The cleverest Scottish children are a year’s worth of schooling behind at science compared to before the SNP took power, think tank the Sutton Trust found.
Both Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale attacked the SNP during FMQs on Thursday, as they accused Ms Sturgeon of failing to uphold and improve Scottish educational standards.
Ms Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “It is a generation of Scottish children who are being left behind in the race for qualifications and future jobs.
“Scotland used to lead the world in education. Why under the SNP are we always playing catch up?”
In response, Ms Sturgeon said her political rival had done a disservice to pupils and teachers across Scotland.
“I do not and never will shy away from the challenges we must address,” she said.
Nicola Sturgeon was accused of failing a generation of Scottish children
“In our education system today we have record high exam passes and record numbers of young people going into positive destinations after they leave school.”
Nicola Sturgeon said it was important to note that the Sutton Trust's report was based on data that pre-dates its latest measures to close the attainment gap.
"It is an important report. It is one that aides our understanding of the challenges we need to address in order to tackle the attainment gap," she said.
"I think it is important to note, though, that the Sutton Trust does not present new data.
"It is analysis of the Pisa scores that were published in December. Of course, the Pisa scores are based on a survey that was carried out two years ago.
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Kezia Dugdale also cited the Sutton Trust report
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It is a generation of Scottish children who are being left behind in the race for qualifications and future jobs
"A survey that pre-dates the Attainment Challenge and pre-dates the reforms to our education system that are under way."
Ms Dugdale, the Labour leader at Holyrood, said the report had exposed the SNP’s “catastrophic failures” on education.
She said the subjects most critical to growing Scotland’s economy were the ones the SNP was failing the most.
“The SNP are leaving the poorest children behind,” she added.
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Researchers at the trust found a gap equivalent to more than two years in schooling for science, reading and maths between poor pupils in the top 10 per cent of achievers nationally compared to their equally clever but well-off peers.
Their analysis used the latest results from international Pisa tests to examine the performance of 10% of the most able pupils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, taking into account their background.
In the past decade, the gap in science performance between all pupils in Scotland has increased by around a year of schooling, described in the report as a "major weakness".
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