Attainment gap for poorer pupils is stark, say campaigners

Research from the Poverty Alliance found the attainment gap starts in the early years of education and grows wider over time.

Classroom: Research from the Poverty Alliance found the attainment gap starts in the early years of education. Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images
Classroom: Research from the Poverty Alliance found the attainment gap starts in the early years of education.

Stark gaps in educational attainment risk being compounded by the pandemic, according to campaigners.

Research from the Poverty Alliance found the attainment gap starts in the early years of education and grows wider over time.

In 2019, 43.5% of pupils in the most deprived areas achieved one or more Highers when leaving school, compared to almost 79.3% of pupils living in the least deprived areas.

Inequalities continued after school years, with about 10% of young people in the most deprived areas being unemployed after the age of 16 compared to 2.6% for the least deprived.

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Emerging evidence shows the pandemic is affecting children in poorer areas more due to the digital divide and lack of access to education-related resources, the report said.

Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly said: “Scotland is a country that believes that every child should have every chance.

“However, this review makes clear that too many of our young people are seeing their life chances restricted by poverty.

“The educational attainment gap is stark in Scotland and is an injustice that we cannot allow to continue.”

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He continued: “We know that the pandemic is compounding the gap.

“But we also know the action that we have to take to loosen the grip of poverty on the lives of families across Scotland and to ensure that every young person in Scotland has access to the same opportunities.

“That means using every lever at our disposal to boost family incomes as well as increasing support for interventions like one-to-one tutoring and mentoring for young people from low-income backgrounds.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We agree that closing the poverty-related attainment gap has been made harder by the impact of Covid-19, with lockdown and being out of school affecting vulnerable children and those in deprived areas the hardest.

“Closing the gap remains the defining mission of this government, and we welcome this analysis of what more can be done to address some of the inequalities that exist among our young people.

“In addition to the significant investment we have recently made to increase the number of teachers and support staff in Scotland’s schools, as well as address digital inclusion, our draft Budget for 2021 goes further in our efforts to close the attainment gap with more than £127m in Pupil Equity Funding to support those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

“However, we will always be open to discussing with others how we can go further to ensure that every child and young person has an equal start in life.”

Scots soak up sunshine as Covid travel restrictions ease

Parks and seaside resorts busy as groups of up to six adults from six households are now allowed to meet outdoors.

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Some coronavirus travel restrictions have been removed in Scotland and more people are now able to meet up outdoors.

The latest stage in lockdown easing was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.

She said the continued decline in virus cases meant the restrictions can be eased earlier than planned.

Scots can now travel across local authority boundaries for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise.

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Cyclists pass a queue at an ice-cream van in Cramond, north-west of Edinburgh.
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But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.

Rules on gatherings have also been relaxed, with groups of up to six adults from six households now allowed to meet outdoors.

Children under 12 do not count towards the limit.

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Loch Morlich near Aviemore in the Highlands

As the changes took effect, the latest Scottish Government coronavirus figures showed three deaths of Covid patients and 204 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours,

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Friday’s data brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7640.

The daily test positivity rate is 1.4%, up from 1.2% on Thursday.

There are now 109 people in hospital in Scotland confirmed to have the virus, down six in 24 hours, and of these 18 patients are in intensive care – up two.

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Largs on Friday, April 16.

A total of 2,722,084 people north of the border have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 688,761 have had their second.

Among those heading further afield on Friday was Andrew McVie, 27, from Glasgow, who told the PA news agency he was “super excited” to be visiting Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae for a cycling day trip for the first time in more than two years.

The clerical assistant said he has enjoyed returning to the scenic island – a short ferry ride from Largs on the North Ayrshire coast – after visiting as a child with his mother.

He said: “I try and go with a bike when I’m free on weekends and day trips, I really enjoy it and it’s dead handy to get to and dead easy to cycle around, you can do it in about two hours if you don’t stop.

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Largs on Friday, April 16.
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“It’s why a lot of people like it, there’s great scenery and it’s a really nice, friendly, welcoming place and it’s a beautiful day.

