A MAJR critic of Scotland’s curriculum has warned standards are being ‘dumbed down’ since its introduction in 2010.

Professor Lindsay Paterson, from Edinburgh University, said Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) lacked “academic rigour” and could be “disastrous” for school pupils.

The academic also said CfE, which was introduced to give teachers more flexibility, could widen the attainment gap between rich and poor, not close it.

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Mr Paterson told BBC Scotland: “Curriculum for Excellence could be disastrous. And there’s two main reasons for that.

“One is the absence of academic rigour - it really is a dumbing down of the curriculum. It no longer is the systematic and rigorous and structured way it used to be in the past.

“But the major worry perhaps is even deeper than that, which is that it will widen inequality.

“The old academic knowledge - the best that has been thought and said by human beings - will still be given to the children of the well-educated middle class by their parents.

“But the other children - who can’t get it from their parents - are completely dependent on schools for it and if they’re not getting the best that has been thought and said from schools, they will get it from nowhere, and that will make inequality of learning and of culture wider than it has ever been.”

Mr Paterson said that, while politicians at Holyrood were listening and were “quite open to criticism”, the concerns of academics about the curriculum were being stifled by a fear of challenging the pervading “left-of-centre” political consensus.

He also warned a fear of criticising government policy stemmed from a perceived risk to future research contracts.

He said “Some people have said that by asking difficult questions they risk their research grants.

“These people have been very distinguished scientists, studying highly contentious matters like genetic modification or fracking.”

However, Education Secretary John Swinney rejected the criticism and insisted CfE had been arrived at after a “long process of dialogue” and had been endorsed by international observers.

While last year’s international PISA rankings caused concern placing Scotland as “average” more pupils are gaining Highers than ever before and the number of Scots getting to university is at record levels.

Mr Swinney said: “There is always a vigorous debate in education, but what I’m absolutely confident about is that Scotland’s curriculum is the right curriculum for our young people.

“It addresses all of their needs and equips them with the skills that they require for the challenges of the future.

“More importantly Scotland’s curriculum has been validated as a strong, a bold and an effective curriculum by the OECD and by our international council of education advisers.”

Liz Smith, the Conservative Party’s education spokeswoman, said the problems of CfE had been brough about by flawed deliver.

She added: “There is a complete lack of clarity around its definition and therefore it has been open to different interpretations which has brought confusion to our classrooms.

“Parents, teachers and pupils are frustrated by the lack of progress and that is not acceptable.”