The Matthew Effect in Scottish Schools

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.”

Matthew 25

In Scotland there’s a danger that the ‘Matthew Effect’ becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in the educational attainment of children from poorer families.

In October 2015 I gave a keynote at the launch of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. This was a proud moment for me. I was speaking in a centre on the site of the College in Dunfermline where I’d attended evening classes as an 18 year old. The audience were the Primary School Head Teachers whose schools were to be funded, their attached Local Authority Advisers and the team from Education Scotland.

The Scottish Attainment Challenge is a very generously funded Scottish Government initiative lasting four years to 2019 with £100m targeted on supporting pupils in local authorities and schools with the highest concentrations of primary-aged pupils living in deprivation. The focus of the Fund is on improvements in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing as the foundations for learning

In Scotland the gap in educational attainment between low-income and high-income households starts early. By age 5, it is 10–13 months. Lower attainment in literacy and numeracy is linked to deprivation throughout primary school. This has been well documented by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in their 2014 report Closing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Education and by the OECD.

‘Little of the variation in student achievement in Scotland is associated with the ways in which schools differ.… Who you are in Scotland is far more important than what school you attend, so far as achievement differences on international tests are concerned. Socio-economic status is the most important difference between individuals.’

OECD, 2007, p. 15

My input was only a small contribution on a very important day but I felt that it merited a lot of background work and understanding of the context. To that end I’ve attached not only the PPT presentation but the briefing paper and the original reports I read as part of the research.

Scottish Attainment Challenge PPT The Scottish Attainment Challenge Presentation (NXPowerLite)

Scottish Attainment Challenge Summary Paper Attainment Scotland Summary

Joseph Rowntree Report education-attainment-scotland-summary

Using collaboration and enquiry to tackle inequality SIPPSummaryReport_tcm4-844498