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Pupils from poorest backgrounds being failed by SNP Government

The Scottish Conservatives have today accused the SNP of “betraying” Scotland’s poorest pupils after national exam results showed a huge rise in the so-called attainment gap.

Statistics published by the SQA reveal that for Nat 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers pass rates in 2022 were down on last year, when grades were based on teacher assessment rather than an exam diet.

However, the most startling data relates to the differential in results between pupils from the most and least deprived parts of the country.

This shows that the gap in percentage points between the proportion of pupils passing has risen in Nat 5 (from 9.1 in 2021 to 14.6 this year), Higher (7.8 to 15.0) and Advanced Higher (5.5 to 13.2).

Crucially, the gulf between pupils in SIMD Quintile 1 (most deprived) and Quintile 5 (least deprived) obtaining A grades at Higher – and a passport to the most sought-after university courses – is an enormous 23.2%. This is a bigger gap than in any of the previous four years.

Nicola Sturgeon has previously described eliminating the educational attainment gap between the most and least deprived kids as the “defining mission” of her SNP government.

Shadow Education Secretary Oliver Mundell said the results revealed the First Minister’s “abject failure” in that mission, for which Scotland’s most disadvantaged pupils were paying the price. 

Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Oliver Mundell MSP, said: “Firstly, I’d like to pay tribute to the hard work of pupils, teachers and parents after another school year impacted by Covid.

“It was welcome to see a return to a full exam diet after years of upheaval caused by the pandemic and I’d like to congratulate all those who have achieved the grades they hoped for and to acknowledge the hard graft that made that possible.

“But while pupils and teachers have done their best, we can’t ignore the abject failure of the SNP Government, and their betrayal of kids from the most deprived parts of Scotland.

“The widening attainment gap is a badge of shame for the First Minister and a shocking indictment of the SNP’s dismal record on education.

“Nicola Sturgeon described eliminating it as the ‘defining mission’ of her government and yet this year the gap has widened to a chasm yet again.

“Most telling is the differential in A grade passes at Higher because these are crucial in determining which pupils gain access to the most sought-after university courses.

“It’s unforgivable that year after year, talented pupils from poorer parts of the country are being failed by the SNP. But it seems they are no longer serious about tackling this issue.

“The SNP were far too slow to offer catch-up and support programmes for pupils disrupted by the pandemic to help them prepare for a return to the exam diet. It’s very likely their lack of action has contributed to this unacceptable rise in the attainment gap.”

Notes

The attainment gap for Higher pupils obtaining A grades is at its highest level since at least 2017. In 2022, the gap between the most deprived and the least deprived students obtaining an A grade for Highers was 23.2% - the highest level since at least 2017. (SQA Monitoring Report 2022, 9 August 2022, link; SQA Monitoring Report 2021, 10 August 2021, link).

 

The attainment gap for National 5 pass rates has significantly widened. In 2022, the gap between the most and least deprived pupils obtaining an A-C grade at National 5 level stood at 14.6% - an increase on the levels seen in 2020 and 2021. (SQA Monitoring Report 2022, 9 August 2022, link).

 

The attainment gap for Higher pass rates has almost doubled. The gap between the most and least deprived pupils obtaining an A-C grade at Higher level stood at 15% in 2022, nearly double the gap of 2021, where the attainment gap stood at 7.8%. (SQA Monitoring Report 2022, 9 August 2022, link).

 

The attainment gap pass rate for Advanced Highers is the second worst on record. The gap between the most and least deprived pupils obtaining an A-C grade at Advanced Higher level was 13.2% in 2022, the second worst ever figure on record, with only 2019 producing a worse result, where the attainment gap stood at 13.6% (SQA Monitoring Report 2022, 9 August 2022, link).