Scottish Students Failing in Basic Maths According to Scottish Government Survey

Scottish Government Numeracy Report March 2012

According to a survey conducted of S2 students released by the Scottish Government this week, one in three Scottish pupils are under performing in basis maths tasks such as time and money.  Four out of ten could not add numbers in their head and was even worse with subtraction and multiplication.

The survey also revealed that those students living in more affluent areas were twice as likely to do well in numeracy compared to those in poorer areas.  Read full survey results on Scottish Government’s website.

At Primary 4 level the results are much better with only 2% of children not performing at a satisfactory level.  Questions are being asked why there seems to be such a decline in results by S2.

Scottish Government Response

Mike Russell, Education Secretary has responded to harsh criticism by Tory Education Secretary Liz Smith and and Lib Dem Education Spokesman Liam McArthur.  He admitted that “more could be done to improve literacy and numeracy and raise attainment”.  He also defended Curriculum for Excellence stating that “given that we have deliberately raised the bar with CFE – with high standards expected at each level, the strong performance of primary pupils in maths and numeracy is hugely encouraging”.  He also stated that “this high performance must also be sustained and improved through to secondary. The performance results taken from S2 pupils, who were the last cohort of pupils not to benefit from Curriculum for Excellence, shows that more is needed and the link between deprivation and attainment remains too strong.  We knew that more could be done to improve literacy and numeracy .. this is why we introduced the Curriculum”.

Opinion of Kip McGrath Scotland

Having been a teacher for over 40 years, (the past 12 at Kip McGrath Education Centres), it has been apparent for quite some time that numeracy skills have dropped in the children I and my colleagues assess.  Please note that all Tutors at Kip McGrath are fully qualified teachers.

We have still to see how Curriculum for Excellence will make a difference  and with all new curricula, we have to be patient and hope that numeracy levels within our schools improve.

One major concern parents have is that their children are no longer being assessed annually in school and they no longer receive certificates advising which level their child is working at.  Children will be assessed at end of P4 and P7 but sometimes, this is just too late to identify potential problems before High School.

At Kip McGrath, we offer a Free educational assessment of every child by a qualified teacher.  This takes up to one hour.  We will discuss our findings and advise parents any areas of weakness.  Should you and your child feel comfortable and wish to attend, an individual programme of study will be created and the child will attend an 80 minute lesson every week and be regularly re-assessed. Read more about the Kip McGrath Expert Programme.

To find your local Kip McGrath Centre, click on a link on the Right Hand Side or alternatively use our Postcode Finder.

Margaret Carmichael

Should Scottish Government Scrap Plans for Pay Cut for Supply Teachers?

I read an article today by Andrew Denholm of the Herald Scotland entitled “New demand to scrap pay cut for teachers” which read:

Teaching unions and political opponents made the plea yesterday after a survey by Scottish Labour found 84% of local authorities did not fill all requests for short-term cover in 2011/12.

In addition, some 52% of councils also experienced problems filling long-term supply requests over the past year.

The highest rate of non-fulfillment for long-term supply was in Edinburgh, while for short-term supply the greatest problems were in West Lothian.

Of the local authorities in Scotland holding accurate records, half revealed a reduction in the number of teachers held on their supply lists.

The biggest drop in the number of supply teachers available was in Aberdeenshire, which lost 275 teachers from the supply list in one year alone. Read More.

As an employer of Scottish teachers who tutor in our Kip McGrath Education Centres, there are a number of tutors who teach for us at Kip but are also supply teachers in the Scottish Education system.  I have listened to their plight and cannot believe how badly these bright new teachers are being treated.

We normally only employ highly experienced teachers at Kip McGrath but I sometimes employ an inexperienced teacher who I believe is a star and will motivate and teach our students.  I find it so hard to believe that these bright and eager teachers full of so many wonderful ideas cannot get a full time permanent job in Scotland.

When I started teaching the world was a different place.  We could pick and choose the schools we wanted to work for.  Now everything is different and as a teacher who has had a very fulfilled life as a teacher, I genuinely feel sorry for the bright new teachers in Scotland who are struggling to find a secure, decently paid position in our Scottish Schools.

I also have had contact with this Group of Supply Teachers who are trying to raise awareness and give support.

They are also on Facebook at

Please note, I do not know anyone associated with either of these sites personally and they have no connection to Kip McGrath Education Centres but if you are a supply teacher in Scotland there appears to be a lot of support and advice on offer.

Struggling Pupils don’t catch up according to Department of Education

In a report published by the Department of Education in England, just one in 15 (6.5%) pupils starting secondary school in England “behind” for their age goes on to get five good GCSEs including English and maths, official data shows.  Read more details of the report as reported on here.

Obviously this report applies to the English education system.  Scotland has a completely different curriculum.  However the statement that “struggling pupils don’t catch up” is not only true for England. It applies anywhere.

