a ceasefire in Palestine. Most strikingly Sir Keir Starmer recently heaped praise on Margaret Thatcher. Anas Sarwar in contrast confirmed the reality that Thatcher’s policies devastated communities, destroying major industries in Scotland ("Sarwar distances himself from Starmer Thatcher praise", heraldscotland, December 5).

The Labour Party in Scotland must realise how increasingly different their values are from those of the Labour Party in England.

To defeat even this totally incompetent Conservative Government, UK Labour has to attract English voters with policies reflecting the English electorate’s values. Most clearly Thatcher is still so revered in England that Sir Keir has to emulate her policies to have a chance of winning. This emphasises a basic difference in attitude between the majority of voters in Scotland and England.

Scotland’s population’s goals and priorities cannot be achieved when we are outnumbered more than 10 times by the English population. This is very clear with Scotland being ruled since 1979 by UK Conservative-led governments Scotland didn’t vote for and right-wing Tony Blair/Gordon Brown-led Labour governments which continued public service-damaging austerity economics.

This clearly shows Scotland can’t get real democracy reflecting our values while part of the UK. The only realistic way to get policies implemented in Scotland which reflect Scottish Labour voters' values is if Scotland first becomes independent.

Jim Stamper, Bearsden.


The Herald: Anas Sarwar has had disagreements with Sir Keir StarmerAnas Sarwar has had disagreements with Sir Keir Starmer (Image: PA)Scotland on the world stage

LIKE a discordant note running through Brian Wilson's article ("Yousaf was wrong to want to make himself a useful idiot on the world stage", The Herald, December 5) is the insistence that Scotland's Government has no place in COP meetings; however, Scotland is on the same planet as every other country and we too are affected by climate change.

Mr Wilson would apparently much prefer it that the big Tory boys at Westminster speak for the devolved region of Scotland (even though Scotland has consistently rejected them since 1955) rather than the democratically-elected government of Scotland.

Know your place, Scotland, and get off the stage; the world might listen to you and respect you, and that would never do.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

The rights of trans prisoners

FURTHER to Michael Matheson's odd interpretation of "justice" anent his own £11,000 expense claim, his current successor as Justice Secretary, Angela Constance, remains constant in her view that self-designated transgender inmates with track records of violence against females can be placed in women's prisons, unless they are deemed, inevitably subjectively and possibly in error even by experts, to present an "unacceptable" risk of harm to staff or other prisoners ("Plans to allow trans women in female jails slammed", The Herald December 5).

Maybe she could define for us in detail what an "acceptable" risk level would be, and also how much the enhanced monitoring, and placement in a different area where risks can be mitigated or managed, will cost the already-overstretched prison service.

She should also confirm that any rights such criminals might reasonably have will be secondary to the rights and welfare of the other inmates and the staff.

Surely the prime criterion for any such indulgence should be that transgender inmates prove their sincerity by having had the necessary surgery, thus excluding any with functioning male genitalia. I write as one who read Conundrum by Jan Morris (formerly James Morris) with great sympathy in the 1970s, unlike I would guess most modern zealots.

John Birkett, St Andrews.