Poorer pupils less likely to get place at top Scots state schools

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds across Scotland are less likely to secure a place at one of the country’s top performing schools, according to new research.

Boroughmuir High School. Picture: Greg Macvean
Boroughmuir High School. Picture: Greg Macvean

The proportion of disadvantaged pupils attending the nation’s best schools stands at around half that of the average school, a report by the Sutton Trust has found.

The social mobility charity said the shortfall is “almost entirely” due to the fact that the best ranked schools are located in some of Scotland’s most affluent neighbourhoods. It has proposed sweeping changes to the admissions process which would see a certain number of places allocated randomly through a ballot system.

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The report found that, while different nations across the UK have different admissions systems, the proportion of disadvantaged pupils as part of the school rolls is broadly similar.

It showed that the social backgrounds of pupils tended to reflect the local area they live in, with around four out of five of the top performing Scottish schools ranked in the 40 per cent most affluent areas of the country.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said disadvantaged pupils should be given priority status in schools that are oversubscribed.

He explained: “Getting a place at a good school is key to getting on in life. Yet the bottom line is that in Britain your chances of doing that depends on your parents’ income and whether they can afford to live in an affluent area.

“This is why we want to see more use of ballots – where a proportion of places is allocated randomly – as well as a focus on improving the quality of teaching in all schools, particularly those in the most disadvantaged areas.”

The report includes analysis by researchers from the National Foundation for Educational Research charity.

Jude Hillary, quantitative research director at the foundation, said: “Our findings show that top performing schools in each nation have much lower rates of disadvantage compared to the average rate nationally. This matters as pupils admitted to these schools achieve the highest attainment outcomes, which enable them to access the best universities and potentially achieve the top labour market outcomes.

“In the interests of promoting greater social mobility, more needs to be done in these countries to increase the socio-economic diversity of the intakes of top performing schools.”