SCOTTISH children are getting better at reading, but worse at maths and science, according to the latest figures from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) statistics, which record the performance of 600,000 15-year-olds from across the world, show that Scotland has the seventh highest level for reading among the 79 OECD countries.

However, that sharp improvement still only takes Scotland back to where it was about a decade ago.

The statistics show that in 2018, Scotland achieved a mean score of 504 for reading, up from 493 in 2015; 489 for maths, down from 491 in 2015, and 490 for science, down from 497 in 2015.

Canada (520), Estonia (523), Finland (520), Ireland, (518) Korea, (514) and England (505) had a higher level of performance than Scotland.

In maths, performance dropped slightly on the 491 figure in 2015 and is at its lowest level, having fallen in every PISA survey since a high of 524 in 2003.

A total of 18 other countries recorded a higher performance than Scotland in maths, including England (504) and the UK as a whole (502).

In reading, Scotland is better with low attainers than England, but worse with high attainers.

Education Secretary John Swinney insisted Scottish education was “on the right track”.

“These are very encouraging results and the latest sign that our education reforms are working,” he said.

“Scottish schools are improving and this international study confirms that.

“Reading underpins all learning and the sharp rise in performance is good news.”

The Deputy First Minister added: “There is plenty of work still to do to improve Scottish education but today’s report should give people a strong sense that we are on the right track, making substantial progress and seeing results where it counts - in the classroom.”

Scottish Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith called the statistics “damning”.

She said: “Nicola Sturgeon asked to be judged on education. This summer saw the fourth consecutive year of decline in Higher pass rates and now the SNP is presiding over the worst ever PISA results in both maths and science.

“In reading, where it should be acknowledged that there is encouraging improvement since 2015, the score is still lower than the 2012 result and considerably lower than the score in 2000.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s obsession with a second divisive referendum has come at a high cost to our schools.”

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said Swinney and Sturgeon were refusing to listen on STEM subject warnings.

He said: “While Nicola Sturgeon tours the TV studios and election debates boasting of her supposed achievements, the reality is that her so-called priority of education continues a slow decline on the SNP’s watch.”

The Green MSP Ross Greer was more sceptical about the results: “International comparisons should rarely be taken at face value, given the vastly different systems Scotland is being compared to, such as South Korea, where private tutors are the norm.”

He went on: “The most useful comparison is to our own historical performance and that gives a pretty mixed picture. PISA is useful in context but we don’t need it to tell us what the problems are in Scottish education.”