‘3 year reading gap’ between rich and poor pupils

A three-year literacy gap is developing between rich and poor students, according to new research. Picture: TSPL
A three-year literacy gap is developing between rich and poor students, according to new research. Picture: TSPL
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BRIGHT boys from poorer backgrounds in Scotland’s schools are nearly three years behind their rich, clever male classmates in reading, a study has suggested.

The report revealed that high-achieving boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to perform poorly on international tests than those in other nations.

Scotland had the worst record of the 32 nations taking part in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) international PISA reading tests.

The report, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, found that bright Scottish boys from the poorest families lagged nearly three years behind their high-achieving male classmates from the richest backgrounds.

This gap was bigger in Scotland than in every other developed, with the country lagging behind Poland, Portugal and Greece, which had gaps of approximately between two and two-and-a-half years.

In countries such as Canada, Denmark, Germany and Finland, this gap was 15 months or less, the study found. England had a gap of about two-and-a-half years – the second worst record of the 32 nations.

The report warns that action must be taken to ensure that schools are supporting bright students.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said the gap in boys’ achievement was a “worrying issue”.

“This matters for two important reasons,” he said.

“First, it is clearly economically inefficient not to tap into talent wherever it exists.

“Second, such under-achievement perpetuates those inequalities which make it so hard for bright children to move up in society.”

The Scottish Government insists that its flagship Curriculum for Excellence will improve literacy skills among pupils from poorer backgrounds.

However, Scottish Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith warned that there were major failings in teaching basic skills such as reading to pupils in the early school years.

She said: “The focus has to be on making sure that gap is reduced and ensuring there is a proper focus on basic skills in the earliest years.

“The gap is opening up very significantly and between Primary Four and Secondary Two there is often a marked deterioration in standards.”

Scotland’s minister for learning, Dr Alasdair Allan insisted that “raising the attainment of all Scotland’s children and young people is a key priority” for the SNP government.

He said: “An explicit part of this is closing the education gap and raising the attainment of children and young people suffering disadvantage. Curriculum for Excellence is helping to raise standards and means that literacy is now the responsibility of all teachers.”