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My question is for the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
How is the Scottish Government continuing to monitor the attainment gap? What work is being done to ensure that all pupils have the same opportunity to gain a place at university in this year’s admissions, regardless of their background?
The closure of the poverty-related attainment gap is the central theme of Government education policy, so it is clear that the period of educational disruption that we are going through is a matter of great concern. I want to ensure that every effort is made to close the poverty-related attainment gap and that every young person who is dealing with the impact of poverty on their life is able to achieve the support to which they are entitled.
Through pupil equity funding and the Scottish attainment challenge, more than £180 million-worth of resources are directed directly to schools and relevant local authorities. We have told schools and local authorities that they have the freedom and flexibility to judge how best to use those resources to maximum effect. I want to make sure that, in the period of remote learning that we are currently going through, young people are directly supported by their schools and their needs are met. I know that, in different parts of the country, schools and local authorities are providing that support in a variety of ways.
There will be practical issues. Some young people in poverty might not have access to digital connectivity, and I know that schools are working in a very focused way to overcome that, either through the distribution of devices or by enabling access to data, so that young people can continue their learning.
A lot of practical work is under way to support young people in that context. Of course, when we are operating our education system in the more habitual fashion to which we have been accustomed, we will want to reinforce our efforts to close the poverty-related attainment gap as part of that work.
Finally, and briefly, university access will hinge on the results that young people achieve, but our universities remain absolutely committed to the widening access agenda, on which they have made significant progress. The Government is committed to maintaining that progress.