Factor X

"REGRESSION THEORY" analysis of Catholic schools' exam performance appears to show they are punching above their weight, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The corollary is that the Scottish Tories want more choice, such as faith schools, to meet parental demand and raise attainment in working-class homes. It is an alluring agenda for the elections next year. But any thoughts of regression to the Forsyth era of the late 1980s and early 1990s can be dismissed.

The core issue of why Catholic schools, as they have done for 40 years or more, are better at lifting the aspirations of many working-class children remains unclear. What most accept is that they have a better ethos or more of a sense of community than their counterparts in the non-denominational sector. That does not mean non-denominational schools cannot achieve the same and it does not follow that all Catholic schools are good schools.

Certainly, Jack McConnell, when he was Education Minister, praised the contribution of Catholic schools and hoped the non-denominational sector could learn the lessons, whatever they are. And that's the difficulty. No one is prepared to say precisely what the X factor is, whether it is religious commitment, extra family support, the drive to rise out of generations of poverty or what? It does deserve further study.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you