Closing the gap

17th January 2003 at 00:00
WE - the wider Scottish community, that is, not The TES Scotland - are often accused of not celebrating success sufficiently vigorously. Hopefully, however, we can redress that a little this week with the news of what may be a breakthrough in the early intervention programme (page one). It is early days, of course, but it will gladden the hearts of ministers that at least one "opportunity gap" may be closing.

The problem with early intervention has been that, since all youngsters are exposed to it, all have benefited so the gap between the least advantaged and most disadvantaged has remained stubbornly wide. Aberdeen's findings show the first signs of a turnround. Perhaps the Scottish failure to celebrate success is borne out of instinctive caution and we would be expected to point out that one swallow in the form of reducing the gap in reading scores from 26 points to 17 over three years does not make a summer.

Aberdeen's director of education is right to caution that this could be a blip not a trend. It is also essential to be able to get an accurate picture of children's abilities, particularly when they enter P1, to allow a reliable assessment of the early intervention strategy. Perhaps "real" primary testing, as opposed to 5-14 assessment, will now come into its own - teacher-driven this time rather than a ministerial wheeze.

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