SNP ministers have been dragged into a new line of ‘secrecy’ amid reports that drafts of a parliamentary statement on education reform have been made available to key agencies, but not to MSP.
Oliver Mundell, who represents Dumfriesshire for the Scottish Conservatives, said it was ‘insulting’ the documents had not been shared with Holyrood’s Education, Children and Young People’s Committee (ECYP).
His remarks come after the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a landmark analysis of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) which led to the decision to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and scrap inspections from the standards body Education Scotland (ES).
Mr Mundell said he had heard a parliamentary statement was planned on the findings of a follow-up report by Professor Ken Muir, former chief executive of the General Teaching Council, who has been appointed to lead the work on the progress of changes in the Scottish education system.
The Scottish Government recently told the Herald that Professor Muir’s report had been received and was being reviewed. The document is expected to be released in the spring, when Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville is due to present her response.
The final row also follows accusations that the SQA tried to alter the OECD report to reduce criticism and “save its own skin”.
READ MORE: SQA accused of seeking to alter landmark education report
Speaking to the ECYP committee on Wednesday morning, Mr Mundell said: ‘I suspect I am not the only member of the committee who has been concerned by reports that the Scottish government is still abstaining for over a year more late to publish the preliminary version of the OECD report received last January and their subsequent response.
“Furthermore, I have also heard that a parliamentary statement is now due on the Ken Muir report and it has been reported that senior management at the SQA and other education bodies have already seen plans advanced.
“I am not aware that this courtesy has been extended to this committee, in what looks like a repeat of the same situation as with the OECD where the irresponsible organizations currently lacking our young people have the opportunity to examine and potentially to influence findings without any checks or balances.
He continued: “Having been a member of this committee for a number of years, I think it is insulting that such documents have not been made available to this committee and that this practice of excluding the Parliament and denying us the full opportunity to exercise our oversight function diminishes the work we are doing.To me, this is unacceptable and I think we should request these documents urgently.
“I know we have to cover our work program in private today, but I am increasingly concerned that too much of our education policy is being decided behind closed doors, especially in because of the culture of secrecy and lack of transparency at the heart of the SNP approach.
“I think it’s important for the public to know that we are aware of these issues and that we, as a committee, take our review work seriously.”
READ MORE: Figures show Scotland is ‘the best educated country in Europe’
Mr. Mundell also called for planned discussions on the commission’s work program to be made public to allow issues to be addressed.
However, after hearing the remarks, SNP MSP Bob Doris accused Mr Mundell of “grandstanding”. He said: ‘I am aware that when this committee started this session we said we would work collegially, we would work across parties and we would challenge the government where necessary, in the strongest possible way when we had to. do, but we would seek to work constructively with the government – and constructively within this committee.
“I am therefore disappointed that we are receiving a staged statement from Mr Mundell, which I would consider to be grandstanding. There have been many opportunities to raise these concerns within the committee thus far.
He added: “I want to work collegially as a committee to decide how best to respond to Mr. Mundell’s comments, but the idea of ambushing a committee at the start of a meeting, which took numerous opportunities to submit it to other members of the committee who work together, I find it very disappointing.
“I find the tone unnecessary, I find it overtly politicized by parties, and that’s not the way I want this committee to work.”
Committee leader Stephen Kerr said issues raised would be discussed privately.