Exam-based attainment gap narrows significantly in Scotland

In an all-too-typical feeding frenzy, Scotland’s MSM misinterpret the data and personalise it in terms of the First Minister, not the education minister, not the education authorities, not the schools and not the teachers, all of whom, to some degree have had day-to-day responsibility for narrowing the attainment gap between those in the most deprived area and those better off.

The Herald has clearly restrained its Nicolaphobes, avoided such a front page, and has provided this correct data:

Statistics from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show that for pupils in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland, the Higher pass rate was 70.2per cent this year, down from 83.2 per cent last year

The SQA said the attainment gap between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland was 15 percentage points in 2022, up from 7.8 percentage points in 2021. However the gap is narrower than in 2019, when it was 16.9 percentage points.


So, to repeat the bleeding obvious, you can’t meaningfully compare the exam-based 2022 results with the no-exam-based 2020 or 2021 results. Teachers in deprived areas were then given the power to actually close the gap by using their wider knowledge of what they felt pupils could do. You might want to make non-exam-based methods the norm but no credible educationist would make the comparison that has informed the above headlines.

Comparing 2019 and 2022 is also a bit problematic but it’s a lot more credible. So, the narrowing between 2019 and 2022 of 1.9% as a percentage of the 2019 gap, 16.9%, is 11.2%. That’s a statistically significant difference.

That’s the news.

Footnote: The Herald holding back from anything that might be used to attack their pals in the EIS leadership? https://talkingupscotlandtwo.com/2020/12/17/eis-labour-media-chums-campaign-against-snp-is-certainly-determined-if-unrepresentative/


9 thoughts on “Exam-based attainment gap narrows significantly in Scotland

  1. Of course, it is a fact that the teachers in the private sector and in schools serving areas with a low SIMD, were under severe pressure from parents and others to ‘give young people the benefit of the doubt’. Given the selective effect of fees and house prices, coupled with years of social, material and health benefits, tutors, gaming orders of merit, the exam derived results for such children are influenced to produce generally higher grades for the group as a whole. However, the variation of results in these schools is wider than the national variation. The same is true for all schools, largely as a result of sample sizes. Every year children from areas with high SIMD have attained the highest grades.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “That’s the news” where we are, the news where you are is not news to us…

    It’s long past obvious being coordinated propaganda, the creation of the negative bombarding the public despite the facts contradicting the story, allows the usual political suspects to play the “no smoke without fire” game. Cue Tsunami Baillie or similar wailing and gnashing teeth, ‘Wir doomed….”

    From what I’ve seen, it was James Cook himself out of the blocks as first highlighted in the wrong-exam-pass-rate-climbs-by-4 posting
    As Stephen McKenzie there later observed –
    “James Cook’s piece on the BBC Network Evening News was a shocker. It started off with the pass rate figures, but he really went tonto about his views on the “Attainment Gap”.
    Does he actually really understand that he is not an opposition politician and that if he stuck to his “Day Job” then the reputation of BBC Scotland might be less dire.?”

    Surprised at the Herald breaking ranks, presumably they realised this nonsense wouldn’t fly…

    Liked by 4 people

  3. You will have noted that the ‘newspapers’ quoted above are really just propaganda sheets for their unionist owners .
    Imagine for a moment that the current Scottish Government was DRoss’s Tories ( a difficult feat I know without mind-bending drugs !) – what would the headlines have been ?

    ”Scottish pupils recover ground from Covid catastrophe !” ( Scotsman )
    ” DRoss reduces Attainment Gap !” ( Daily Mail )
    ” Gers win in Europe ! ” ( Daily Record )

    Liked by 4 people

  4. There are no previously comparable years for the attainment gap as the disruption caused by Covid revealed that although the Scottish Government had been putting funds into reducing the attainment gap the SQA had been offsetting this to some extent by disproportionately marking down the results from schools in deprived areas.
    The most can be said was that in 2019, the last year of formal examinations before Covid the gap was 16.9 percentage points, that has narrowed slightly to 15 percentage points in 2022.
    At least the SQA’s algorithm distortion has now been removed and the real rate of progress will be measurable in future years.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It long past the time when the EIS leadership woke up to the gaslighting of Scotland at the expense of the reputation of its members’ profession.

    We know that the corporate media and BBC Scotland engage in this negativity. However, it’s time that the EIS and individual teachers in Scotland woke up to the role of the Labour Party in undermining the achievements of teachers and of senior school pupils. As an example, does the EIS really find this acceptable?

    Firstly, this is from an EIS press release: ‘Scotland’s students & teachers should be proud of results following very challenging year’ (09 Aug 2022)

    ‘Scotland’s teachers and lecturers deserve huge recognition for the work that they have done in supporting learners to ACHIEVE SO STRONGLY OVERALL AND IN HELPING TO REDUCE THE GAP IN ATTAINMENT BETWEEN the most and least deprived students across N5, Higher and Advanced Higher.’ (my emphasis)

    Source https://www.eis.org.uk/latest-news/results

    And in stark contrast, on the same occasion, this is from Michael Marra MSP, education spokesperson for the Labour Party In Scotland – from his twitter account

    Michael Marra MSP @michaeljmarra · Aug 9
    ‘Higher attainment fell by 13% among the most deprived quintile. This is compared to a 5.9% fall for least deprived. So the reversion to old system has double the impact on the grades of the poorest than it has on the wealthiest. This isn’t ‘new normal’ it’s same old Nats.’

    Perhaps the new EIS General Secretary, Andrea Bradley should ask Mr Marra why he is opting to misrepresent – why he is negatively framing – the solid achievements of her union’s members and the young people they teach.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Urghhh! Should read: ‘… when the EIS leadership should have woken up to the gaslighting of Scotland at the expense of the reputation of its members’ profession.’

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Including mature students there is no attainment gap in Scotland. Scotland has the highest number of universities pro rata and one of the highest educated population in the world. 15s uni 5.4million pop. Same as Finland. A higher % of educated population than Canada. Canada 56% the second highest. Life long learning. Mature students are always left out of the equation. People can go back to education. Eg US 40% educated to degree level.

    Scottish Gov support for students. Lower fees. Grants and loans for lower income families. Increased support for care leavers. Loans for all. No means testing. (Labour) which prevented talented students from going to university. Loans have to be paid back in any case at a lower rate. With higher expectation outcome of salary. A proportion pro rata.

    30% students from school. 20-25% mature students. 15%? EU students. + Foreign students (full cost). The highest number pro rata in the world. Scotland was the first to have tertiary education – 14 years. Now 18 years. + Colleges and apprenticeships. 100,000 apprenticeships. Trades people can make a comfortable living,

    There is a need for more diversity. More training for additional needs. In education and society. Class sizes could come down if local authorities took their responsibilities. Employed more teachers than class room assistants and build more schools were necessary. They keep classroom sizes up to thirty (plus classroom assistants) the statuary limit. Teachers have higher qualifications and higher remuneration than elsewhere.

    If the (Gov) limit was lowered. Local authorities would have to be responsible for lowering sizes and increased school building where required. New housing etc. They only build schools when the pupil ratio increases putting stress on the schools in the area. They can become overcrowded. Bad planning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.