Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

CHERYL PEEBLES: School league tables are controversial – but vital in fight against postcode inequality

School league tables underline the difference in results between affluent areas and those that are more deprived.
School league tables underline the difference in results between affluent areas and those that are more deprived.

Publishing school league tables is controversial.

Parents love to see where their children’s or their own former schools are placed based on their exam successes.

But many who work in education are strongly opposed to the ranking of schools, saying it shames those languishing at the bottom and fails to recognise the wider accomplishments.

There are many factors affecting what proportion of a school’s pupils will leave with the ‘gold standard’ of five or more Highers.

That’s the figure regarded as a benchmark and often a university requirement.

And a school’s teaching performance and its ability to coach its pupils to pass exams is just part of the picture.

Sadly, the deprivation levels in a school’s catchment play a big role in determining how many of its pupils will excel academically.

And that reason alone is enough to justify continuing to publish such tables.

New tables illustrate divide between rich and poor

Take a look at The Courier Schools League, showing the attainment data for Tayside and Fife secondary schools.

The top 10 is dominated by schools with fewer than 10% of their pupils living in the most deprived areas – known as SIMD 1 (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation).

By contrast half of the bottom 10 have more than 50% of their pupils living in SIMD 1.

School league tables help to shine a light on the attainment gap which exists between Scotland’s most and least affluent children.

Tariff scores for attainment of school leavers were also among attainment data released by the Scottish Government on Tuesday.

And the score for those in that most deprived SIMD 1 – 721 – was only just over half of that for those in the least deprived SIMD 5 –  1,346.

So raising attainment is about much, much more than teaching.

And schools can’t do it alone.

Tackle poverty and results will follow

The ability to succeed, both academically and vocationally, should not depend on a person’s postcode.

A child’s chances of achieving the qualifications which might win them a place in university or help them into a fulfilling career should not depend on where they are brought up.

But for too many youngsters that remains the reality.

Great teachers can nurture their pupils in the classroom but there’s little they can do to influence factors beyond that.

Social, health and economic inequality are wider societal issues to be dealt with beyond the school gates.

And tackling poverty – which is growing rather than shrinking – is the key to enabling those on the wrong side of the attainment gap to catch up with their peers on the right side.

Cheryl Peebles is head of The Courier’s Schools and Families team and a mother of two.

Read more on school league tables and attainment:

Here’s how Tayside and Fife schools rank as 2022 league tables are published

‘Exam success is a narrow measure of what schools like Levenmouth Academy do to prepare pupils for work’

How many pupils in each Tayside and Fife school go on to ‘positive destinations’ after they leave?

Already a subscriber? Sign in





Please enter the name you would like to appear on your comments. (It doesn’t have to be your real name - but nothing rude please, we are a polite bunch!) Use a combination of eight or more characters that includes an upper and lower case character, and a number.

By registering with [[site_name]] you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy

Or sign up with

Facebook Google



Or login with

Forgotten your password?


More from The Courier Education team

More from The Courier