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Jamie Stone urges governments to work together on literacy and numeracy 'scandal'

By Alan Hendry

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Jamie Stone: 'A Scottish education used to be something to be proud of.'
Jamie Stone: 'A Scottish education used to be something to be proud of.'

North MP Jamie Stone has urged the Scottish Government to "get a grip" on literacy and numeracy after it emerged that primary schools in the Highland Council area fared poorly in national rankings.

He wants the Holyrood and Westminster governments to work together to address the issue, although he emphasised that he was not questioning the commitment or tireless work of teachers.

It emerged in March that Highland Council ranked 32nd out of 32 local authority areas for literacy and numeracy among children in primaries one, four and seven.

Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: "Both UK and Scottish governments have not given parents, teachers and pupils a fair deal throughout this pandemic. No P7 child should be entering secondary school unprepared and on the back foot.

"I am downhearted and disturbed to learn that Highland Council schools rank the worst in Scotland, but I imagine our teachers feel this all the more acutely when they work tirelessly to prepare our children for their next steps.

"I do not for a second doubt the commitment of our teachers, but they can only work with what they are given. The Scottish Government is throwing away the future of this country.

"A Scottish education used to be something to be proud of – it was accepted as one of the best systems in the world. Now we've come to this.

"The Scottish Government needs to get a grip on this literacy and numeracy crisis. I hope to see the UK and Scottish governments working together on this issue to ensure that all children – no matter which corner of the UK they grow up in – are given a fair shot."

Mr Stone told the UK education secretary Nadhim Zahawi: "You will understand how disturbed I was to learn that when it comes to numeracy and literacy amongst P1, P4 and P7 pupils, 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 its best practices with the Scottish Government so that this scandal is sorted out?"

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.

"I do worry that Scottish children are being let down and it feels like Scotland is in freefall in the international league tables."

After the literacy and numeracy rankings were issued earlier this year, the council’s education committee chairman said work was under way to improve the attainment figures, including “collaborative engagement, support and challenge” for primary schools with “standardised attainment meetings” and an action plan.

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