SCOTLAND’S attainment gap figures are “very poor”, a Scottish Green MSP has admitted.
Maggie Chapman said the current figures are “not good and not something Scotland can be proud of”.
The North East Scotland MSP told The National the Scottish Government could be doing more to tackle the attainment gap.
However, Chapman said Scotland is constrained by the devolution settlement, warning that until the "full economic and financial levers” are given to Scotland, it would be “very, very difficult” to close the attainment gap.
She said: “I think we’ve got an awful lot of work to do with the attainment gap.
"We shouldn’t expect teachers to solve a problem that is about poverty and inequality.
“We need to tackle the deep-rooted causes of kids not being able to concentrate at school, not being able to do well at school.
“Much of that is down to poverty. Much of that is down to inequality. That’s what we need to be focusing on.”
It comes after figures this week showed the attainment gap between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland had grown wider since last year.
Figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show that for pupils in the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland, the Higher pass rate was 70.2% this year, down from 83.2% last year.
In the 20% least deprived areas, the Higher pass rate stood at 85.1%, down from 91% last year when teacher assessments were used as exams could not be run due to the pandemic.
It means the attainment gap between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland has grown wider from 7.8 percentage points in 2021 to 15 percentage points in 2022.
Scottish Greens MSPs have been accused of not speaking out over the attainment figures.
Not a single tweet from @scottishgreens, @patrickharvie, @lornaslater or @Ross_Greer about a set of exam results that have deliberately widened the gap between the richest and poorest pupils. Would they be more vocal if they weren't in government, I wonder?— James McEnaney (@MrMcEnaney) August 9, 2022
Chapman said “every conversation” she has with Scottish Government ministers focuses on how to lift more people out of poverty, saying “that is how we close the attainment gap”.
She continued: “I think that alongside the conversation and policy actions about tackling poverty, about tackling inequality, then we finally get somewhere where our education system supports everybody, not just those who can afford to pay for it.”
In 2021, the Scottish Greens entered into an agreement with the SNP that said they would collaborate on certain issues and have two ministers in the Scottish Government.
The agreement meant the SNP would have a built-in majority on some issues, but co-leader Patrick Harvie at the time said the deal "marks out very clearly that there is space for both political parties to retain their distinct voices and identities".
Asked if the Scottish Government has failed in its efforts to remove the attainment gap, Chapman said: “There is clearly more we need to be doing.
“I know my colleague Ross Greer who is the Green education spokesperson will be looking at this now.
“I think the idea that you can solve what is a systemic societal problem by focusing on one thing, it’s not going to work.
“We need a much broader-based approach to tackling inequality because the attainment gap is just one symptom of our unequal society.”
Chapman said the government needed to tackle the cause of the attainment gap rather than just fixing the symptoms.
She said: “It’s just one symptom of a structure which causes and perpetuates inequality.
“That’s what we need to tackle, we need to tackle the cause, not just put sticking plasters on one or two things that where the statistics show up very poorly.”
The Scottish Conservatives' education spokesperson, Oliver Mundell, on Tuesday said the results reflected a "betrayal of kids from the most deprived parts of Scotland".
“The widening attainment gap is a badge of shame for the First Minister and a shocking indictment of the SNP’s dismal record on education," he added.
On the attainment gap, Chapman admitted: "It’s not good. It’s not something Scotland can be proud of. We’ve got more work to do.”
But without independence Scotland would be unable to completely remove it, Chapman warned.
“Because I see it as rooted in structural inequality," she said. "Until we have all the financial and economic levers that a country should have, until we have all of those at our disposal it’s going to be very, very difficult to use the limited and constrained resources that we have to do that.
“I'm sure there are more things that we can do with the powers and the resources we have.
"And I know that I and others will be looking at this over the coming weeks and months.”
Asked if the Scottish Government should tell pupils they would not be able to reduce the attainment gap completely without independence, she said: “That's an interesting question.
“I think I think what the Scottish Government, what all elected representatives have a duty to do is to set out not only what is possible, but what we know we can achieve, but also the vision of what we want to be able to achieve.
“Because I think politics without hope. It's not a politics that I have any interest in being a part of. And one of the things I mentioned a few moments ago, is having a conversation.
“I think one of the things that we don't do very well as a society is talk about difficult things, talk about things that are difficult to solve, and come up with maybe ideas that education officers in the Scottish Government and others haven't thought of yet.
"It's not just the Scottish Government who can have good ideas.
“There'll be ideas out there and only by talking to people, some of those ideas come forward.”