Reform Scotland


Experts say attainment gap will widen without extra help

The Commission on School Reform, the independent education group set up by the think tank Reform Scotland, has proposed an urgent effort to recruit an army of online tutors to help school pupils during the Coronavirus school shutdown.

In a new paper – Learning at Home – the Commission, chaired by former Director of Education Keir Bloomer, says the national education agency Education Scotland has the capacity and experience to put such a programme together quickly.

The Commission, whose members include teachers and educationalists, warns that the current extended period of absence from school will widen the attainment gap unless action is taken. Existing research evidence makes it clear that extended absences, such as summer holidays, disproportionately hamper the learning of disadvantaged children.

Commenting, Keir Bloomer said:

“As John Swinney said last week, when quite rightly announcing the school closure, this is the first time our national education system has ever been completely shut down.

“This has significant implications for children’s education and for their social isolation, and evidence suggests that disadvantaged children will suffer the most.

“Parents will want to do their best but will need support, and the Commission is clear that Education Scotland can help by recruiting an army of online tutors from the ranks of retired teachers and teaching students to supplement the excellent online work being done by existing class teachers.

“We do not pretend that this is an easy task, but Education Scotland has the staff and skills to do it, and the Scottish Government has the ability to publicise it widely.

“Nobody can make this a normal time for a child’s education, but we can make it less harmful, and we must make it better for the vulnerable children who stand to suffer the most.”



  1. The briefing – Learning at Home – can be downloaded below.
  2. The Commission on School Reform was set up by Reform Scotland and the Centre of Scottish Public Policy. More information, including its membership, can be seen here.
  3. It has also produced a one-page guide to Curriculum for Excellence for parents; media are free to use this guide as a pdf or png file.
  4. Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at
  5. Media: for more information contact Message Matters (Andy Maciver,, 07855 261 244)