I RATHER thought we’d got rid of rote learning. Surely the days when short-trousered drones like me were made to chant our tables in between dodging the belt are gone?

Well, perhaps not. There was a bit of a rote revival at FMQs, with Nicola Sturgeon taking the lead. But it wasn’t a poem or the periodic table she’d committed to memory, it was a barrel of statistics.

Whenever she was getting pushed on education, out came the stats, over and over, regardless of relevance.

Ruth Davidson copped an earful first, after she raised the puny range of subjects now being offered at S4. Dundee University’s Professor Jim Scott reckoned the narrower choice meant children missing out on 622,000 qualifications over the last five years.

Ms Davidson said she agreed with Prof Scott it was “almost unbelievable”, and asked the FM’s view. “I think that it is entirely unbelievable,” Ms Sturgeon sneered.

The Prof, bless him, was comparing old and new systems, she said, “a bit like comparing apples and oranges”. These academics, they’re like babies, really.

The FM then clicked into rote mode. “Here are some figures for Ruth Davidson to chew over,” she said, reciting a catalogue of gently rising numbers about higher passes.

Ms Davidson had another pop and it happened again.

“I repeat that the proportion of pupils…” said Ms Sturgeon and everyone zoned out.

Besides, Ms Sturgeon went on, “Ruth Davidson has zero credibility” on education because she changed her mind on standardised assessments for P1 pupils - and everyone knows it’s illegal to change your mind in Scotland. “Ruth Davidson is a shameless opportunist!”

The SNP benches loved it. Newbie ministers Maree Todd and Ben Macpherson even tried to get an ovation going, clapping in a wild outsized fashion, like a pair of simpletons at a hoedown.

Richard Leonard said P1 tests were “a waste of time”, a dangerous phrase for a Scottish Labour leader to use.

He listed the problems in education, including budget cuts, legislative chaos and looming teacher strikes. If education is the FM’s top priority, why is it such a mess?

But we already knew the answer to that. “I am delighted to be able to share all the following information with Parliament again. There is a higher proportion of pupils…”