PUPILS from disadvantaged homes know they are falling behind within the first six weeks of entering primary 1, Sam Galbraith, the Children and Education Minister, was told last week at a consultation meeting on the education bill in Edinburgh.
In a forceful contribution from the floor, Maureen Tate, a P1 supply teacher, said many pupils were alienated within weeks of coming into primary as they saw their more able peers being handed reading books.
"They are socially excluded six weeks down the line. These children do not feel they are achieving anything," she said.
Ms Tate, who has taught for 23 years, pleaded for more time to concentrate in depth. "The whole system needs to be slower. There needs to be more time and money spent on children who are failing.
"A lot of children, even at five, are not ready to sit with a book. There is pressure on us because we need to get pupils to level A and if we do not, we are failing. I want kids to attain when they are ready to attain," she said.
Mr Galbraith said her contribution emphasised the importance of the family in tackling social exclusion through early intervention, a key theme of new Labour's education and childcare policies.
Growing numbers of pupils are entering secondary still at level A or B in reading, another teacher informed Mr Galbraith.
He replied: "We cannot turn this around overnight. But we have to ask why they failed right up the system and why did they get to secondary not being able to read and write?"
Responding to further concerns about the extent and flexibility of nursery provision, Mr Galbraith said gaps were likely to be filled by the advent of the working families tax credit system.
More than pound;25 million a year would be injected into child care in Scotland. Parents would have up to pound;70 a week to choose provision that suited them.
Leader, page 20