“I’ve missed it so much not being able to go because of the travel restrictions, but I’ll still be taking precautions.

“And tomorrow I’m going through to Edinburgh with a couple of friends for the first time in over a year which will be good.”

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Lochore Meadows in Fife.

The latest lockdown easing comes after barbers and hairdressers opened on April 5 and ahead of a more substantial unlocking of the country on April 26.

On that date, Scotland will move from level four to level three of the four-tier system of restrictions.

Cafes, restaurants and beer gardens can then reopen, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums.

Travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted and tourist accommodation can welcome back visitors.

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Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow.

Other restrictions will ease in May and over the summer if Covid-19 continues to be suppressed.

Announcing the measures on Tuesday, Sturgeon said: “We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible.

“The improved data does not allow us to throw caution to the wind – not if we are sensible – but it does give us a bit of limited headroom.

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People enjoying the sun and sand in Aberdeen on Friday, April 16.

“So from the end of this week, you will be able to meet up with family and friends who live in different parts of the country.

“Many of those reunions will be long-awaited, and much anticipated. Please do remember that meetings at this stage must still be outdoors – you cannot socialise in people’s homes – and remember due to physical distancing, public transport capacity remains relatively limited.”

But on Thursday, the First Minister told the PA news agency it was “positive” that the easing of travel restrictions had been brought forward, but cautioned Scots not to allow their guard to drop.

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Two people meet together on a bench in Aberdeen.

“Don’t go to crowded places, if you’re headed to a beach or a park and it’s crowded please come away again because crowded places are not safe places to be.

“Please stick to all of the rules and advice, remember your face covering, remember, as I say, to avoid crowded places, hand hygiene, keep your two metre distancing.”

The First Minister added: “As long as we all stick to the advice that’s still in place, this easing of restrictions tomorrow should be the first of many and I think, not least because of the vaccine programme, we can all afford to be just that bit more optimistic right now.”

One in six UK adults fully vaccinated against Covid-19

In Scotland, more than 15% of adults have been given two doses of the vaccine.

Geoff Caddick via PA Wire
The figures are for vaccinations reported by the UK’s health agencies up to April 15.

One in six UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with more than two million second doses delivered in the past seven days, latest figures show.

A total of 8.9 million people have now received both jabs – the equivalent of 17.0% of the adult population.

In Scotland, over 15% of the adults have been given two doses, some way behind Wales where an estimated 22.8% have and Northern Ireland (17.2%), with England sitting at 16.8%.

The figures are for vaccinations reported by the UK’s health agencies up to April 15, and reflect the pace at which second doses are being ramped up across the country.

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Adults who have received Covid-19 vaccine (PA Graphics).
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Some 2.4 million second doses were recorded in the seven days to April 15, compared with 1.6 million, 1.9 million and just under one million in the previous three weeks.

Second doses of Covid-19 vaccines must follow within 12 weeks of the first, meaning the millions of people who received their initial jab in January and early February have recently had a follow-up dose, or are due to get the jab shortly.

People aged 80 and over were among the first groups on the priority list for vaccines, with initial doses offered from early December.

Figures released on Thursday by NHS England suggest around three-quarters of people in England in this age group have now had both doses of vaccine.

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In Scotland, 72% of people 80 and over are estimated to have had both jabs, along with 67% in Wales and 41% in Northern Ireland.

Wales leads the field in both first and second doses of vaccine, with nearly two-thirds of its adult population having received the first jab (65.7%), followed by England (61.8%), Scotland (61.4%) and Northern Ireland (58.5%).

Huge plumes of smoke as firefighters tackle wildfire

The blaze in Glen Cloy near Brodick was first reported at around 3.50pm on Friday.

Craig Galloway via Submitted
Three appliances are in attendance at the grass fire.

A wildfire has spread across a hillside on the isle of Arran after warnings of an extreme risk across western Scotland.

