HC Deb 01 February 1989 vol 146 cc293-4
14. Mr. Ian Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to monitor the performance of primary schools in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

My right hon. and learned Friend has decided to intensify the assessment of achievement programme to cover English, science and mathematics in a three-yearly cycle, instead of five-yearly as hitherto. An assessment of English will be undertaken this year. Regular reports are also received from Her Majesty's inspectors of schools.

Mr. Bruce

Does my hon. Friend agree that parents in Scotland are keen to see such assessment coming on to the scene? They are keen to see that their children are keeping up to the standards throughout the nation. Can my hon. Friend also tell us what discussions he has with colleagues such as our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science about feeding back the good experience in Scottish schools and transferring some of the excellence in Scottish primary schools to English and Welsh schools?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend is right about the interest that parents have in the achievements of their children at school, and our proposals to introduce testing in English and mathematics in primary 4 and primary 7 will provide for that. The "Home from School" report provided clear evidence of parental interest in the matter. I shall quote one parent who put the matter succinctly, saying: It is all very well to say he is competing against himself. Great. But he is not competing against himself when it comes to getting a job and then he has got to wake up to the rude discovery that he is only pretty good in his own terms but not by anyone else's standards. My hon. Friend is right. Parents want testing in schools so that they know how their children are getting on in those basic subjects.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Will the Minister accept that educational provision in primary schools in Scotland is considerably hampered by the incredible lack of provision hitherto for under-fives? We have some of the most disgraceful circumstances in the whole of Europe. When will the Minister do something about that?

Mr. Forsyth

The provision of education for under-fives is a matter for local authorities, and the hon. Gentleman's own party is in control of a number of those authorities, so it is in a position to do something about it. The results from the assessment of achievement programme in Scotland show clearly that there has been a decline in performance in mathematics and English over the past five years. When I read data that show that in primary 7, a total of 22 per cent, of children cannot divide 630 by 10, I am convinced that our proposals to bring testing into the curriculum and to introduce testing have the support of parents, if not of Opposition Members.

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