THE Scottish Greens have called on closing the attainment gap between private and state schools to be put "at the heart" of a new education system.

New statistics have revealed that the most recent pass rates for 2021 were higher in private schools than state schools in Scotland.

The figures, published by the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA), show that 75.6% of private school pupils were awarded an A under the alternative certification model that was in place due to exams being cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic. The rate in state-run schools was 47.6%.

At A-C level, private school attainment was 97.3% compared with 86.7% in the state sector, a gap which was 1.6% higher than in 2020 but well down on the 2019 figure of 18.9%.

READ MORE: Clear reasons why parents choose private schools - and education isn't one

Looking at National 5 qualifications, the 2021 figures showed 76.9% of those studying for these at independent schools achieved an A – while only 46.7% of all candidates for the qualification were awarded the top mark.

The coronavirus pandemic meant formal exams were cancelled in Scotland for the second year in a row, with marks awarded on the basis of teacher judgment. However many pupils still had to sit exam-like tests as part of this process.

The Scottish Greens have said these most recent figures reflect the inequality embedded in the SQA national qualifications system but also from a private school sector which provides privilege and advantage to some children purely on the basis of their parents’ wealth.

The Greens are calling for reforms to the education system that can close the attainment gap between private and state schools be put at the heart of a new system including removing costly procedures that favour well-funded private schools.

The National: Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer

​READ MORE: Scrapping National 5s among options as Scotland's exam system gets reboot

The party's education spokesperson Ross Greer MSP (above) said: “These stats show the need to fundamentally rethink our national qualifications system. Last year’s exams shambles demonstrated that shocking levels of inequality are baked into Scottish education. They were not a one-off. As we take forward the OECD’s recommended reforms we must put measures which close this attainment gap at the heart of the new system.

“Last week I raised the need for a free appeals system with the First Minister. We cannot return to the previous system, where schools were charged for every remarking request they made, handing even more advantage to well-funded private schools.

“If we are serious about giving every young person an equal opportunity to succeed, we should reassess a system where the privilege and advantage of private school provides young people with an edge in our education system.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain committed to closing the attainment gap and ensuring that every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential.

“This year’s SQA results saw a narrower poverty-related attainment gap compared with 2019, and the number of university acceptances from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland reached a record high for SQA results day.

“Progress has been made but we know there is more to do. That’s why we are investing a further £1 billion over the course of this Parliament to help to close the attainment gap.

“The attainment gap between pupils in state and independent schools for passes in Highers and Advanced Highers was narrower in 2021 than in 2019.”