Extra teachers are to be targeted at areas of socio-economic deprivation to cut class sizes further and improve the chances of pupils who are the most likely to fail educationally, as foreshadowed in last week's TES Scotland.
Peter Peacock's office announced this week that the Scottish Executive also plans to focus extra cash on these areas.
Philip Rycroft, head of the schools group at the Scottish Executive Education Department, told an audience at the SETT show in Glasgow that the Executive now had better data and a better understanding of the link between attainment and deprivation.
Standing in for the Education Minister, who was unable to fulfil his speaking commitment through illness, Mr Rycroft asked: "We need to ensure that we meet our class size commitments everywhere, but should we also be targeting that to areas of deprivation?"
If there was any spare capacity in recruiting teachers, it was more sensible to target that resource at areas of need rather than spread the jam thinly across the whole of Scotland. Teachers working in areas of severe deprivation receive recognition of that financially through the job-sizing formula, but it is understood that staff targeted at specific schools would not receive additional pay.
Despite high attainment in many areas, around 14 per cent of pupils who leave school do not go into education, employment or training - one of the poorest records of countries in the OECD.
Executive research shows that the difference in attainment between the 15 per cent most deprived areas and the whole of Scotland is roughly equivalent to two Standard grades at award 3. In the deprived areas, 11 per cent of pupils leave school with no qualifications compared to 3 per cent in the rest of Scotland. These areas also account for 26 per cent of all absences.
The minister's speech stated: "Too many children are not getting the range of support needed to overcome the challenges they face. To date we have not gone far enough to tackle this issue.
"Schools can and do make a profound difference to the lives of their pupils and a more sustained effort on our part will help release the potential of more young people and their communities and help break the cycle of deprivation."