Readers' letters: Inequality is behind education gap

"A Scottish government can only partly influence the fate of children through education”

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 8:00 am
Sociologist Sol Gamsu speaks at 8pm on July 7 on A Short History of Schooling in Sheffield, looking at causes of inequality in education. The Zoom event is part of Sheffield Transformed, a series of events organised by Sheffield Labour Party supporters. Head to their Facebook page for details.

Inequality is behind education gap

If Ian Murray (News, 12 August) was serious about tackling the education attainment gap, which was narrowing prior to Covid, he would be demanding that our Scottish government got the full powers to tackle poverty and inequality which are the main reasons behind the attainment gap.

Also, the attainment gap in England is much worse and under Gordon Brown’s stewardship the gap between the richest and poorest actually widened as Tony Blair’s Labour Party was in thrall to the reckless City of London bankers which resulted in the financial crash in 2008.

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The good news is a record number of over 31,000 Scottish students have obtained places at Scottish universities this year.

As we are governed by a UK government with the worst state benefits and most punitive approach to poverty in the western world, any Scottish government can only partly influence the fate of children through the education system.

With independence we could follow the Scandinavian model and drastically cut the gap between the richest and poorest in society which is surest way to reduce the education attainment gap.

Mary Thomas, Watson Crescent, Edinburgh.

Ian needs to mind the attainment gap

Another Ian Murray whinge about Scotland on education. Since Ian sits in Westminster, not Holyrood, he should read the Institute for Government report that excoriates the Department of Education for last year’s handling of England’s school assessment and praises the Scottish government’s far better performance.

The attainment gap has also increased in England, where it has grown to its widest in the modern era. This can’t be blamed solely on the pandemic, but on poverty and deprivation.

Research from the House of Commons Library shows the UK has the worst inequality and least wealth per capita compared with 13 north European nations.

Independent nations the size of Scotland are £15,739 richer than the UK and the gap is growing. The UK has the lowest productivity, the worst state pension, the least supportive social welfare system and the most people living in poverty.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Merchiston Crescent, Edinburgh.

Creating non-jobs won’t help economy

A proposal has been submitted to the September SNP conference for everyone of working age in Scotland to be guaranteed a job, and so a regular income.

Its alleged virtue is that it would cost a lot less to implement than a universal basic income. Its disadvantage is that there is a hard core who have never worked and do not want a job. Would they be forced to take one?

The main stumbling block was demonstrated by the Soviet Union many years ago. There was (officially) no unemployment there – the result of the creation of jobs that were non-jobs, severe overstaffing and low wages.

I recall requiring to have my passport scrutinised by four different officials on a short tourist visit some years ago. One of them stamped it, but there was not even the pretence that they were all doing something necessary with it.

The end result of the Soviet system was cynicism embodied in the saying: ‘You pretend to work and we pretend to pay you’.

The conference motion refers to the need to be ‘willing to create jobs for all abilities’. This suggests that these jobs would be in the public service, which would require public money.

Why does the SNP not concentrate on creating the conditions in Scotland which attract investors and entrepreneurs?

Jill Stephenson, Glenlockhart Valley, Edinburgh.