Independent Nursery, Junior and Senior School, Edinburgh

Attainment Gap Revisited

Once again, the Scottish Government has outlined that the reduction in the attainment gap is its absolute focus. Nicola Sturgeon spoke again today about her commitment to this following another fairly negative report on Scottish Education by the Sutton Trust, published this morning. The First Minister reported that:

 

£120 million of new money going directly to Head Teachers.

More transparent data.

Attracting the bright and the best to the teaching profession.

Using standardised assessments to track progress.

Analysis of school by school data.

 

Let’s reflect on these positive steps:

 

£120 million pounds equates (roughly) to 2400 extra teachers at the top of the pay scale (including NI and pension contributions). Unfortunately, since 2010 we have lost 4000 teachers from the system.

 

More transparent data means yet more consideration of unimaginative performance indicators that are pretty meaningless without context. Of course, when the data is less than encouraging we are told that it doesn’t count anymore because it’s out of date…

 

I’d love to see high-performing graduates enter the teaching profession. Wouldn’t we all? Well, I love my profession but teachers here have high degrees of autonomy. Believe me, they have very little autonomy in other sectors. It seems to me to be a very unappealing job currently.

 

Using standardised assessment data to track progress. Well, this is a monumental waste of money as it will tell Government absolutely nothing they don’t already know. Money needs to be put into areas of social deprivation – simple.

 

Analysis of school by school data. Bound to become competitive, isn’t it? The unfortunate by-product of data assessment is that ‘good’ schools will stop entering their weakest pupils for national qualifications and the weaker schools will continue to battle the external factors of community breakdown and poverty.

 

Thus, those with learning difficulties (even moderate ones) will have their opportunities compromised as a direct result of data being what schools are judged upon. The effect will be that the ‘attainment gap’ is going to widen.

 

Mark my words – you heard it here first!

 

Rod Grant

09/02/2017