The blaze in Glen Cloy near Brodick was first reported at around 3.49pm on Friday.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said that firefighters were working to control the blaze across a 100m front.

The fire has engulfed a hill near Brodick on the isle of Arran (Craig Galloway)

Three appliances are in attendance at the grass fire.

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There is a warning of an extreme risk of wildfires across western Scotland.

The fire has engulfed a hill near Brodick on the isle of Arran (Craig Galloway)

The warning is in place across west, north-east, east and central Scotland until Saturday, April 17.


Hunt for thieves who torched children’s charity minibus

The bus, belonging to childcare charity Simply Play, was found burnt out and destroyed.

Simply Play via Simply Play
Destroyed: The minibus was found on Monday.

A minibus stolen from a primary school in West Lothian has been found burnt out and destroyed.

The bus, belonging to childcare charity Simply Play, was stolen from Simpson’s Primary in Wester Inch, Bathgate on Friday.

After an appeal to help find the bus, the “heartbroken” group revealed on Friday that it had been found, but in an irreparable state.

It was found completely burnt out in Fauldhouse on Monday evening.

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A GoFundMe page has now been launched to help pay for a new bus.

Posting on their Facebook page they said: “Words can’t describe how heartbroken we are.

“This is what they’ve done to our children’s minibus – totally stripped and burnt out in the middle of nowhere.”

Police are now investigating the incident.

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A spokesperson for the force said: “Police in West Lothian are investigating the theft of a vehicle from outside a school in Bathgate which was later found burnt out in Fauldhouse.

“The theft happened from outside the school on Leyland Road on Friday, 9 April, sometime after 5.30pm.

“The vehicle was then found burnt out on Monday evening, in Fauldhouse.

“Anyone who saw the vehicle between Friday, 9 April and Monday, 12 April, or has any information to assist police enquiries, should contact officers on 101.”

The charities GoFundMe page has so far raised over £1,000 towards a replacement.

Their CEO Raymond Branton said: “Everyone is gutted with this heartless theft.

“The last year has been tough enough on childcare providers and as a local charity, this will cost us money that we can ill afford”


Sunshine on Leith actor guilty of sexually assaulting actress

Kevin Guthrie faces jail after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a vulnerable woman in Glasgow.

Amanda Edwards / Stringer via Getty Images
Guilty: Kevin Guthrie faces jail.

Scottish actor Kevin Guthrie has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a vulnerable actress.

The Sunshine on Leith star, 33, took advantage of the 29-year-old woman who had appeared unwell after a night out. 

The incident occurred at the flat of fellow actor Scott Reid – Methadone Mick in BBC’s Still Game.

Guthrie had insisted he had only “helped” the woman that night – but his DNA was found on the inside of her underwear.

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He wept and said “why?” as the verdict was delivered at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday.

He had denied a sexual assault charge during a four-day trial.

Sheriff Tom Hughes told him: “You took advantage of this woman while she was in a vulnerable position.

“The jury say you were found in a position of trust while you were supposed to be looking after her.

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“Your position stands in direct contrast to the one of your friend Scott Reid whose actions were highly commendable.

“He rushed to her aid when something happened outside his home and he cared for her.

“He was constantly trying to get help through NHS 24 and did absolutely anything to help her.

“This must carry a custodial sentence for this serious matter you have been found guilty of.”

Guthrie, of the city’s Yorkhill, was put on the sex offenders’ list.

He was bailed pending sentencing next month.

The attack occurred between September 30 and October 1, 2017.

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The woman had been due to meet Guthrie and Scott at a bar on the night of the alleged attack.

Scott received a call from a taxi driver to collect her as she appeared ill.

He and Guthrie helped the woman into the flat in Glasgow’s Kelvindale and put her on a bed.

Scott called NHS 24 leaving Guthrie in the room “to make sure she was okay”.

The woman recalled Scott not being in the room and bed covers then “being moved down my body”.

She went on: “I remember my top being lifted up and my bra being held down.”

