THE UK Government's education secretary has been asked to give advice to Holyrood on teaching practices amid claims Scotland's standards are "in freefall".

Nadim Zahawi said Scotland's performance on the international PISA tables, a mechanism for ranking global education standards, has fallen and the situation was "concerning". 

He made the claims in response to a question from Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone, who said he was angry that the numeracy and literacy levels of pupils in his council area, Highland council, were "the worst" in Scotland.

Mr Stone, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: "You will understand how disturbed I was to learn that when it comes to numeracy and literacy amongst P1, P4 and P7 pupils the Highland Council schools have been ranked the worst, the worst, in the whole of Scotland.

"These children are our future. We used to be proud of Scottish education.

"Could I ask the Government to share their best practice with the Scottish Government so this scandal is sorted out?" 

Replying, Mr Zahawi said: "It is concerning, I have to say because although education is devolved, we care about the whole of the United Kingdom.

"I'm very happy to share our work in the education white paper and now the Education Bill. Of course what we're doing on skills with T levels and the Lifelong Learning entitlement, I do worry that Scottish children are being let down and it seems like Scotland's in freefall on the PISA tables - the international league tables." 

SNP MP Carol Monaghan, a former teacher, later asked Mr Zahawi if it was his government's policy to rely on private school funding where government cash "has been lax", referencing recent plans by the prestigious Eton College to open three satellite academies in the north of England. 

The Education secretary said the government had committed more than £56bn to invest in the school system, and again said "Scotland has no plan and is in freefall in the international league tables." 

According to the latest PISA results in 2018, Scotland did score its lowest ever ranking in maths and science, behind England and Northern Ireland. 

Maths scores fell by two points, to 489, while science scores fell by seven points to 490. 

In reading, the country's score rose by 11 points, to 504, and was higher than the other home nations.