SCOTLAND: Subject choice is vital in improving children’s life chances, researchers say

The Scottish government’s drive to close the attainment gap will fail to boost the life chances of deprived children because many are not choosing the right subjects, research suggests.

The University of Edinburgh researchers call for academic subjects such as English, maths, sciences and languages to be compulsory for longer and for schools to give pupils better advice about the long-term implications of their decisions.

Scotland celebrates 50 years of comprehensive schooling this year, but lead researcher Cristina Iannelli, professor of education and social stratification at the University of Edinburgh, said pupils were being set on different tracks according to social class.

Subject selection followed a social pattern, she said, with children from disadvantaged backgrounds more likely to choose options such as business or technical education. They were less likely to choose traditional subjects that led to university study and higher-paid jobs.

The research follows the launch of the £100 million Scottish Attainment Challenge earlier this year. The government pledged that Scotland would be the first country in the world to close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils.

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