By Lucy Ashton
The SNP have been accused of “leaving behind” thousands of Scottish pupils from the most deprived backgrounds in the wake of new data showing that the poverty-related attainment gap is growing faster in the most popular subjects.
The overall gulf in Higher results achieved by youngsters from the most and least affluent areas stood at 16 percentage points this year – up 0.3 points on 2017, despite the SNP’s flagship pledge to eradicate it.
However, the Scottish Conservatives have learned – via a Freedom of Information request – that the gap in English and Maths has widened by a bigger margin.
For English, Scotland’s most popular subject, the gap has grown by two percentage points since 2017. The proportion of deprived pupils scoring at least C in English has fallen to 64 per cent, while for affluent pupils it has held steady at around 85 per cent.
The gap for Maths, the second most popular subject, has also grown by two points. The pass rate among deprived pupils fell to 62 per cent in 2023, while the affluent pass rate remained around 81 per cent.
Tory education spokesperson Liam Kerr, education secretary Jenny Gilruth and First Minister Humza Yousaf in the Scottish Parliament.
Shadow education secretary Liam Kerr slammed the statistics as “disgraceful” and urged ministers to address the issue and finally prioritise Scotland’s education system.
Liam Kerr MSP said: “It is disgraceful that so many pupils from the most deprived backgrounds are being left behind by the SNP Government.
“The widening attainment gap should be a source of shame for ministers, who continue to let down young Scots from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
“For a government that claims to be ‘progressive’, this represents an abject failure.
“It is particularly galling that the attainment gap is growing even more quickly in the two most popular subjects, Maths and English.
“These are among the most vital disciplines because they can make such a contribution to future education or employment opportunities.
“SNP ministers must reflect on and address their dismal record on educational attainment for our most disadvantaged young people.
“The Scottish Conservatives would find the root causes, and act immediately to reverse the problem by working closely with teachers and others who have ideas for solutions, but are simply not being listened to.
“It is to the SNP’s shame that 16 years of their Government has failed to either do this or arrest the increasing attainment gap.”
- The Attainment gap at Higher English has widened since 2017. Data released by the SQA shows that the attainment gap for Higher English – Scotland’s most popular subject sat by over 34,000 pupils this year – has grown by 2 percentage points since 2017. The number of deprived pupils scoring at least C in English fell by 2 points to 64 per cent, while affluent pupils held steady at around 85 per cent. (SQA, 22 August 2023, link).
- The Attainment gap at Higher Maths is wider than last year. Data released by the SQA shows that the attainment gap for Higher Maths – the second most popular subject sat by 18,000 pupils this year – grew 2 points. There was a 2 point fall among deprived pupils to 62 per cent, while the affluent pass ate remained around 81 per cent. (SQA, 22 August 2023, link).
- The attainment gap in Higher STEM subjects is wider than the average gap across all subjects. Data released by the SQA shows that the Higher attainment gap for STEM subjects is consistently above the average gap for all courses. The gap for Engineering Science is 30 points, Design and Manufacture 23 points, Environmental Science 21 points, Chemistry 20 points, Biology and Computing Science 19 points, while Physics was more than 17 points. (SQA, 22 August 2023, link).
|Course||MOST DEPRIVED 2023||LEAST DEPRIVED 2023||DEPRIVED CHANGE 2017-2022||AFFLUENT CHANGE 2017-2022||GAP 2017||GAP 2023||GAP CHANGE|
|Design and Manufacture||43.1%||66.6%||-10.0%||-6.8%||20.3%||23.5%||3.2%|