'Private schools must do more for low-income families'

'Genuinely mixed school catchment areas' also required to tackle poverty and attainment gap, finds report from Scotland's capital
30th September 2020, 12:01am


'Private schools must do more for low-income families'

'private Schools Must Do More For Low-income Families'

Edinburgh's private schools should do more for families on low incomes and the city should create "genuinely mixed school catchment areas", according to an ambitious new report on poverty in the city.

The report highlights that the attainment gap is closing more slowly than in other parts of Scotland and calls for a major new drive to tackle poverty, including a big role for both private and state schools.

Parental connections - or a lack of them - and poor work experience opportunities exacerbate the gap between rich and poor pupils in Edinburgh, the report says.

It states: "Education in Edinburgh is more polarised than anywhere else in Scotland. The city has more pupils in independent schools...than any other part of Scotland. Six state schools in the city account for more than half of all pupils who live in the most deprived...areas of the city, but only 2 per cent of those from more affluent...areas."

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The authors of A Just Capital: actions to end poverty in Edinburgh "call on Edinburgh's universities and private schools to do more to improve opportunities for people on low incomes, for example by sharing teaching and learning resources online".

The report by the Edinburgh Poverty Commission - whose 12 commissioners include Liberton High School headteacher Stephen Kelly - also says that City of Edinburgh Council should "codesign with young people and families living in poverty a significant new programme to improve attainment and to develop genuinely mixed school catchment areas by 2030".

Measures such as these, it says, would help counteract "an attainment gap that is wider and reducing more slowly than in Scotland as a whole".

The report also calls for "a radical expansion of mentoring schemes in the city, supporting volunteer mentors to help children and young people build bridges to a wider range of experiences and opportunities".

And it says that "city partners including business, private schools, independent funders and philanthropists" should "marshal all the resources of the city to grow a new End Poverty Edinburgh Fund", which would "resource ongoing innovation" to support the report's recommendations.

The report states: "Our first proposition is that Edinburgh will only succeed in creating a prosperous city without poverty if it creates the conditions for good jobs, genuinely affordable housing, income security and meaningful opportunities that drive justice and boost prospects - above all, in the city's schools."

It observes that inequality is "entrenched in Edinburgh", adding: "A boy born in some affluent parts of the city can expect to live 21 years longer than one born in a poorer area. In schools, the city does better than the national average for pupils from affluent areas but worse for those from poorer areas."

The report states: "Despite the significant efforts evident to close the attainment gap, Edinburgh is making slower progress than many other areas in Scotland [and] there is slow progress at each stage except in P1 where the gap for key measures has stalled or widened."

But the report also notes that "we have seen the positive work that can be done in some schools where a forensic approach to understanding the circumstances and needs of individual pupils means that personalised support can be put in place involving a range of services".

It adds: "This is in large part a reflection of the city's residential polarisation. Inequality in school carries forward to opportunities beyond school as high-quality work experience and exposure to the world of work is still too often driven by parental connections."

The report notes that only 11 per cent of entrants to higher education in Edinburgh are from the 20 per cent most deprived areas, against 19 per cent nationally.

"Covid has acted to widen these inequalities with a marked gradient between participation in education in private and state sectors and between the affluent and socio-economically deprived," the report states. "One [MCR Pathways] survey of 1,000 disadvantaged pupils across Scotland, for instance, showed that two-thirds were unable to do school work during lockdown."

The report adds: "Significant fears have been voiced by many of the lasting impact of a growing gap in educational attainment as a result of this experience."

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