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Experts hail schools’ progress

Comprehensive schooling in Scotland has helped achieve greater equality of opportunity among pupils, researchers claim.

Higher levels of academic attainment and a more positive attitude to schooling among pupils are other notable achievements of the system, according to a new book.

Another positive outcome - often overlooked, the researchers say - has been the fostering of an environment in which pupils are more equally valued.

Positive attitudes

The comprehensive schooling system was introduced 50 years ago.

Over the past 50 years, young people have expressed increasingly positive attitudes about their school experiences, the editors say.

Notably, the most marked improvements in attitude have been among pupils with the lowest attainment.

However, experts caution against complacency. They add that much remains to be done if the values of comprehensive schooling are to fully benefit all of Scotland’s children.

Achieving equality

Despite significant improvements in making education better and fairer, equality of outcomes across the social spectrum has been much harder to achieve, the book claims.

The researchers, in the University’s Moray House School of Education, say that the biggest predictors of a child’s academic success are still parents’ economic status and their levels of education.

Although schools can, and should, make a difference, the wider social determinants of inequality must also be recognised, the experts conclude.

A conference to discuss the impact of comprehensive schooling will be held at the University of Edinburgh on Tuesday, 27 October - exactly 50 years on from the date of the Government Circular that heralded the introduction of comprehensive schools.

Comprehensive schooling has become part of the social fabric of Scotland with the system enjoying widespread support among parents and some 95 per cent of pupils attend comprehensive schools. Although the system has delivered many benefits, our book challenges policy makers to understand, and learn from, the lessons of the last 50 years.

Dr Cathy HowiesonSenior Research Fellow, Centre for Educational Sociology, University of Edinburgh