Attainment gap for poorer pupils is stark, say campaigners

Research from the Poverty Alliance found the attainment gap starts in the early years of education and grows wider over time.

Attainment gap for poorer pupils is stark, say campaigners Getty Images
Classroom: Research from the Poverty Alliance found the attainment gap starts in the early years of education.

Stark gaps in educational attainment risk being compounded by the pandemic, according to campaigners.

Research from the Poverty Alliance found the attainment gap starts in the early years of education and grows wider over time.

In 2019, 43.5% of pupils in the most deprived areas achieved one or more Highers when leaving school, compared to almost 79.3% of pupils living in the least deprived areas.

Inequalities continued after school years, with about 10% of young people in the most deprived areas being unemployed after the age of 16 compared to 2.6% for the least deprived.

Emerging evidence shows the pandemic is affecting children in poorer areas more due to the digital divide and lack of access to education-related resources, the report said.

Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly said: “Scotland is a country that believes that every child should have every chance.

“However, this review makes clear that too many of our young people are seeing their life chances restricted by poverty.

“The educational attainment gap is stark in Scotland and is an injustice that we cannot allow to continue.”

He continued: “We know that the pandemic is compounding the gap.

“But we also know the action that we have to take to loosen the grip of poverty on the lives of families across Scotland and to ensure that every young person in Scotland has access to the same opportunities.

“That means using every lever at our disposal to boost family incomes as well as increasing support for interventions like one-to-one tutoring and mentoring for young people from low-income backgrounds.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We agree that closing the poverty-related attainment gap has been made harder by the impact of Covid-19, with lockdown and being out of school affecting vulnerable children and those in deprived areas the hardest.

“Closing the gap remains the defining mission of this government, and we welcome this analysis of what more can be done to address some of the inequalities that exist among our young people.

“In addition to the significant investment we have recently made to increase the number of teachers and support staff in Scotland’s schools, as well as address digital inclusion, our draft Budget for 2021 goes further in our efforts to close the attainment gap with more than £127m in Pupil Equity Funding to support those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

“However, we will always be open to discussing with others how we can go further to ensure that every child and young person has an equal start in life.”