THE attainment gap between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland has grown wider since last year, exam result figures show.

Figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show that for pupils in the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland, the Higher pass rate was 70.2% this year, down from 83.2% last year.

In the 20% least deprived areas, the Higher pass rate stood at 85.1%, down from 91% last year when teacher assessments were used as exams could not be run due to the pandemic.

READ MORE: Exam results are one of the 'strongest ever' sets, says Shirley-Anne Somerville

It means the attainment gap between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland has grown wider from 7.8 percentage points in 2021 to 15 percentage points in 2022.

However, the gap is narrower than in 2019, the last year in-person exams were run, when it was 16.9 percentage points.

For National 5, the gap in 2022 was 14.6 percentage points – down from 17.1 percentage points in 2019 but up from 9.1 in 2021.

The gap for Advanced Higher was 13.2 percentage points this year – down from 13.6 percentage points in 2019 but up from 5.5 last year.

Scotland’s Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “While the results show the gap between attainment levels in the least and most deprived areas has narrowed from the 2019 level, we know that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted learners from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We are determined to accelerate the progress that has been made and we are investing a record £1 billion in the Scottish Attainment Challenge during this parliamentary term.”

Education journalist James McEnaney tweeted that the attainment gap for Highers was "even wider than expected".

"The SQA and SNP/Greens decided to force even more poor pupils to fail. They should be ashamed," he said.

The Scottish Conservatives' education spokesperson, Oliver Mundell, said the results reflected a "betrayal of kids from the most deprived parts of Scotland".

“The widening attainment gap is a badge of shame for the First Minister and a shocking indictment of the SNP’s dismal record on education," he added.

The deprivation areas are determined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), which divides the country into quintiles.