Council urged to do more to close attainment gap in deprived areas of Edinburgh

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The city council has been urged to do more to close the gap in achievement between pupils in affluent and deprived areas of the Capital.

The attainment gap for S4 pupils increased for reading, writing, listening and talking and by six per cent for numeracy from 2016-17 to 2017-18. For P7 pupils, the attainment gap has improved in some areas, but widened for reading and writing.

In a report, council officers said “the relatively stagnant performance in P1 and P4 numeracy is of concern” and “the gap in P1 numeracy has only narrowed because of a drop in performance” of those in the most affluent areas.

The authority will hire a mathematics development officer to help improve attainment in numeracy – primarily for Edinburgh schools signed up to the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

The council has committed to raising attainment in writing and mathematics and will “focus on improving outcomes for the most disadvantaged pupils, in particular looked after children and young carers”.

Education convener Cllr Ian Perry said: “A lot of dedicated work is going on in all our schools to reduce the poverty-related attainment gap but everyone realises there is no quick overnight fix. Although the analysis of our data shows that the gap has reduced in over half of the 20 indicators, there are still areas of concern which we are determined to tackle.

“We are putting in place various actions to support improvements in addressing the gap such as our new writing strategy and the appointment of a maths development officer to help support our new maths strategy.

“In addition, last month all schools were issued with a ‘data pack’ which included attainment data for each individual school and indicative targets set by the Scottish ­Government which we are encouraging staff to use to help them identify and address gaps specific to their school.

“We are also launching our Edinburgh Learns Frameworks for Learning next month which contain clear strategic actions and are designed to support head teachers to sustain their focus on equity and excellence.”

The council will extend its new writing strategy to all schools and the new mathematics strategy will help improve attainment from P4 to S3 pupils. The authority will also “investigate and address the relative stagnation of attainment levels in P1”.

The Scottish Government will hand over £120 million to schools during 2017-18 through the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) to help close the poverty-related attainment gap.

Cllr Mary Campbell, Green spokeswoman for education, said: “I hope that the impact of PEF funding and the focussed work planned for teaching and learning will see us closing the gap for all age groups in future.

“If we don’t see an impact from these changes, we will need to go back and have a hard look at areas where we could be doing more work.”