SCOTLAND's poverty-related attainment gap in schools has had the biggest decrease since records began but still remains above pre-pandemic levels, figures show. 

Reducing the gap between the most and least well off pupils is a key education mission for the Scottish Government, yet the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is still having an effect according to a new report.

While the gap between the proportion of primary school pupils has narrowed overall by 3.4 percentage points in literacy and 3.7 percentage points in numeracy, in one age group the attainment gap has widened. 

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The Scottish Government say this marks the largest narrowing of the gap in a year since consistent records began in 2016/17.

The latest statistics also showed that there has been a record increase in the proportion of primary pupils achieving expected levels of literacy - up 3.7 percentage points to 70.5% - and in numeracy - up 3.3 percentage points to 77.9%. 

However, the Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels 2021/22 report also showed a widening of the attainment gap for S3 pupils since 2018-19, the last available figures for secondary schools.

The curriculum breaks down achievement into four levels between the start of primary school and S3, spread across literacy, numeracy, listening and talking, and writing and reading.

Data was not collected in 2019/20 due to "difficulties in collecting data whilst schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic", the report said. 

It added: "Pupils' achievement of CfE levels in 2020/21 were affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The National: Shirley-Anne Somerville said the figures show 'there is no room for complacency'Shirley-Anne Somerville said the figures show 'there is no room for complacency' (Image: PA)

"It is likely that 2021/22 results may also be affected by the ongoing impact of the pandemic on young people's learning. This should be kept in mind when making comparisons over time."

The report also noted that female students outperform male students "across most stages and organisers".

For S3 reading levels, the gap has widened from 11.5% to 14.2% between 2018-19 and 2021-22, from 12.2% to 15.1% in writing, from 10% to 12.7% in listening and talks, 13.8% to 16.3% in literacy and 13.5% to 15% in numeracy.

On average, the gap went from 12.2% to 14.7% for S3 pupils achieving the third level in these metrics.

The gap for S3 pupils achieving the fourth and highest level in these markers all fell, but remained around the 30% mark, with the most well off pupils showing a marked difference in achievement compared to their more deprived counterparts.

 Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville heralded the “record” fall in the attainment gap in primary schools since last year, the figures remain above the pre-pandemic level.

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On average, the attainment gap remains higher than before Covid-19 in Scotland’s primary schools.

The gap has risen from 17.34% in 2018-19 to 18.22% in 2021-22 in primaries one, four and seven, according to analysis of the data.

In a statement on Tuesday, Somerville said there was “no time for complacency”.

She said: “These figures demonstrate a real recovery from the pandemic and underline our progress towards tackling the poverty-related attainment gap, and achieving excellence for all of Scotland’s children and young people.

“This record improvement over one year for primary pupils achieving the expected levels in numeracy and literacy also shows more young people are getting the support they need to reach their full potential.

“However, there is no room for complacency. I recognise that attainment levels are still largely below pre-pandemic levels and the publication of local stretch aims by local councils last week sets out clear plans to significantly narrow the poverty-related attainment gap in the years ahead.

“We know that the impact of the pandemic – compounded by the current cost of living crisis – means children and young people need our support now more than ever.

“We are determined to do all we can to ensure they can reach their full potential, including a record investment of £1 billion over this parliamentary term in the Scottish Attainment Challenge.”

Achievement of CfE level data is based on teachers' professional judgements of individual pupil performance.