Financial divide

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Scotland suffers from three major social problems: poor health indices; an unacceptable level of deprivation and a disappointingly low level of achievement in basic education skills, eg numeracy and literacy in pupils leaving school in deprived areas.

As regards education problems, Alex Massie’s article (Perspective, 8 August) about this year’s Highers results shows the very close link between family income and school examination results. Most pupils over Scotland do well, but children from the top quarter of families by income get results equal to children from Hong Kong, who top the world ratings, while children from the bottom quarter by income get results on a level equal to Turkey, which is well down in world ratings. This year, no child from deprived areas could qualify for a top British university.

I know from experience how difficult it is to work in a deprived area. Until the problems associated with deprivation are tackled, it is unlikely that educational achievements can be improved. Dedicated teachers in schools in deprived areas who work hard in difficult circumstances to help their pupils must envy their colleagues in the leafy suburbs whose pupils can get much better exam results due to better resources and strong parental support. Sadly, in terms of childhood achievements Scotland is a very unequal society.

Hugh M Mackenzie

Bonnethill Road


Joe Darby (Letters, 10 August) insists “increased objectivity” is needed on inter-generational standards but then dismisses research done by Durham University and Kings College as a “notion”.

Nothing could better illustrate the educational establishment’s intransigence than the 2009 schools minister who accused researchers of “doing down young people”. She claimed the vast increase in “A” passes was entirely the result of “pupils’ hard work and excellent teaching” – as John McEnroe would have said: “You cannot be serious.” Are we to assume our cash-strapped universities run remedial maths courses for science entrants and provide courses in basic grammar for arts students simply to prove a point? 

In an effort to select entrants able to cope with university, Cambridge reinstituted the old entrance exam, which almost half of the “A” pass holders failed by a wide margin. The real victims of this nonsense are graduates who find a pretendy degree in a pretendy subject from a pretendy university results in serious debt but no serious job prospect. 

Dr John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews, Fife