The number of children our qualified teachers at Kip McGrath assess who are struggling with basic literacy and numeracy skills is a concern, especially in those pupils making the transition from Primary seven to S1.

This is one of the main reasons students come to Kip McGrath (or any tutor for that matter).

At what level is your child really performing academically?

Early intervention with a structured consistent approach is necessary.  Reading problems must be tackled early since it affects maths and how the wider curriculum is embraced.

Parents must ask teachers specific questions to establish exactly how their child is performing within the class.  I hear many parents mentioning a common phrase used by teachers at parents’ night “your child is performing well at his/her level” without actually revealing which level the child is on compared to his/her classmates.  If your child is coping well but is in the bottom group for maths or English, is this acceptable to you? How can you help your child move to be “performing well” in the top group?

Is your Child Actually being Assessed?

Under the old 5-14 assessment guidelines, every student was assessed regularly and parents could see from certificates which level their child had reached and from the guidelines assess if their child was on target for their age group.  As part of Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, this is no longer the case and I wonder if this is why we at Kip McGrath are receiving many more calls from concerned parents requesting an educational assessment by our qualified teachers.

Expectations and Aspiration

Another issue is expectation. If teachers set low expectations for children this will become a self fulfilling prophecy.  Some students have been discouraged to sit exams at certain levels as the teacher believed they would struggle.  Many parents refuse to accept this and enrol the services of a tutor.  At Kip McGrath we have heard many variations of this. This was a comment from a very happy father at our Kip Edinburgh South Centre in 2011.
OMG.  Graham got a credit 2 and Craig got an A! Thanks,thanks,thanks!  I can’t begin to tell you what you have done for my sons who both hated English.  Craig was told he was going to fail Higher English by the school and thanks to you he got an A!  Graham got a Credit 2 and now English is his favourite subject.  I have no qualms about recommending your services to the school.”
To read more examples of these testimonials please click here.

How can Parents Help Children?

Our children deserve the best education possible and in Scotland many of our schools and teachers are performing exceptionally well with excellent student exam results. Sadly, this is not always the case and many students are ‘slipping through the cracks’. Longer working hours for teachers and large class sizes contribute. Some teachers are exceptional and can motivate struggling students whilst others struggle. I would urge parents who have concerns that their child is under-performing to talk to the teacher and discuss options that you can put in place to help your child reach their full academic potential.  Don’t settle for “performing well at his/her level”. It is not too late to help your child get back on track and aspire to achieving the best education they can.

10 Questions to ask at Parents’ Evening

My colleague at Kip McGrath Luton has published a blog entitled “10 questions to ask at parents’ evening” and we would like to list the questions we feel parents should be asking of teachers:
  1. Is my child happy at school?  This means on an emotional and social basis.
  2. What is my child’s attitude to learning?
  3. Can he/she make friends easily?
  4. Does he/she contribute to class discussions?
  5. What does my child enjoy doing? Does my child prefer practical subjects (eg P.E, art, Design Tech), sciences (eg maths, science, geography) or humanities (history, English)?
  6. What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
  7. How can I help at home?
  8. Is he/she at the right/expected level for his/her age group? Don’t accept “performing at his/her level”.  Ask which group he/she is in and how you can help your child reach the top group.   If you are worried about your child having learning difficulties then bring this up as well.  If your child is getting extra support at school then ask for details so that you know exactly what is being done to help your child.
  9. For older children ask about any outstanding work and when school exams are.
  10.  How much homework should my child be getting?

What Next?

If after having talked to the school you remain unsatisfied, you may wish to consider extra tuition for your child.  At Kip McGrath, our fully qualified teachers will provide a full FREE educational assessment and will advise you exactly how your child is performing.  If you wish to enrol your child, an individual learning programme will be created to concentrate on specific areas of weakness. To read our full learning programmes and further information please visit our main website at

You may also wish to consider other tutoring agencies or a private tutor.  These options are discussed in our article “Does your child need an English or Maths Tutor?” and may help you make the right choice for your child.


Margaret Carmichael is a former Deputy Head Teacher of Paisley Grammar and Master Franchisee of Kip McGrath Education Centres Scotland since 1999 and has over 40 years teaching experience in Scotland.

East Kilbride Tuition – Do you know if your child is struggling at school?

Click image to go to East Kilbride Website

I am Margaret Carmichael and I run the Kip McGrath Education Centre in East Kilbride.

I pass two lovely new schools on my way to the Village in East Kilbride.  The children all look great in their school uniforms and you can sense that they are happy.

Talking to parents, it is clear that the teachers are working well with Curriculum for Excellence and most parents and teachers I have talked to believe CFE to be a good idea in principal.

