Editor's comment

24th September 2010 at 01:00

There is nothing new in the "revelation" that deprivation has an impact on pupils' attainment (p1). The 2007 OECD report on Scotland's school system cited the importance of family background and memorably concluded that "in Scotland, who you are is far more important than what school you attend". Less frequently reported is its further (somewhat tortuous) observation that "the fact that it does matter who you are also says that the school system as a whole is not strong enough to make this not matter". So the Save the Children analysis of deprivation and attainment, based on a snapshot of the number of pupils registered for free school meals, is hardly new - although that was not entirely obvious from the media coverage.

Save the Children is a charity, but it is also a campaigning organisation. So it will probably be content with the way it has succeeded in stirring up public interest in this subject. But, sometimes, the Burns mantra that "facts are chiels that winna ding" should be treated with caution. Seldom can a press release have prompted such a reaction from the normally douce brethren of the education directorate, one of whose number called it almost "libellous".

It was certainly crass of Save the Children to produce bald statistics which took no account of trends over time, relied on free school meals as an indicator and ignored the fact that figures can be skewed by the size of an education authority.

Understandably, local authorities which put considerable efforts into closing the gap between high and struggling achievers are miffed. So they should be: the figures represent performance and ignore progress.

Presumably, Save the Children would not approve of such a facile approach to exam statistics. This is an unhappy experience of the charity being hoist by its own PR.

Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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