FRESH evidence has emerged of a two-tier education system in the Capital, with youngsters from the most deprived areas only a third as likely as wealthier counterparts to pass benchmark exams.
According to new data, 14.5 per cent of pupils in the bottom 20 per cent secured five or more passes in Standard Grade Credit and Intermediate 2 tests – now replaced by National 5s – in 2011-12.
This compares to a city-wide pass rate of nearly 40 per cent over the same period – and the gap between the city’s poorest and richest neighbourhoods is now likely to be even greater.
The Scottish Conservatives recently released figures showing Edinburgh had the country’s biggest Higher exams gap last year, with just six pupils from the poorest families gaining three A grades.
Among wealthier students the pass rate was 22.9 per cent, equating to 290 youngsters.
City teachers based in deprived areas acknowledge they face significant challenges in reversing the trend but said they were determined to succeed.
Steve Ross, headteacher at Craigroyston Community High, said: “Raising attainment is one of the key priorities and has been for the last year.
“On nearly all measures of exam performance we have increased year on year over the last three to four years. We are strongly encouraging every young person to stay on until the end of sixth year. Historically, we’ve had a 50 per cent staying on rate and we expect that to be in the 90s next session.”
He said his school was introducing a raft of measures to boost overall exam performance, including enhanced monitoring and tracking, and advanced research sessions for talented pupils.
But leaders at the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, are so concerned about the gap between rich and poor that they have launched a national campaign.
And they warned poverty was continuing to have a negative effect on schools across the Capital and Scotland.
Louise Wilson, assistant secretary, said: “The EIS, which is currently running its own national campaign on the impact of poverty, remains committed to working in partnership to tackle this huge problem facing Scotland.
“We recognise that poverty is often a barrier to effective teaching and learning. This is why campaigning to challenge perceptions of poverty, to challenge the causes of poverty and crucially to explain the impact of relative inequality, is important.”
Opposition leaders described the exams gap as “one of the continuing fault lines” and stressed there had been little change over the last 20 years.
Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the city’s Greens, said: “Fundamentally, tackling the low incomes is imperative and only by raising children out of poverty will we give them the chance of better school outcomes.”
City bosses admitted that tackling poverty and its impact on education was a “huge and complex issue”.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “That’s why we are looking at integration of children’s services with NHS Lothian, and why we are also taking forward the total neighbourhood model, which targets areas of deprivation and brings together all key players.
“There is a lot of really positive work taking place in our schools which has resulted in improved exam results and increased positive destinations.”