Parents’ Concerns

However, I have noticed a distinct increase in parents expressing concerns about the lack of annual assessments as part of the new CFE and they find it difficult to guage how well their child is actually performing academically at school.  In some cases, this has resulted in parents being unaware of problems in English or Maths until they reach Secondary 1.

England have introduced a short reading test at age 6.  This gives parents a clear picture and allows them to know if help is required.  Having run Kip Centres for 12 years, I know that many children in the early years of primary need extra support in reading.  Parents knew this in the past because their child had not passed level A or Level B.

Our Assessments

At East Kilbride, I have a number of parents who have brought their children for assessments because they had concerns but had been told by the school that there were no worries.  When I did an assessment, it turned out that it was the parents’ instincts that were correct and that extra support was needed.

At Kip McGrath centres, we do a classic reading assessment which gives us a clear picture of a child’s reading age as well as indications of reasons for weakness.

Another area where parents have highlighted concerns is with performance in maths.  Unlike English, maths is a subject which requires building blocks and if some blocks are not there it is very hard for the child to progress.  This sometimes does not become clear until they start Secondary 1 and are given a maths test which can be very demoralising for the child.

Because all of our Maths and English tutors at Kip McGrath are fully qualified (and highly experienced) teachers, we are able to quickly pinpoint any particular weaknesses and create an individual learning plan for every student.

Arrange an Assessment

There are a number of ways to arrange a FREE educational assessment.  Either call Margaret Carmichael on 01355 266566 or email  Alternatively, visit our main East Kilbride website and click on arrange an assessment.

Social Media at Kip McGrath East Kilbride

At East Kilbride, we are embracing social media and it is an excellent way to communicate and share ideas with our students and parents.  Please like our Facebook Page and follow us on twitter  If you have friends who may be interested in Kip McGrath, please feel free to share.

East Kilbride Students

Our students are working exceptionally hard as always and we love to see them arriving for their lesson at Kip with a smile on their face.  What makes my job so rewarding as a teacher is when a student suddenly “just gets it” and to watch their confidence and abilities grow.  These are some of our Kip Stars!

SQA Exam Results 2011 – The best results ever!

Best ever SQA Exam Results for 2011 – Congratulations to everyone at Kip McGrath Livingston and Balerno, the trusted Edinburgh Tutors

I am Pip Watt and I am the Centre Director of the Kip McGrath Education Centres in Balerno, Edinburgh South and Livingston.

I am very overcome with emotion having spoken to parents and exam students today.  Every single exam student got the result they were looking for.  It has been our best results’ year ever.  Congratulations to every single student.  I and my tutors are as proud of you all as your parents must be.

I wanted to share some of the comments I have received today.

A happy father said “OMG.  Graham got a credit 2 and Craig got an A! Thanks,thanks,thanks!  I can’t begin to tell you what you have done for my sons who both hated English.  Craig was told he was going to fail Higher English by the school and thanks to you he got an A!  Graham got a Credit 2 and now English is his favourite subject.  I have no qualms about recommending your services to the school.”

Sam was part of the SQA exam results’ blunder and received a text message the day before saying he had passed all five Highers with an A pass!  Convinced it was a spam email or hoax he didn’t tell me until today. “Thank you Pip.  I must have pulled a blinder on the day. Without your help with Higher English it would have been 4 A passes and a fail!

“S” failed her prelim in Intermediate English and came to Kip McGrath.  She got a B and is coming back this term to do Higher English.

Barbara’s daughter has been coming to Kip McGrath for extra tuition in Higher English and Maths.  She got an “A” for both.  “I would like to thank you Pip and all your outstanding team of tutors for the excellent service you provide.  It was worth every single penny!”

John’s son Liam was advised by his school that he wouldn’t pass Higher English but he was determined and came to our Livingston.  He passed with a C.  He also got an A in Intermediate 2 maths.  “Thank you for all your help.  He couldn’t have passed without your support and guidance.  The whole family are absolutely delighted!”

“Thank you so much!  Cara got a ‘B’.  I will definitely be sending my son next term!”

Vicki got an A in Intermediate 1 Maths.  Vicki’s mum said “Thank you for all your help and encouragement.  Vicki will be back next term!”

I have a bottle of champagne on ice!  There are a lot of happy people in Balerno and Livingston tonight!

Next term will be starting on 17th August and we look forward to the return of our students!  For those students who are going on to College and University, we wish you every success and expect to hear regular updates on your progress!

There are still places available for next term although word is spreading fast!  We also offer tuition in English and maths to primary students from age 5.  If you have any concerns regarding your child’s education, please contact Pip Watt on either 0131 449 9101 or 01506 418191. Alternatively, you can arrange a free educational assessment by clicking on the links for Livingston or Balerno, Edinburgh South

If you would like to join us on Facebook, please like our Livingston and Balerno Pages.