Pupils still pay the price of poverty

Poverty remains the biggest single factor in determining how Scotland's primary schools are likely to perform in tests, a Herald study has shown. Writing ability is particularly closely related to social deprivation, with the wealthiest schools doing twice as well as the poorest.

The numbers give a "desperately disappointing" picture of the first cohort to complete their primary school education under a Labour government, according to education experts who say an intense, society-wide effort is needed to eradicate the social deprivation that makes school tests an unfair contest, which the poorest are bound to lose.

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'Positive forces'

'As an unusually sunny summer term winds to a close at Queen Victoria school in Stirlingshire, punctuated by band practice, sports days and preparation for a ceremony to be attended by Princess Anne, the only cloud on the horizon is the dangers facing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For all 280 boarders at this secluded spot, set in 45 acres of greenery, are the children of men and women in the services, many serving overseas.

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'McSchools? Not in Scotland'

You don't have to be an aunt Sally to see that this is exactly the kind of school the white paper in England is aimed at creating." Gordon Smith, head of Jordanhill school in Glasgow's West End, is describing why he has to be careful what he says just at the moment.

In his role as president of the Scottish Association of Headteachers, Smith describes why Scotland can't have more schools like Jordanhill. While with his other hat on, he talks about how great it is. It is a difficult line to tread.

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Some parent-teacher associations raise huge amounts for school funds. Is it fair?

The class of eight-year-olds at Low Port school in Linlithgow are engrossed in the shapes on their interactive computer screen. They are touching frames to colour different fractions. This is a maths lesson, but it could be a game. The children at Low Port start using Smart Boards in primary one and continue throughout their time at the school. "The
internet is your oyster, explains Liz Greig, a teacher in primary 4. "I can go on to Google and get a map, say, and display it for the class. When we are reading, they can all follow the text on the screen. It's much easier to keep them focused."

The school spent several hundred pounds on these popular maths games last year and the pupil council is pushing for more. Where does the money come from? "We approach the trust fund," explains the principal teacher, Anne Cook.

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Kids' plans 'blocked' by private finance

Ask pupils to propose changes to the design of their school and the response from some might be to ask for a quicker route to the exit. But in fact the kind of suggestions pupils come up with are often far more constructive - and unexpected. Synthetic grass, more pegs for coats and bags and even a soil-less garden are among ideas received by architects working with Scottish schoolchildren.

Pupils should be consulted over new school building design, claims the government. But a leading ecological architect warns that this risks being little more than a box-ticking exercise under the current system of public private partnership (PPP).

Read more: Kids' plans 'blocked' by private finance