Performance in the PISA ranking system has remained stable in England and Northern Ireland since 2006.
Under the SNP, Scotland’s education system has gone from being the best in the United Kingdom, with standards well above the OECD average, to third out of the home nations. Standards in reading, science and maths in Scotland have fallen to their lowest levels and are now no more than average. Average might be good enough for the SNP, but does the Secretary of State agree that the UK needs to be aiming higher and that the falls in standards in Scotland are shameful, particularly when the SNP Government claim to have education at the top of their priorities? [Interruption.]
I am not sure what the dismissive guttural noises from our friends in the SNP were all about. I share my hon. Friend’s regret about the decline in maths and science, and I am pleased that he and colleagues both here and in the Scottish Parliament are holding the Scottish Government to account.
Of course, we have regular contact with the different devolved Administrations on a range of matters, not only because there are always things that we can learn from each other, but because we have many shared interests and interdependencies, and education is yet another area where we can work better together as one United Kingdom.
May I, Mr Speaker, join colleagues in wishing you congratulations on your 10 years in your position? You have done some marathon sessions recently, and it might be worth the House of Commons Library finding out what your total hourage in the Chair would be.
This week, Scottish schools break up for the summer holidays. I am sure the House will join me in wishing the pupils and the staff a very well-earned rest. May I give my very best wishes to Mr Andrew McSorley, the headteacher at St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, who is retiring this week? In Scotland, we ensure that all young people remain in full-time education until the age of 16. In contrast, in England we see the increased use of permanent exclusions and off-rolling, meaning that results, including PISA results, are skewed by the removal of challenging pupils. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that all students in England remain in education and are included in results such as OECD and school league tables?
May I start on the happy note of joining the hon. Lady in congratulating Mr McSorley on his upcoming retirement and wishing the best to the pupils and staff at schools across Scotland as they move towards their holidays?
There are more years of compulsory education in England than there are in Scotland. As for permanent exclusions, of course I regret it when children have to be expelled, but sometimes it is necessary, and necessary sometimes because of the other 27 children in the class. In fact, the rate of permanent exclusions that we see in schools today is lower than it was a decade ago when the Labour party was in government.