Attainment and the Education (Scotland) Bill

Date: 7th July 2015

Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People recently commented on the Education (Scotland) Bill which is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament.

Whilst the Education (Scotland) Bill focuses on several different areas of education, one of its main concerns is in raising attainment of Scotland's children and young people.

Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that all children have the right to an education, and Article 29 states that this education should help them to develop mentally and physically to their fullest potential. This means interpreting success at school in wider terms that lie outside of the academic arena.

In his evidence, the Commissioner said he believed that the Bill should look at what individual children think success means to them - and include successes such as gaining new skills or building confidence.

The Bill offers Local Education Authorities a chance to change the way they look at how they can help pupils succeed. At the moment, the focus on attainment is often linked to pupils in S4 to S6. The Commissioner believes, however, that any work to improve attainment needs to start much earlier, in order to make sure pupils outperform expectations.

Research suggests that, in Scotland, doing well is more closely linked to social background than in other countries. This has been higlighted in a report which suggests that inequalities in school extend beyond an educational setting and into the local community.

The Commissioner advocates for a whole council approach in order to improve attainment, where the non-educational needs of children are considered. Any approach should take account of both socio-economic factors, but these should not provide the sole focus. Consideration also needs to be made of the needs particular groups of children and young people, such as those with disabilities, and ensuring that all pupils can be involved in decisions affecting them (reflecting Article 12 of the UNCRC and findings from a SCCYP report).

The education attainment gap has been raised at a UN level by Together in a non-government report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which highlights where further progress is needed to ensure every child has access to their rights under Article 28 and 29 of the UNCRC.