Fears have been voiced that pupils will be at a disadvantage after it emerged that some schools in Scotland are charging pupils for extra exam revision.
East Renfrewshire Council has said that some families will have to pay £13.50 per day or £62 a week if students want to attend revision classes over the Easter holidays.
It has also been reported that pupils studying for National 5 and Higher exams at Dyce Academy in Aberdeen were told they would have to pay £5 for group study sessions during the holidays.
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Parents and teaching unions have condemned such moves, with the EIS union saying that such charges run the risk of “deepening the poverty-related attainment gap”.
Writing in The Herald newspaper, Neil McLennan, a senior lecturer in education at the University of Aberdeen and a former schoolteacher, said it highlighted “a number of unresolved issues in Scottish education”.
The cost of revision
He said education budgets had been cut, and raised concerns that those most in need are losing out.
Mr McLennan said: “With community education budgets being slashed over the years, there is often little engaging activity for youngsters whose parents cannot take them on trips or send them to sports camps and revision retreats during the holidays.”
He added: “There is a continued risk in Scotland that those in most need are regressing despite ‘closing the attainment gap’ being the number one policy priority.
“With the neo-liberalist approach of devolving autonomy for this to local leaders, and placing high-stakes accountability against them, I feel sorry for leaders on the ground.
“Their efforts, such as trying to run staffed revision classes to improve results, leave them damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”
An East Renfrewshire spokeswoman said: “All secondary schools within East Renfrewshire Council charge for students who wish to attend revision classes at a price of £13.50 per day or £62 per week per student. However, it is free to parents/carers if their child is in receipt of free school meals.”
Meanwhile, three-quarters of secondaries which took part in a survey said that it was not possible for their students to study for any Highers over two years.
The "two-term dash" – so-called because pupils usually have the first two terms of a single school year to cram for a subject at Higher – is, therefore, very much still a live issue, despite this having been seen as a flaw of the Scottish education system for decades.
The survey was carried out by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee.