CHILDREN living in deprived areas of the Borders have much lower educational attainment rates than similarly disadvantaged children in the rest of Scotland. 

Figures provided by the local government benchmarking framework show that nearly one in five disadvantaged children in the Scottish Borders achieved five or more national 5 qualifications in 2016-17.

Nationally, 41 per cent of children from deprived areas of Scotland achieved these results, compared with Scottish Borders’ 21 per cent.

At the other end of the table, more than 60 per cent of disadvantaged children living in East Dunbartonshire achieved five or more national 5 qualifications over the same period. 

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said: “We are facing a significant challenge, not only in those areas identified as being the most deprived but also because of the way in which rurality impacts upon our children and young people

“Extensive work is already taking place in our schools and communities to intervene and narrow the attainment gap that exists between the most and least disadvantaged pupils in the Borders

“This includes maximising the funding received through initiatives such as the pupil equity fund and Scottish attainment challenge

“There are positive examples of schools working together to deliver interventions jointly that maximise the benefits available and increase opportunities through flexible curriculum.”

The figures were submitted to the Scottish Government’s education and skills committee by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for an inquiry on attainment and achievement of school aged children experiencing poverty.

Jim McCormick, associate director of the foundation, said: “These figures show that attainment varies significantly between deprived areas of Scotland. 

“Young people in rural authorities, which may have only a few pockets of deprivation, fare very differently depending on where they live. 

“Moray and South Ayrshire fare better than average, with Scottish Borders doing least well on this measure. 

“The hopeful sign is that some authorities have seen rising attainment against the odds, even when they have high rates of poverty.”

Rachael Hamilton MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire said: “The SNP Government has said that closing the attainment gap was their number one priority, but it seems that areas in the Scottish Borders that need support are not getting it whilst other areas in Scotland are.

“This disparity is not good enough. The SNP’s performance on education is not good enough. 

“Every child in Scotland deserves a fantastic education no matter where they are born. However, it seems that deprived areas in the Scottish Borders are being neglected.

“I will demand answers why the Scottish Borders has been left behind and expect in response that pupils in deprived areas in the Scottish Borders will receive additional support.”

The council spokesperson added: “The council recruited two attainment officers last year to provide a dedicated focus in this area, which, combined with other interventions, we believe will result in improved outcomes for our pupils, including our most disadvantaged.

“The council is also looking to revise the curriculum in all secondary schools so a broader range of subjects is offered. An excellent example is the recent link-up between Eyemouth High and Borders College.

“It is worth noting the local government benchmarking framework has seen the council outperform other authorities in areas such as in positive destinations and amount of highers that senior pupils are achieving.”