THE stark challenge facing primary schools in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas has been revealed in new figures.

The Scottish Government statistics show significantly lower levels of attainment amongst pupils from poorer backgrounds from the moment they start primary.

Schools in deprived areas are often blamed for lower standards, but the figures show just how far they have to go to catch up with those serving richer areas.

Read more: John Swinney under fire as pupils fail to meet primary literacy and numeracy goals

In East Renfrewshire, which houses some of the most affluent suburbs in Scotland, 91 per cent of pupils already achieve expected levels of reading shortly after starting school compared to just 77 per cent in Glasgow, where poverty is a significant issue.

In East Dunbartonshire, which also serves affluent suburbs of Glasgow, 93 per cent of pupils were assessed as having met the required levels in listening and talking in P1 compared to just 79 per cent in neighbouring West Dunbartonshire.

Overall, just 74 per cent of pupils from the poorest postcodes reached expected levels in reading at the beginning of school compared to 90 per cent from the richest postcodes. In writing and numeracy the figures were 71 per cent and 89 per cent and 78 per cent and 92 per cent respectively.

The sharp contrast emerged as the government published figures for the levels pupils have achieved in key areas under the Curriculum for Excellence according to the judgements of their teachers.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said the figures showed the importance of input from families before pupils went to school.

Read more: John Swinney under fire as pupils fail to meet primary literacy and numeracy goals

She said: “The P1 information is probably the most revealing as it illustrates the challenge faced by schools. Put simply, the impact of factors outwith education are plain to see from the first day.

“Any of these challenges, which can include insecure housing, poverty, physical or mental health issues, disability or exposure to violence, would have a negative effect on anyone, but children are particularly vulnerable.

“The biggest change in Scottish education is to have educators and policy-makers understand that schools and teachers cannot do it on their own.”

Dr Alan Britton, a senior university teacher from Glasgow University’s School of Education, said the wider data published by the Scottish Government invited “fruitless comparisons” between schools serving different communities.

But he added: “What the P1 data tells us is that before pupils even come to school significant gaps have opened up in attainment.

“If we want to address this we should be targeting more of our resources at pre-school level and supporting vulnerable families.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, backed the call.

He said: “Levels of family income are a major factor in early life experience and educational achievement and this is clearly seen in the P1 figures.

Read more: John Swinney under fire as pupils fail to meet primary literacy and numeracy goals

“This confirms the need for programmes targeted in areas of deprivation to ensure all young children can have a good start to their school education.

“The need for investment in a high-quality pre-school experience, led by fully qualified teachers, is also clear.”

Vicky Crichton, policy manager for the Save the Children charity, added: “These statistics show the attainment gap already exists when children arrive in P1.

“The government needs to ensure children have the best possible support for early learning.”