Several papers today carry a desperate story about education that’s sourced straight from a Scottish Labour press release, which pulls some figures out of thin air without providing any sources and appears to have left out at least one significant factor.
But that’s not the funny bit.
Two of the stories – the Herald’s (left above) and the Times’ (right above) – lead with the claim that the number of pupils leaving without a maths qualification has “almost doubled”. The Courier actually makes it an ironically ungrammatical headline.
The claim is from Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray, who’s quoted saying:
“Now Labour can reveal that the number of young people leaving school with no significant maths qualification has rocketed in recent years – close to doubling.”
Labour can’t actually reveal any such thing, since its numbers are highly questionable and the means they’ve used to produce them haven’t been disclosed and can’t be verified. But taken at face value the headline figures in their “report” are these:
2012/13: 1,890 pupils (3.8%) left without SCQF Level 3 or higher
2014/15: 3,228 pupils (6.1%) left without SCQF Level 3 or higher
Measuring percentages, the more recent figure would (if true) be a 60.5% increase on two years previously, whereas measuring absolute numbers of pupils it’d be a 70.8% increase, so let’s take a generous average and say that Scottish Labour are claiming the increase is 66%.
Describing such figures as “close to doubling” is the sort of thing that – not to put too fine a point on it – sees you leave school without a maths qualification.
(In doing so Gray has in fact exaggerated the size of the alleged rise by a whopping 50%, which is close to quadrupling it to a thousand.)
Iain Gray used to be a teacher. While we’re grateful that someone who thinks 66% is near enough 100% is no longer employed in educating Scotland’s young people, we can’t bring ourselves to say that he’s moved to a job he’s any more capable at. We’ll forgive readers a shudder if they imagine him actually being put in charge of their children’s schools.