National 4s & 5s: The accidental attainment gap
Reform Scotland says sharp reduction in National 4s and 5s available in many schools is narrowing educational opportunity for children
New research released today by Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, exposes a disturbing decline in the number of National 4s and 5s school pupils are being allowed to sit.
Our investigation, National 4s and 5s: The Accidental Attainment Gap, has found that:
- the maximum number of N4s or N5s a pupil can sit varies from five to nine depending entirely on the school they go to, not on their ability
- only a minority of Scottish state schools now allow pupils to sit more than six exams, with a few offering only five
- independent schools continue to offer eight or nine
The research, based on data provided to Reform Scotland by local authorities under Freedom of Information laws, follows a similar investigation in 2016. It shows the situation has worsened considerably since then, with state schools continuing to reduce the number of exams children are permitted to sit, regardless of ability.
The full tables, broken down by local authority, are in the paper. Specific examples:
- In 2016, all schools in Edinburgh, East Dunbartonshire and Dumfries & Galloway offered 8 exams; now no schools in either East Dunbartonshire or Dumfries & Galloway offer 8, and the limit in Edinburgh varies between 6 and 8
- East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire are largely similar local authorities in socio-economic terms. In East Renfrewshire, all children can sit eight or more exams. In East Dunbartonshire, no children are permitted to do so. How does East Dunbartonshire Council justify this to children and parents who are being prevented from gaining as many qualifications as those in East Renfrewshire, particularly given the most recent statistics showing East Renfrewshire to be the highest performing authority in the country in terms of Higher exam results?
Update: The attached briefing has been updated to include the results for South Lanarkshire. The council had failed to respond to our request and, as a result, its results were not included in the original briefing.