Last Updated: Monday, December 21, 2020

Closing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Education (2014)

What is this?

​A research report which describes the influence of deprivation on attainment, provides an overview of approaches which could help close the attainment gap, and makes recommendations for how different bodies could address the problem.

Who is this for?

​Teachers, practitioners and others who are involved in planning or supporting learning for children and young people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

​Explore this research

How was the research carried out?

The research involved a systematic review, which aims to identify a comprehensive set of research evidence to answer one or more research questions. The research involved: an initial trawl to identify relevant research literature; screening of this literature and selection of studies which met predefined criteria; and analysis and synthesis of the research literature.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

Systematic reviews provide a comprehensive picture of the research literature in a particular area, usually based on the results of many studies in different settings. They bring together a wide range of research literature in one report, ideally offering an overview of key findings and/or evidence gaps.

What is the context for this research?

A range of policies and strategies have been introduced in recent years which aim to address the attainment gap between deprived children and young people, and their peers. This research focuses on the issue from a Scottish perspective and highlights a lack of Scottish focused evidence.

Reflective questions

The following questions may provide a stimulus for discussion:

  • In your setting, how well do you understand the links between socio-economic disadvantage and educational outcomes?
  • What can you do to respond to the particular needs of learners in your area from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds?

About the author(s)

This research report was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and written by Edward Sosu and Sue Ellis (Strathclyde University).

Related research/reading

British Educational Research Association (2014). Social Inequality: Can Schools Narrow the Gap? London: British Educational Research Association.

Teddlie, C. and Tashakkori, A. (2011). Mixed Methods Research: Contemporary Issues in an Emerging Field; in Denzin, N. K. and Lincoln, Y. S. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research (Sage Handbooks), 4th. Ed.

Day, C. (2015). The Role of Continuous Professional Development in Closing the Gap in Educational Attainment. Cardiff: Public Policy Institute for Wales.

Ofsted (2013). The Pupil Premium: How schools are spending the funding successfully. Manchester: Ofsted.

Hutchings, M,. Greenwood, C,. Hollingworth, S,. Mansaray, A,. Rose, A,. Minty, S. and Glass, K. (2012). Evaluation of the City Challenge programme. London: Department for Education.

Chapman, C., Mongon, D., Muijs, D., Williams, J., Pampaka, M., Wakefield, D. and Weiner, S. (2011). Evaluation of the Extra Mile . London: Department for Education.

Ofsted (2010). London Challenge. Manchester: Ofsted


This research was not commissioned by Education Scotland and the findings, recommendations and conclusions do not necessarily reflect the views of Education Scotland.

Full reference

Ellis, S. and Sosu, E. (2014). Closing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Education. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Link(s) to full research article

Closing the attainment gap in Scottish education