Gap narrows for haves and have-nots, figures show
The educational gap between some of Scotland's most vulnerable young people and their peers is narrowing, new figures suggest.
More are finding their way into jobs, training and post-school education, having emerged from the challenges of poverty, additional needs and being looked after - but warnings have been sounded that much progress is still needed.
Some 81.9 per cent of 2011-12 leavers from the most deprived group had found "positive destinations" nine months after exiting the school gates for the last time, compared with 95.2 per cent of the least deprived group - a 13.3 per cent gap that has dropped from 18.3 per cent in 2008-09 (when the figures were 74.9 and 93.2 per cent).
The gap has narrowed even more for those with additional support needs: an 8.7 per cent gap between leavers with and without ASN (81.9 and 90.6 per cent respectively) compared with 18.5 per cent in 2008-09 (67.6 and 86.1 per cent).
Meanwhile, 79 per cent of looked-after children left school at 16 in 2011-12, down from 88 per cent the year before - but still far higher than the 30 per cent of all school students who leave at 16. The number of looked-after leavers in positive destinations rose to 67 per cent.
The overall number of leavers in positive destinations was a record, the Scottish government said, at 89.5 per cent from 87.2 per cent a year before.
The statistics are cited in Summary statistics for attainment, learner development and healthy living, a document that also includes key figures on PE (see panel).
Youth employment minister Angela Constance hailed "great news for Scotland's economy, our employers and our young people themselves".
She also highlighted that the proportion of leavers attaining a Higher or above was a record 55.8 per cent, up from 52.5 per cent.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "In these times of austerity and cuts, and with high levels of youth unemployment across the UK, it is welcome that policies aimed at supporting young people in Scotland seem to be having a positive impact.
"This also highlights the importance of investment in a properly funded college sector to provide the education and training opportunities that are vital to support economic recovery."
But Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock cautioned that, while policies in Scotland were having an effect, looked-after children continued to do worse than other young people by all measures. "We still have a lot more to do," she said.
PE: UPS AND DOWNS
The number of secondary schools reaching a national PE target has dipped slightly, although primary schools continue to make upward progress.
In 2013, 88 per cent of primary schools have been providing at least 120 minutes of PE to all students, an increase from 84 per cent in 2012. Some 91 per cent of secondary schools were providing at least 100 minutes of PE to all S1-4 students, compared with 92 per cent in 2012.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who has represented Scotland at athletics, described the secondary figures as a "real worry".
"The government needs to invest in proper facilities, proper coaching, and ensure exercise is a fundamental part of our education system rather than an optional extra," she said.