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Too much spin and not enough cash to beat poverty

Ian McCalman's letter of apology for the Scottish Executive in last week's TES Scotland, criticising my article on inequalites a week earlier, was fascinating. Whilst purporting to be a critique of my argument, he managed to avoid one word of criticism on the central thrust of the article - that educational inequalities, arising out of social deprivation and poverty, have not been tackled by either the Scottish Executive or the British Government.

Better proof of my argument and the paucity of his own is shown by the figures on deprivation, which came out on the same day as his letter, highlighting that 16 out of 20 areas of Scottish poverty are in Glasgow and surrounding areas; guess which areas have the lowest educational achievement.

His letter, quite frankly, is spin and is the educational equivalent of the Government's PhD thesis on Iraq. Ian tells us that on the Government's figures, the million children living in poverty has dropped from 32 per cent to 21 per cent; my article claimed that, in areas such as Glasgow, all agencies (except Ian's Socialist Educational Association) argue and accept that approximately one-third of all children live in households below the EU official poverty threshold.

And, of course whilst talking up government spending, Ian casually doesn't challenge my other main point - that bringing state schools up to the class size and spending levels of the private sector or even to get to the European average will need a substantially larger rise than anything Ian and his new Labour pals envisage.

Frankly, Ian and the Socialist Educational Association should stop apologising for the Executive and campaign for the kinds of policies that can challenge this.

Henry Maitles Head of Social Studies Education Faculty of Education Strathclyde University

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