Scotland is closing parts of the attainment gap

In the Herald today:

Efforts to drive up classroom standards and close the poverty-related attainment gap are being seriously hampered by the “iron cage” of institutional bureaucracy, according to one of Scotland’s leading education thinkers. Walter Humes has warned that a “lack of openness” to new ideas and resistance to deep change from bodies such as schools watchdog Education Scotland (ES) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) are likely to stymie attempts to boost pupil performance.

Professor Walter Humes is wrong. I’ll come back to how but, first, I must make clear that Prof Humes is the real thing, unlike those many not-really profs I regularly rage against in the Tusker. And, he’s a great guy. I knew him. I used to watch him, a Scottish Alan Bennett (can I say that?), utterly and wittily demolish the arguments of people like chief school inspectors.

The Herald introduces his research:

The research seems to be based on the scrutiny of official documents and interviews with people who are ‘really quite senior and well-informed.’

Alarm bells rang when I read that. I feel sure Humes does, in his full report, consider the quantitative evidence of actual attainment statistics over time but, going by the Herald report, it looks heavily reliant on the opinion of one elite group which feels disenfranchised from the power held by another similar group.

I don’t doubt Humes is correct in pointing to bureaucratic and managerial tendencies inhibiting change. That’s everywhere and maybe he is right that the Education Secretary John Swinney, who he clearly likes, as do I, has been left dismayed by that but, nevertheless, parts of the attainment gap are closing.

‘94.4% of pupils had a ’positive destination’ including work, training or further study within three months of leaving school last year, official statistics show. The figures also reveal that the gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination has halved since 2009/10, with an increase in positive destinations for school leavers, from both backgrounds. Over the same period there have been increases at all levels of attainment – the qualifications young people are achieving. For the first time more than 30% of pupils left school with a minimum of five passes at Higher Level or better, up from 22.2% in 2009/10. The gap between those from the most and least deprived areas achieving a pass at Higher Level or better is now at a record low, reducing for the eighth successive year.’

And, there is much to be pleased about beyond this obsession with the gap:

From Glasgow’s Director of Education, Maureen McKenna, who might know a bit about this:

This is a response to all that guff about things in Scottish education being terrible. There are a lot of people painting a very negative picture. We are not saying everything is rosy but what we are saying is that there are a range of statistics out there that point to another side, that create a different narrative.

 The reduction in exclusions nationally between 2006-07 and 2018-19.

22.3% The proportion of pupils achieving five or more awards at Higher or equivalent by the end of S5. This has almost doubled since 2009-10, when the figure was 11.3 per cent

44.4% Proportion of school leavers in the most deprived areas of Scotland achieving at least one Higher or equivalent in 2017-18. In 2012-13 that figure stood at 34.9 per cent

62.2% Proportion of school leavers gaining at least one Higher or equivalent in 2017-18, compared to 55.8 per cent in 2012-13.

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8 thoughts on “Scotland is closing parts of the attainment gap

  1. Elite Bureaucracy. Colluding in an educational system from which they have most to gain.

    Life long learning. 20% of mature students. Included the attainment gap is closed. Excluded from Statistics.

    Scotland has the highest number (pro rata) graduates. 50%. More universities (pro rata) in the world. 15 uni 5.4Million pop. Colleges and skills. Apprenticeships. Tradespeople make a good living.

    Student support. Loans for all. Not means tested on household income. Low fees. Grants for lower income households. Increased nursery funding.

    Scottish invention and discovery changed the world. One of the first countries to have tertiary education. According to ability, not ability to pay.

    Westminster ConDems cut Education funding £6Billion a year. From 2015 to 2020. £30Billion. The Scottish Gov had to mitigate the cuts. Increase education funding. Unionist councils try to cut it.

    Elected to support NHS and Education. Cameron and Clegg cut funding. Reneged on promises.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rennie can read, write and witter.
    DRossie got an O level in farm handing.
    Baroness Mone got to where she is, without a ladder or much of a clue.
    Ditto Baroness Brassneck Ruthie.
    Says it all for Scotland’s education system.

    *Leotard and Baillie had a private (public) education in England.
    Says it all for the “Scottish” Labour party.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There is more evidence of the closure of the attainment gap this time from UCAS. In their analysis of University applications in Jan 2018 the produced a report covering the time-period from 2006 to 2018.

    Long story short, in 2006 applications from Scottish pupils in the most advantaged areas compared to the most disadvantaged areas were running at 4.5 to 1. By Jan 2018 it had narrowed to 2.6 to 1 and that narrowing was due to the increase in university applications from pupils in the most deprived areas. This ratio narrowed further in 2019 but not by much. Bear in mind that UCAS processes about two thirds of Uni applications from Scottish pupils. Around a third apply directly or take the College to Uni route therefore the gap may be even narrower.

    Strangely you rarely see these figures quoted all you get are assertions that the gap is not closing and the SG has failed but without any evidence supporting the assertions

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So if there is a ‘lack of openness’, and ‘resistance to new ideas and deep change’, can we have some ideas presented by Mr.Humes? ‘Deep change’ in any area of public services would take research, time and of course, likely that would cost a few £millions at least.
    Scotland’s education system and educated population has in the past been lauded as something to applaud and learn from.
    What happened when London HQ’d Labour party in Scotland were at the helm at Holyrood for a whole TEN years! Did the EngHQ’d Labour party in Scotland start to work on closing the ‘attainment gap’? No, like other services they started to run down the education system, removed money from local authorities for learning support, and implemented their PFI scam plunging Scotland’s councils into £billions of ‘debt’ for the next few decades.
    Scotland is still forced to pay billions of £’s in ‘debt’ meaning that huge amount of money is just not available to use for schools and education and other essential services. That is Labours’ legacy, and it impacts now on Scotland’s children, and on Scotland’s ability to make ‘deep change’ in areas where it could otherwise benefit the people of Scotland.

    Let’s not ignore the legacy of Labour in Scotland, they did nothing at all positive for the people, (if anyone can come up with something let us know) yet left the country in massive ‘debt’ for a long time to come. Utterly despicable, they should be locked up for scamming Scotland and the people of Scotland quite frankly.

    Ideas from Mr Humes would be good as to how the ScotGov find the cash to come up with ”ideas and make ‘deep change’ during a pandemic, and when laden with masses of ‘debt’ due to London HQ’d Labour party legacy of their ten years in charge at Holyrood.
    Usually just looking back a few years and there’s your problem right there, change takes time, and repairing decades of BritNat damage takes time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is right to look to the lever of education to improve life chances and reduce inequalities. But is it now now well-understood that there are limits to what the delivery of education alone can do to effect substantial and sustainable positive change for communities? Other economic and social policy levers need to be used, other investments need to be made.

    Scotland has had to accept – has been at best restricted by, at worst harmed by – Tory and Tory-lite economic and social policies and Westminster-determined financial hand-outs for far too long. In terms of addressing the challenges before us, this ‘system’ is patently not working well enough nor quickly enough.

    The solution is not simply independence – that is not a magic wand – but it is the necessary, enabling route to solution.


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