Scotland’s pride in its educational excellence runs deep: one schools inspector boasted in 1872 that pupils of modest means in England needed “nothing short of genius” to reach university, but those in the hands of Scottish teachers could succeed with mere “useful ability, prudence and hard work”.
So the revelation this week that Scotland has slipped in the most important international ranking of pupils’ performance, scoring below England for English, maths and science, was a heavy blow to the governing Scottish National party.
On Thursday, Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, listed all the countries that now rank above Scotland in the OECD’s Pisa international education rankings, before slipping the knife in.
“Scotland used to have one of the best education systems in the world, now we have dropped behind all of those countries,” Mr Rennie said. “After 10 years of SNP rule, we are not even as good as England any more.”
For many looking for the cause of Scotland’s relative decline there is an obvious culprit: the nation’s new “curriculum for excellence”.