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Closing the attainment gap in Scottish schools: Three challenges in an unequal society

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalEducation, Citizenship and Social Justice
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2017
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017


Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has recently said, ‘Improving school attainment is arguably the single most important objective in this programme for Government (Parliamentary address, 1 September 2015). Scotland’s levels of academic attainment have become an increasing focus for debate amid continuing concerns that children living in the most deprived areas in Scotland are ‘6 to 13 months behind their peers in problem-solving at age 5; 11 to 18 months behind their peers in expressive vocabulary at age 5; and around two years of schooling behind their peers at age 15’ (Scottish Government, 2014a: 5). The link between educational disadvantage and low levels of attainment is well documented in many countries, but particularly troubling in the UK, where overall levels of inequality are greater than in many other OECD countries, including Sweden. This paper draws on recent research in three fields of interest, namely student participation, home-school relationships and relationships within school, to explore the challenges for education in improving overall attainment. It considers how these fields of interest connect with each other and with issues of inequality and, finally, argues that they each has the potential to offer a new set of ‘guidewires’ for tackling this challenge.

    Research areas

  • social justice, attainment gap

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