Ministers have come under fire over the attainment gap in Scotland schools, with opposition leaders claiming at the moment the poorest pupils are being left to “pay the price of the Government’s failure”.
Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens all attacked SNP ministers in the wake of new figures from the exams body, showing pupils at private schools were much more likely to get top marks.
In these schools, more than three quarters (75.6%) of those doing Highers this year were awarded an A grade, figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) showed.
However this result was only achieved by less than half (47.6%) of all those sitting Higher exams.
Looking at National 5 qualifications, the 2021 figures showed 76.9% of those studying for these at independent schools achieved an A – while only 46.7% of all candidates for the qualification were awarded the top mark.
The coronavirus pandemic meant formal exams were cancelled in Scotland for the second year in a row, with marks awarded on the basis of teacher judgment. However many pupils still had to sit exam-like tests as part of this process.
Hitting out at the Scottish Government, Conservative education spokesman Oliver Mundell said: “After 14 years of failure the SNP have lost all ambition to close the widening attainment gap.
“Pupils have already had to adapt to disrupted learning, and these latest figures confirm they are also coming up against an education system that delivers equity in name only.”
The Tory MSP warned: “Without further investment to help pupils catch up and a clear plan to restore consistent standards in our education system, this generation are going to be left behind with fewer opportunities available to them.”
Labour education spokesman Michael Marra said the SQA figures showed that the “SNP and SQA designed a system this year” for awarding grades which had “widened and engrained Scotland’s already substantial attainment gap”.
Mr Marra said: “We have seen the most privileged pupils benefit, and the poorest lose out by design.
“Far from closing the gap – as was supposed to be their ‘defining mission’ – they have made it worse, and it is the poorest pupils in Scotland who pay the price of the Government’s failure.”
Meanwhile Liberal Democrat education spokesman Willie Rennie complained that the “education attainment gap is yawning as wide as ever”.
The former party leader added: “That pupils in private schools secure far better results shows how much government has let down pupils and teachers in state schools.”
Scottish Green education spokesman Ross Greer was also critical, saying: “These stats show the need to fundamentally rethink our national qualifications system.
“Last year’s exams shambles demonstrated that shocking levels of inequality are baked into Scottish education. They were not a one-off.”
He added: “If we are serious about giving every young person an equal opportunity to succeed, we should reassess a system where the privilege and advantage of private school provides young people with an edge in our education system.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to closing the attainment gap and ensuring that every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential.
“This year’s SQA results saw a narrower poverty-related attainment gap compared with 2019, and the number of university acceptances from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland reached a record high for SQA results day.
“Progress has been made but we know there is more to do. That’s why we are investing a further £1 billion over the course of this Parliament to help to close the attainment gap.
“The attainment gap between pupils in state and independent schools for passes in Highers and Advanced Highers was narrower in 2021 than in 2019.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe