CONCERNS have been raised over “worrying” statistics which show Borders primary pupils are below the national average in a number of core skills.

Figures were published in a report discussed by the council’s executive committee on Tuesday (January 18).

Tables show the percentage of P4 pupils achieving ‘first level’ and P7 students attaining ‘second level’ in listening, writing, reading and numeracy. According to the council data, only P7 listening came out above the national average.

On the figures, Ian Topping, Scottish Borders Council (SBC) management support officer, said: “I’m concerned that, except from listening in P7, we’re below the national average in everything else. That’s worrying. That puts us 17th or 18th in the list of 32 authorities.”

Quality improvement officer Christian Robertson said that the council has been carrying out an “in-depth analysis on attainment”.

“Writing in P4, 5 and 6 has been significantly impacted during periods of remote learning. Children found it much more difficult to engage in formal writing activities during that lockdown period,” she said. “What we’ve looked at with all our schools generally is a revisit of the curriculum rationale, giving permission to them to narrow their curriculum and really focus down on particular cohorts in year groups.”

Ms Robertson added that the council has been looking at writing programmes, with evidence that changes are already having a “significant impact on children picking up in learning core skills”.

Fellow quality improvement officer Catherine Thomson said it had been a “very disrupted year in schools” and urged caution when looking at trend data.

Council leader Mark Rowley, of the Conservatives, said: “None of us are surprised that there has been a wobble in the statistics this year. I think I’m reassured that you’re on it.”

He added that the report showed “strong” results for ‘positive destinations’ for older pupils. Examples of ‘positive destinations’ include higher education, further education, voluntary work and employment.

The SBC report states: “Scottish Borders remains in the top quartile nationally, and well above the Scottish average, with 94.64 per cent of young people achieving a positive and sustained destination for session 2019-20.”