Closing the gap

29th August 2003 at 01:00
IF the Executive is to realise its grand ambitions to raise attainment, close the "opportunity gap" and eradicate child poverty, it needs to walk hand in hand with authorities like Glasgow. The city, well aware of the miles it has to go before it sleeps, has been ploughing an often lonely furrow as it grapples with endemic educational problems.

Having modernised, however controversially, its secondary schools and also liberated them somewhat to come up with local solutions to local problems, the council is turning its attention to the equally fraught plight of its primary buildings and what goes on inside them (page one). In some ways this might be putting carts before horses in a city where figures two years ago showed that 10-15 per cent of pupils arrive in secondary with a reading age of eight. But the council has evidence, reported earlier this year, that its early intervention programme carried on into the later primary stages is beginning to pay dividends.

The city has little option but to prune its primary stock. Apart from anything else, the Auditor-General will want to know why primary schools are running with a maintenance backlog of pound;151 million. And there are opportunities to bring special and pre-school provision together on primary campuses. If more intensive "nurturing" work is to be possible with young people, as we report this week, part of the answer must lie in releasing more staff from half-empty buildings.

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