THE gap in performance between rich and poor pupils widens throughout primary school, new statistics show.

The latest national figures on pupil performance show a higher proportion of children from the wealthiest areas achieve expected levels in reading, writing, communicating and numeracy.

The figures, which record teacher judgements on pupil progress under the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), show the gap widens as children get older.

Teaching unions and opposition politicians called for greater investment in education from the Scottish Government.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, said: “Initiatives to tackle the impact of deprivation require substantial investment in our schools in terms of additional staff and resources.

“Increasing teacher numbers in order to lower class sizes is an essential step in tackling the impact of poverty and ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to achieve to their full potential.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about making a positive impact on tackling poverty and deprivation, it must commit to ensuring that greater numbers of qualified teachers are employed in the important early years sector of education.”

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said a decline in teacher numbers dating back to 2007 was to blame.

He said: “The widening attainment gap in our primary schools highlights the real problem in our education system.

“Schools aren’t getting enough core funding and, as a result, money to cut the gap between the richest and poorest pupils ends up simply being used to plug gaps.”

However, John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said the government recognised the scale of the challenge.

He said: “That is why we are doubling free early learning and childcare to give every child the best start in life and reforming education, backed by £750 million over the course of this parliament through the Attainment Scotland Fund.

“We have also set out a robust package of indicators to measure progress closing the attainment gap.”

Stephen McCabe, education spokesman for council umbrella body Cosla, said local authorities were “absolutely committed” to improving the lives of young people throughout Scotland.

He added: “There is much to be celebrated, but still a lot to be done to truly address the poverty-related attainment gap and to continue to improve children’s happiness and wellbeing.”

The 2016/17 Achievement of CfE Levels Return shows the gap between the most and least deprived pupils in P1 is 17 points for reading, rising to 20 points by P7.

For writing, the gap widens from 18 points to 22 between P1 and P7 while in listening and talking it grows from 12 points to 17 and in numeracy widens from 14 points to 20.

In S3 the gap between students from rich and poor backgrounds achieving minimum levels was up to 15 percentage points.


ANALYSIS: Welcome rise in teacher total is only part of the story

By Andrew Denholm

THE news that Scottish classrooms have more than 500 additional teachers this year compared to 2016 has been widely welcomed.

A running sore for the SNP administration has been the significant decline in teachers since 2007, made worse by a recent recruitment crisis which has seen hundreds of teaching jobs going unfilled.

The fact the vast majority of the additional teachers have been funded through a new initiative to target extra cash at schools in deprived areas has been highlighted as a success story by the Scottish Government On the face of it, more money for the schools that need it most being used to fund additional frontline teachers is hard to argue with.

However, it has raised some concerns. Because cash from the Scottish Attainment Fund is not built into core budgets there is an air of uncertainty over its future.

The are also concerns from those working to support pupils with additional support needs (ASN) with another rise in the numbers of these vulnerable pupils at a time when specialist staff have decreased.

An increase in incidents of low level disruption in primary schools recorded by Ipsos MORI has partly been blamed on a reduction in the availability of resources such as support staff and expert advice.

Headteachers and teachers told the survey team the reduction in support staff at a time of increasing ASN pupils had resulted in a lack of one-to-one support and a wider negative impact on behaviour.

And the publication of the second year of Curriculum for Excellence levels achieved by pupils in basic skills such as literacy and numeracy serves as yet another reminder, if any were needed, of the scale of the task facing Scotland as it tries to close the attainment gap between rich and poor.

From the very beginning of their school life as they start in the first year of primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds lag behind their wealthier peers and as they get older the gap continues to widen.

All eyes now turn to this week’s Budget at a pivotal time for the resourcing of schools.