THE attainment gap between the most and least deprived Borders pupils is wider than in any other council area in Scotland, according to a report.

The report, entitled ‘Improving outcomes for young people through school education’, was published in March by Audit Scotland.

Scottish Borders Council says it “remains committed to closing the attainment gap” between the most and least deprived pupils following the report’s findings.

Exhibit 4 of the report shows the percentage of school leavers who achieved five or more awards at SCQF Level 5 [National 5] in 2018/19.

The graph shows that 30.8 per cent of the ‘most deprived’ pupils achieved this feat, compared with 87.4 per cent of pupils classed as ‘least deprived’.

That gives the Borders a 56.6 per cent difference between the two categories – the biggest gap in Scotland.

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A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “This is just a single measure, and only looks at the number of pupils attaining five SQA Level 5 awards.

“Scottish Borders Council’s performance has improved across a number of other areas, and of course the number of SQA awards should not be the only measure of the success of our young people.

“The council remains committed to closing the attainment gap through a range of interventions and looks forward to receiving the next allocation from the Attainment Scotland Fund to help our schools tackle this issue.”

Other data displayed in the report shows that 84.9 per cent of school leavers in the Borders achieved one or more at SCQF Level 5 or better – a 1.8 per cent increase since 2013/14.

The Borders also recorded 63.9 per cent achieving five awards or more at SCQF Level 5 or better – up 0.7 per cent on 2013/14.

The report shows that more 16-19 year olds are participating in education, employment or training.

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Audit Scotland concluded that progress on closing the attainment gap has been “limited”, with the difference between the least deprived and most deprived pupils “evident at a local level, with some councils reporting much bigger gaps than others”.

The report states: “The poverty-related attainment gap remains wide and inequalities have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Progress on closing the gap has been limited and falls short of the Scottish Government’s aims.

“Improvement needs to happen more quickly and there needs to be greater consistency across the country.”

A person’s level of deprivation, used to categorise pupils, is based on SIMD quintiles.

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An individual’s SIMD status is based on where they live, “with those who live in the 20 per cent of areas with the highest deprivation recorded as being in the most deprived quintile”.

Stephen Boyle, auditor general for Scotland, said: “Significantly reducing the attainment gap is complex.

"But the pace of improvement has to increase as part of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 recovery planning.

“That process needs to particularly focus on the pandemic’s impact on the most disadvantaged children and young people.”