Achievement Gap Between Wealthy, Poor Widens in Scotland


New research has found that the attainment gap among rich and disadvantaged students in Scotland has widened. Wealthy students are seven times more likely to earn three Higher A grades than their less affluent peers.

A Freedom of Information request by Scottish Conservatives reveals a wide gap between the top 20 percent of wealthier kids and the bottom 20 percent of less affluent students. The councils of Argyll, Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian and Midlothian had zero disadvantaged students achieving the university entry requirements, the findings reveal.

The attainment gap between wealthy and poor students is estimated to have increased by 1 percent during the period 2013-2014, the Scotsman reports. In 32 Scottish councils in total, children from less affluent neighbourhoods are less likely to achieve the grades necessary to enter university. Even in affluent councils like the East Lothian, not a single student from the poorest 20 percent earned three Higher As, the Guardian reports.

Four years ago, 17.4% of affluent students received three Highers As, but only 2.5% of the least affluent students did. In 2014, the gap widened even more, with 21.13% of wealthy students achieving the university entrance benchmark as compared to less than 3% of their poorer peers. At East Renfrewshire, the attainment gap between poor and rich children is as wide as 31.5%, the Guardian notes.

Calls for narrowing the gap between the rich and poor have been made repeatedly. With the new findings surfacing, the Commission on School Reform says immediate action is necessary to make substantial progress on the issue. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative party leader, said of Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to close the education gap between rich and poor students, according to Express:

“In education, her record is one of failure and experts say her plans won’t fix it. How bad do things have to get before we see the action we need?”

In response, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon emphasized that about 300 schools are already making progress through governmental funding, explaining that there’s still room for more progress. Sturgeon also noted that since 2007, when only 23% of students achieved a single Higher A, the figure has risen to 40% today.

At the same time as Scotland’s attainment gap widens, in England, free schools seem to have done their part in closing the gap, The Telegraph reports.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says that free schools, which run independently of local authorities, managed to improve teaching standards due to the increased responsibility parents and teachers have under the model.

Morgan met with Sturgeon in Edinburgh to discuss how free schools and other initiatives have helped close the attainment gap in England.

Among other things, Morgan explained how the student premium, which is funding paid directly to schools in poor areas, resulted in more poor students improving their academic achievement in both primary and secondary education.

In the same vein, 90,000 more children in England are achieving the expected literacy level in the 3Rs by the time they finish primary school. In Scotland, student performance in arithmetic, reading and writing is falling in both primary and secondary level education.