English lessons

1st January 1999 at 00:00
Don't tell Alex Salmond. His ideas about who would qualify for citizenship under independence are hard enough to get a fix on. But it seems that the English in our midst are raising school standards. That at least is the message from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (page one).

Whereas in most countries children of immigrants pull down school performance for diverse but obvious reasons of language and culture, in Scotland the statistics for maths capability among eight and nine year olds show a higher ranking when the performance of children neither of whose parents was born in Scotland is taken into account. That is because our immigration (on that criterion amounting to 9 per cent of pupils) is mainly from south of the border. The number of Asians, much less West Indians, is proportionately far fewer than for England, where the "normal" pattern of effect on performance applies.

At this point definitions of national identity have to give way to those of social class and educational attainment. Most families emigrating north are well set up. They come because good jobs are on offer and they are eligible candidates because dad (and increasingly mum) are well qualified. So a headteacher wrestling with the Government's attainment targets would do well to get in tow with local employers and (race legislation permitting) go for the English recruitment market.

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