SNP government “lying about school leavers finding worthwhile jobs or training”


ONE of the creators of the Curriculum for Excellence has accused the Scottish government of “fraud” – saying they are lying about the number of school leavers in “worthwhile” jobs or training.

Current government figures claim that more than 90% of teenagers leaving schools enter what they call a “positive destination” within nine months.

These are employment, higher education, further education, training, voluntary work or “activity agreements” – where young people agree to improve their skills.

But Keir Bloomer – an author of the flagship Curriculum for Excellence – has said the government are counting “dead-end” jobs, which pay less than the minimum wage, as “positive”.

And according to education guru the government are also counting short, low-level training courses, and activity agreements, which he says have “negligible benefit” as positive.

Those studying are deemed to have reached a positive destination
Those studying are deemed to have reached a positive destination

Government figures for the year 2014-15 claimed that 93% of Scotland’s 54,000 school leavers went on to “positive destinations” within nine months.

The figures were the highest reported since comparable records began – and have been paraded by SNP bosses as a major victory.

But Keir Bloomer has hit out at the figures – claiming that they exaggerate the positive outcomes of the education system.

Mr Bloomer called the government statistics “a fraud”, adding: “As a general rule of the thumb, if 90% plus are passing a test, it’s not much of a test.

He went on: “I don’t think a dead-end minimum-wage job is a positive destination.

“When we talk about positive destinations we should be talking about higher education, further education and worthwhile employment.

“We need to decide what constitutes worthwhile employment and what doesn’t.

At present – he says – “Employment is seen as a good outcome, regardless of the nature of the job, the pay or the prospects for the person’s future.”

And, he asked: “What can be said of ‘activity agreements’ and very short, low-level training courses?

“These are counted as positive but the benefit to young people is often negligible.

“If we are going to measure something that is worthwhile measuring, we are going to have to use more stringent criteria.”

Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, also condemned the government statistics.

He said that his organisation – which represents secondary school head teachers – has “always had an issue over the definition of what a positive destination is.

He added: “There needs to be more rigour around what ‘positive’ means – what sort of job? How long have they been there for? Is it sustainable? Is it a real job?

Jim McColl – the billionaire tycoon who set up Newlands Junior College in Glasgow – also hit out at government “activity agreements”.

He said “An activity agreement allows a school to tick the box saying a pupil has entered a positive destination but it can be a two-day activity agreement.

“It’s a cop out – these people are not going on to positive destination.

“If you say to someone ‘positive destination’, you think ‘Ok, job done.’

“But then they go on a two-day get-ready-for-work course.”

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith added: “This is a damning verdict from one of Scotland’s leading educationalists and it comes hard on the heels of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development telling the Scottish Government that it must make more accurate use of educational data.

“Keir Bloomer also highlighted the fact that the SNP removed Scotland from the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) assessments so this further attempt to hide the truth tells you all you need to know about key failings in SNP education policy.”

Government officials confirmed that there is no minimum number of hours or minimum earning wage which young people have to meet to be classed as employed.

They only have to report that their job is their “main destination” after leaving school.

But SNP bosses defended the statistics – and hit back at Mr Bloomer’s claims.

A spokesman for the party said: “Phrases like ‘dead-end jobs’ are very unhelpful, and risk insulting many thousands of hard-working young people across Scotland, who have got their foot on the employment ladder and are looking to move upwards in their career.

“It is absolutely right that all paid employment should be counted in these statistics.”