Poorest Scottish teens still struggling to succeed

Iain Gray MSP. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Iain Gray MSP. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Fewer than a quarter of the poorest school leavers in Scotland go on to higher education, according to new figures giving more evidence of the country’s attainment gap.

A Scottish Government document published yesterday revealed that 24.9 per cent of the most disadvantaged school leavers go on to university, compared with 60.6 per cent of those from wealthier families.

Figures contained in the Initial Destinations of Senior Phase School Leavers paper also showed that 89.6 per cent of the poorest students go on to positive destinations after school, compared to 96.6 per cent of the most affluent. The statistics also show that unemployment among the most deprived school leavers is 9.9 per cent, against 3.2 per cent of the least deprived.

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The SNP claims that closing the attainment gap is one of their top priorities, however these figures show that they have made very little progress.

“The SNP has completely failed to enable the most disadvantaged children to have the same opportunities as their wealthier counterparts when they leave school.

Ms Smith added: “Higher education is not the only choice for school leavers, but these figures demonstrate that students from poorer backgrounds are much less likely to take this path.”

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “The SNP promised a more equitable education system, but instead the stubborn gap between the richest and rest remains.”

The figures also showed that fewer than one in ten youngsters from the most deprived areas are out of work after leaving school.

In the poorest parts of the country, 9.9 per cent of youngsters who left school in 2016-17 were out of work three months after finishing classes. That is down from 15.6 per cent of school leavers who were jobless in 2011-12.

But the report also showed that in the most affluent areas, only 3.2 per cent of teens were out of work three months after leaving school.

Overall, 93.7 per cent of the 51,258 teenagers who left school in 2016-17 went on to a “positive destination” of university, college, employment, training or voluntary work within three months.

Further and higher education minister, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “It is vital that every young person ­leaving school has the opportunity to make the choice that is right for them, whether that be university or college, training or a job.

“The statistics show a record proportion of leavers in an initial positive destination and, in particular, a welcome increase to another record in those leavers from the most deprived backgrounds going on to a positive destination.

“And on the day we confirm the allocation of £1.8 billion of public funding to universities and colleges next year, I am also encouraged to see an increasing proportion of school leavers choosing to continue their studies in further and higher education.”