EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney has warned that closing the gap in achievement between Scotland’s poorest and richest pupils is “stubborn and challenging” – and admitted that support has “not been good enough”.

Mr Swinney was speaking after announcing the parameters of a widespread review into Scottish education, which will include curriculum design, how teachers are supported and investigate how pupils move into the senior phase of their learning.

READ MORE: EIS chief in call for coordinated strike action ahead of Holyrood election

In his speech to teachers and education leaders, Mr Swinney pleaded that the review does not become a “distraction or to create uncertainty in the education system” and stressed that the study “will not be a review of the whole of Scottish education”.

 The Education Secretary told teachers that “we now need a period of consolidation and stability to ensure improvements have time to become embedded”.

He added: “We cannot expect there to be a continual increase in pass rates in a qualification system with credibility and rigour.

He said that the Scottish Government was grappling with an ”uncomfortable truth” that approaches  in supporting “our most vulnerable children and young people have to date not been good enough”.

READ MORE: Attainment for Scotland's school leavers has worsened

The attainment gap between the most deprived areas and the least deprived areas of Scotland has widened by 0.6 per cent from 2017/18 to 2018/19 for those gaining at least one Level 4 pass.  Analysis by the Scottish Government said this was due to a decrease in the proportion of leavers from the most deprived areas attaining one pass or more.

In the SNP’s manifesto before the last Holyrood election, the party pledged to “close the attainment gap between young people from the most and those from the least affluent backgrounds”.

Mr Swinney added: “We know that the poverty-related attainment gap is a stubborn and challenging issue that has to be confronted. We have indicated that would take more than one parliamentary term for us to try and succeed on that objective.

“We started that work in 2015 and I think we are making important progress but there will be further work that has to be done to take that forward over the next parliamentary term.

READ MORE: Scottish Education Secretary condemns school visit by drag queen called Flowjob

“It’s a combination of recognising that significant progress has been made but also about keeping a very clear sense of direction about what needs to be done in the next phase of our work.”