PUPILS from the poorest backgrounds have been worst affected during the coronavirus pandemic as Curriculum for Excellence education statistics reveal achievement fell at every level.

Teacher judgments of pupils’ reading, writing, maths and their listening and talking abilities indicate a drop in performance across all of P1, P4 and P7 stages.

Meanwhile, the attainment gap between pupils from the most and least deprived areas increased to the highest level on record, with the largest ever differences in primary pupils achieving the expected levels in literacy and numeracy.

The latest attainment figures for literacy reveal 80.7% of primary pupils in the most affluent areas are at or above the expected standard, compared to 56% of those from the poorest backgrounds.

With the attainment levels falling by three percentage points for the most well off and 7.1 percentage points for the most deprived since 2018-19, the gap now stands at 24.7 percentage points. Numeracy achievement has fallen from 88.5% and 77.1% respectively before the pandemic to 86.5% and 65%, leaving an attainment gap of more than 21 percentage points, up from 16.8 in 2018-19.

The figures, published by the Scottish Government, show that a quarter of primary school pupils (25%) did not achieve the expected Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) level of reading or numeracy, while three in ten (30%) were not at the required writing standard.

Combined figures for P1, P4 and P7 show the percentage of pupils achieving the expected CfE levels have fallen by five percentage points in reading since 2018-19, six percentage points in both writing and literacy and four percentage points in numeracy and listening and talking.

Citing the disruption to education caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the report states that the decreases are “generally larger than pervious changes at national level” and adds: “Compared to 2018-19 the percentage of pupils achieving the expected CfE levels in 2020-21 have decreased across all organisers and all stages.”

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Unfortunately, the disruption caused by Covid-19 presented serious challenges for learners not just in Scotland but internationally.

“Improving educational outcomes is at the heart of our education recovery work, which is continuing at pace. This includes recruiting 3,500 additional teachers and 500 support staff over this parliamentary term.

“We also continue to press on with our mission to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap, backed by a record £1 billion investment. Later today, in a statement to Parliament, I will highlight our new and ongoing work to support numeracy and literacy in our schools.”

Scottish Labour’s Education spokesperson Michael Marra said: “These devastating figures reveal the true scale of the challenge we are up against. The pandemic has wreaked havoc with education, and sadly it is once again the poorest kids who have been hit the hardest.

“This must be a wake-up call – we have no option but to be ambitious right now.

“We urgently need a real plan to get schools back on track and close Scotland’s shameful attainment gap once and for all.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Oliver Mundell said: “These shocking results reveal the brutal impact on young people of Covid, which has been heightened by years of SNP failure.”