By Bill Heaney
The SNP have come under fire from the Scottish Conservatives over “misleading” claims that the poverty-related attainment gap is closing.
When questioned about the “mess” that she had inherited, SNP education secretary Jenny Gilruth insisted in parliament last week: “We are starting to see real progress in relation to the poverty-related attainment gap closing.”
But the latest statistics on attainment contradict this statement.
A recent Scottish government report reveals that the attainment gap has widened under the SNP – with the difference between the proportion of S3 pupils from the most and least deprived areas who achieved their expected literacy level jumping from 13.8% in 2018-19 to 16.3% in 2021-2022.
That pattern is repeated in numeracy, where the attainment gap grew from 13.5% in 2018-19 to 15% in 2021-2022. At Higher level and above, it widened from 34.4% in 2020-21 to 37% in 2021-22.
Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liam Kerr has slammed Jenny Gilruth’s statement as “simply untrue”, adding that it “insults young Scots who have been consistently failed by this SNP government”.
He warned that the attainment gap is “getting worse” under the SNP and urged the minister to be transparent about the government’s lack of progress.
Liam Kerr MSP said: “Jenny Gilruth claimed the poverty-related attainment gap is closing, but the statistics show that’s simply untrue.
“The reality is the attainment gap has widened under the SNP – and continues to do so. No matter which way the education secretary tries to spin the statistics, it’s clear that things are getting worse on her government’s watch.
Tory’s new education spokesman Liam Kerr and SNP Minister Jenny Gilruth.
“Nicola Sturgeon once described eliminating the attainment gap as her party’s defining mission. But her pledge lies in tatters.
“Children across Scotland have suffered as a result of the SNP’s abject failures on education – but the data shows those from the most deprived backgrounds are the worst affected.
“Making misleading claims on the attainment gap insults young Scots who have been consistently failed by this SNP government. Jenny Gilruth must be transparent and acknowledge that the SNP have failed lamentably to eliminate the attainment gap and take urgent action to address it.”
Jenny Gilruth said there is ‘real progress’ on closing the attainment gap. In response to Meghan Gallacher saying: ‘I understand that the cabinet secretary has inherited a mess after 16 years of Scottish National Party Government…’ Gilruth said: ‘I think that the member does a disservice to Scottish education when she describes it as “a mess”. Actually, we are starting to see real progress in relation to the poverty-related attainment gap closing.’ (Official Report¸ 22 June 2023, link).
The attainment gap for literacy has widened again under the SNP. Government reports show that the gap between the proportion of S3 pupils from the most and least deprived areas who achieved their expected level in literacy widened from 13.8 percentage points in 2018-19 to 16.3 percentage points in In 2021-22. (Scottish Government, 23 June 2023, link)
The attainment gap for numeracy has widened under the SNP. The gap between the proportion of S3 pupils from the most and least deprived areas who achieved their expected level in numeracy widened from 13.5 percentage points in 2018-19 to 15 percentage points in 2021-22. (Scottish Government, 23 June 2023, link)
The attainment gap widened at Higher level and above. The attainment gap at SCQF Level 6 or better widened from 34.4 percentage points in 2020-21 to 37 percentage points in 2021-22. Over the same period the attainment gap narrowed for 9 local authorities and widened for 19. (Scottish Government, 23 June 2023, link)
The attainment gap for secondary pupils has widened in more councils that it has narrowed. A Scottish Government report on attainment reveals that the attainment gap in secondary schools leaving with SCQF level 6 or above narrowed for 9 local authorities and widened for 19 between 2020-21 and 2021-22. (Scottish Government, 23 June 2023, link)