Attainment gap

Labour’s Jackie Baillie is correct to raise concerns about the Scottish Government’s record on closing the attainment gap (your report, 21 May). Closing this gap will do more to tackle inequality than raising the minimum wage or welfare payments.

The context is grim. The authoritative 2014 Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy report found that attainment in Scottish schools has dropped in recent years.

Worse than that, the attainment gap between the least and most deprived students has increased in both relative and absolute terms.

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Further to this, in December the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSA) noted with concern that the SNP government was withdrawing Scotland from two key international benchmark studies.

It remains part of a third study, the Programme for International Student Assessment, which the RSE concluded was of “limited value to an evaluation of a curricular reform” such as we have seen in Scotland.

These moves carry all the hallmarks of a government which has no confidence in its own education system.

Indeed, in a speech on Monday Angela Constance, Cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, said: “Every school and every local authority must own its attainment gap and take action.”

Closing the attainment gap is therefore now the responsibility of our cash-strapped local authorities, not her Scottish Government.

To close the attainment gap Ms Constance must invest in our most vulnerable communities. Above all else, she must reverse her government’s cuts to teacher numbers and education spending.

It is time for action. As Kezia Dugdale said this week, the SNP have spent the last eight years tapping their pencil and staring into space on educational inequality. Parents are anxious, teachers are over-worked and stressed. Students are losing out.

(Dr) Scott Arthur

Buckstone Gardens