TO fully appreciate the impact Glasgow schools are having it is vital to understand the context of poverty in which they are working.

All the research shows us the single most significant drag on attainment is deprivation and Glasgow has some of the poorest communities in the UK.

We know that children living in poverty are not as healthy, so they miss more school, and they live in more stressed households because not having enough money is stressful.

Family stresses can be more severe if adults are struggling to cope and so pupils can experience family break-up, domestic abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse in the home.

That means pupils in these circumstances find it much harder to settle at school and they may also start at a disadvantage in key areas such as literacy and numeracy.

In the past, poverty has been used as an excuse for not thinking hard enough about what sort of schools we need to give a level playing field for all children, but schools can make a difference and that is definitely something that has been embraced in Glasgow.

Glasgow focussed very hard on school-level evaluations of what they were doing, looking at the quality of teaching and learning as well as the expectations people had of pupils from poorer backgrounds and there has been a long and sustained focus on that.

It was critical to make schools think very hard about whether or not they exclude pupils and see the circumstances of the child first and realise that excluding them was not going to help them.

The support schools have given to ensure pupils’ mental and physical wellbeing was nourished has also been critical, as has breakfast clubs and homework clubs.

Looking at the statistics it is clear significant progress is being made and, given Glasgow has such a high percentage of pupils living in poorer communities, the message is that schools can raise attainment for even the most disadvantaged young people.

Professor Sue Ellis is co-director of the Centre for Education and Social Policy at Strathclyde University