INDEPENDENT experts have called for Edinburgh’s private schools to offer up resources to poorer children.

The Edinburgh Poverty Commission has set out a series of actions for a citywide blueprint for supporting around 77,000 people currently below the bread line – about 15 per cent of the total population including one in every five children.

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Edinburgh’s high living costs has resulted in thousands of families being forced into relative poverty, while experts have warned that a “polarisation in school catchment areas and attainment is greater than the rest of Scotland”.

Experts hope to roll out an income maximisation project, Maximise, across the city. The programme, which covers housing issues, family support and employability has recouped a staggering total of £668,000 in unclaimed entitlements across Edinburgh for families in the last school year.

The commission has also called on the city council to consider redrawing catchment areas to create a more level playing field.

Chairman of the commission, Jim McCormick, who is also the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Scotland associate director, has issued an appeal to Edinburgh’s private and independent schools to offer up their online resources to less affluent schools, some of which are a stone’s throw away.

Dr McCormick believes shared digital resources is a “reasonable ask” that will help “level the playing field in terms of genuinely good opportunities kids can enjoy, beyond the curriculum, that kids can enjoy, no matter where you go to school in the city”.

He said: “We have seen in the past some sharing of facilities in a physical sense – that may be theatre spaces, after-hours access to buildings, it might be playing fields and we welcome that and ,when safe to do so, we hope that continues.

"But we’ve been thoughtful about what this period of the pandemic has meant – it's meant accelerated online learning especially in private schools – some maintaining the pace in some state schools and other kids falling further behind across the city.

HeraldScotland: Levels of poverty in EdinburghLevels of poverty in Edinburgh

“If we’re going to recover the learning loss and get back on track to closing the attainment gap, which the First Minister said was the single biggest challenge for Scotland, there are lots of things that matter.

“One idea is could we see online high-quality teaching and learning resources being shared, particularly for schools in the city where the curriculum offer may be narrower than elsewhere.

“If this is about all of the city, it would be odd to say nothing about a really important civic players who aren’t often enough brought into these kind of conversations.”

The commission has called for a rethink of Edinburgh’s school catchment areas which are claimed to accentuate the attainment gap by widening the divide between rich and poor households.

Dr McCormick said: “Although the attainment gap in Edinburgh has been closing in common with the rest of Scotland, it’s been doing so more slowly and the challenge to begin with is bigger – polarisation in school catchment areas and attainment is greater than the rest of Scotland.

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“We believe that the city needs to address the fact that your attainment coming from a low income neighbourhood in Edinburgh is worse than in Glasgow, Paisley, Dumbarton, Clydebank and so on – there's a bigger challenge than the west."

“We’re not saying let’s start tinkering with catchment areas currently. We’re saying over time, as we do have more mixed income neighbourhoods, there should be a natural adjustment of catchment areas.

“The degree of polarisation we currently see where the vast majority of catchment areas are skewed one way or another in terms of their mix whereas that’s less true in the rest of Scotland.”

Research has also found that the majority of those in poverty in Edinburgh are in work – but steep housing costs hit families hard, prompting calls f or the capital to become a living wage city within 12 months.