Sturgeon defends education record following critical report

Nicola Sturgeon has defended her administration’s record after a new report published by the Sutton Trust criticised the government’s failure to reduce the attainment gap.

The findings, based on an international OECD survey, revealed that pupils from poorer backgrounds can be up to two and a half years behind their peers by the age of 15.

Ruth Davidson was on the offensive this afternoon at Prime Minister’s questions, claiming that they had “failed miserably” to properly deal with the problem.

Sturgeon, who asked to be ‘judged on this’ said: “”It is an important report. It is one that aides our understanding of the challenges we need to address in order to tackle the attainment gap.

“I think it is important to note, though, that the Sutton Trust does not present new data. It is analysis of the Pisa scores that were published in December. Of course, the Pisa scores are based on a survey that was carried out two years ago.”

Scotland trail Northern Ireland and Wales when it comes to bridging the gap, even though the SNP announced a £120m fund last year aimed at supporting schools in underprivileged areas.

Conor Ryan, director of research at the Sutton Trust, said: “I think it’s very welcome what the government is doing in terms of trying to narrow the attainment and putting more resources into it. We also welcome the changes that were announced following the commission on widening access and there is now a new commissioner for fairer access.

But I think it is worrying because what it is suggesting is that not enough is being done to stretch highly able young people, particularly those from the poorest backgrounds. Interestingly enough, when you compare Scotland with England, even pupils from better off backgrounds are doing a bit worse in science, maths and reading than their counterparts.

“What we are talking about here is not necessarily money, although maybe some additional resource would help, but it’s more the focus that there is in schools and making sure they are doing more for their young people, working with universities so that pupils can have access to university courses and facilities, even masterclasses.

“There are a range of different activities which the best schools in Scotland are already doing. but if you don’t do it they are unable to fulfil their potential, and it’s a real waste of talent to the Scottish economy and society.

By Jordan Campbell

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