UK 'class gap' only existed in computer's imagination;News;News amp; Opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
A MAIN conclusion of a study on educational attaiment in the four UK countries was withdrawn by the researchers immediately before a conference this week to launch their report.

The team at the Centre for Educational Sociology in Edinburgh University said they could no longer confirm their finding that differences in 14-18 attainment linked to social class were greater in Scotland than elsewhere. The research had looked at the level of father's and mother's occupations.

David Raffe told the conference that re-analysis of the data by a different software program had produced conflicting results.

Professor Raffe said that the Scottish system of education "is getting better but it is not as brilliant as some would claim. It is not world class." There were some differences among the four countries, "but very few that are large, stable and 'robust'."

Among schools of the same type there are greater differences in attainment in Northern Ireland and England than in Wales and Scotland, perhaps reflecting the similarities among comprehensive schools which are more widespread in these latter countries.

The data, which is from the early 1990s, shows more 16-year-olds staying in education in Scotland, but for shorter periods, with more leaving at 17, and fewer young Scots re-entering education.

"Academic drift" is more pronounced in Scotland, where about two-thirds of those in post-16 education were in academic rather than vocational programmes compared with about a half in the rest of the UK. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, vocational education enjoyed less "parity of esteem" than in England and Wales.

The conference looked at whether devolution would make for greater difference. Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at Edinburgh University, said the Parliament was unlikely to make Scottish education significantly different, and a combination of Nationalist pressure and discontent within the wider community was bound to lead to demands for greater autonomy.

Leader, page 14

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