The First Minister continued to insist that this week’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report for 2018 showed “stable” scores in both areas, despite hitting record lows. It came as her general election campaign was hit by a survey suggesting Scots are losing faith in her government’s ability to manage the NHS, justice and education. The poll found that 50 percent of the electorate think the health service has got worse in the past five years, while only seven percent think it has got better.
It came as Ms Sturgeon launched a battle bus tour of Scotland for the final week of the general election campaign, ditching the private helicopter dubbed “Ayr Force One”.
Addressing a crowd of around 30 supporters in South Queensferry, the First Minister repeated calls for voters “to stop Brexit” and “lock Boris Johnson out of power”.
First stop for the battle bus – a Volvo converted to run on biofuel – was the Christmas Village shop at Crieff Visitors Centre in Perthshire.
Earlier, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that maths and science performance was not up to scratch and insisted her government’s reforms would deliver an improvement similar to “that which we have already delivered in reading”.
But Scottish Tory acting leader Jackson Carlaw accused her of being in “denial”, warning this was “a little like people celebrating the fact that they have just had their kitchen redecorated when the front two rooms in the house are on fire”.
He disclosed that only one of the 40 developed countries assessed in the survey has experienced a larger drop in science performance since 2006, the year before the SNP came to power.
Mr Carlaw said Scotland has also experienced the fifth largest decline in maths over this period and argued that SNP ministers’ response was “almost as alarming as the results themselves”.
Professor Lindsay Paterson, an education expert at the University of Edinburgh, has said the results “would make any parent wince with shame” but “even worse is the disgraceful political spin which the Scottish Government has struggled to impose”.
Although Scottish pupils’ reading skills improved by 11 points, this only brought Scotland’s score back close to its 2012 level.
Ms Sturgeon also repeated her claim the PISA survey showed a closing of the attainment gap between rich and poor children, despite the report stating it was very similar to the 2012 and 2015 results.
Speaking after First Minister’s Questions, Mr Carlaw said: “Our young people are deprived of the kind of education children in other countries are receiving.
“The SNP promised to have an ‘unwavering focus’ on improving standards in schools. But instead, Nicola Sturgeon’s only unwavering performance has been on trying to force through another unwanted and divisive (independence) referendum.” He disclosed that Scotland’s performance in science has dipped by 25 points since the 2006 PISA survey, with only Finland falling by more over that period.
Over the same time, the decline in maths results has only been eclipsed by Finland, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
Ms Sturgeon said the most recent Scottish Household Survey showed 86 percent of people with experience of the education system expressed satisfaction.
She added: “I do not think that that is job done, but it is an indication of the focus and the progress that we are making and will continue to deliver.” Meanwhile, a YouGov poll for The Times found that 52 percent believe the health service is being handled badly by SNP ministers, while 40 percent think it is being managed well.
On education, almost half (48 percent) said they thought the issue was being handled poorly, while only 40 percent thought the reverse.
For justice, the figures were 44 percent to 38 percent.
The results mean each issue now has net negative ratings, with health on -12, education on -8 and justice on -6. When the questions were last asked in April, positive ratings were returned for all.