The woman was groped by Guthrie before he performed a sex act on her.

Guthrie – who also starred in the Fantastic Beasts film and Netflix series The English Game – carried out a further two sexual acts and kissed her on the mouth. He would stop when Scott would come into the room.

She added: “I was unsure about what was happening, I could not believe it was happening.”

Prosecutor Harry Findlay asked why she did not say anything.

She replied: “I couldn’t. I found it difficult to communicate in any way.

“I think I was frozen as well.”

Guthrie refuted the accusations agreeing with his QC Gordon Jackson that it had instead been a “panic situation” due to the woman’s condition.

However, his DNA was found on the inside of the woman’s underpants.

Mr Findlay asked Guthrie to explain why this was.

He said: “I can’t for the life of me explain in any rational sense how that happened.”

Sentence was deferred until next month for background reports.


Man in court accused of murdering father-of-two in street

Kai Russell, 22, allegedly killed Kamil Charyszyn , 35, in Easterhouse on 21 March, 2021.

Mark Scates via SNS Group / Police Scotland
Kai Russell appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court accused of the murder of Kamil Charyszyn (right).

A suspect has appeared in court accused of murdering a man on a Glasgow street.

Kai Russell, 22, allegedly killed Kamil Charyszyn , 35, in Easterhouse on 21 March, 2021.

Prosecutors claim Russell stabbed Mr Charyszyn on the neck with a knife or a similar instrument.

Russell is also accused of having a knife without a reasonable excuse or lawful authority in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, on the same date. 

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Russell, who was represented by his lawyer Ian Moir, made no plea at a private hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

He was remanded in custody pending further examination.

Russell, also of the city’s Easterhouse, will appear in court again within the next eight days.


Starmer calls for aviation recovery plan in Edinburgh Airport visit

The party has proposed a number of job-creating schemes ahead of May’s Scottish Parliament election.

Lesley Martin via PA Ready
Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have set out their plans to create thousands of jobs in Scotland.

Labour has called for a recovery plan for the aviation industry, as Sir Keir Starmer visited Edinburgh Airport.

He met with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and the airport’s chief executive Gordon Dewar as he travelled to Scotland on Friday.

Mr Dewar said the Scottish Government had failed to provide any plan for how international travel could resume when conditions allow.

It comes as Labour pledges to create 170,000 jobs through a variety of schemes as part of its election promises.

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Sir Keir said airport executives had stressed the need for a plan on how air travel could resume, while aviation would be crucial to the economic recovery.

The Labour leader told the PA news agency: “What they are most concerned about is that there needs to be a plan for the future, the uncertainty is having a huge effect on the airport, on those employed at the airport and everybody associated with it.

Jeff J Mitchell via PA Media
Single Use. Sir Keir Starmer, left, and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have set out their plans to create thousands of jobs in Scotland.

“So there needs to be a plan for the recovery. That’s why here in Scotland the central focus has to be on the recovery and that’s why Scottish Labour are today launching this 170,000 jobs package for the future.”

Mr Sarwar called for the aviation sector to have a transitional support fund as travel returned to pre-Covid levels, limiting the unemployment resulting from low passenger numbers.

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He said: “It’s going to take time to get us back to even pre-Covid levels, never mind going beyond those levels, and that’s why we need to have support for businesses across the country, that includes support for the aviation industry.

“So we can have people coming to Scotland, enjoying Scotland, spending money in Scotland and doing trade in Scotland if we are going to come through this as a stronger and fairer nation.”

Mr Dewar said the mood at his airport was currently “downbeat”.

He said: “It’s a very, very quiet place to be, it’s a very uncertain future in front of us at the moment.

“We’re just hoping we can get engagement with government to start talking about how we’re going to trade our way out of this in the future.

“But unfortunately at the moment that doesn’t seem to be happening.”

Mr Dewar said the UK Government was introducing a traffic light system to allow international travel to start again, but there was no equivalent plan for Scotland.

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He continued: “We’re going to be falling behind. Government not only doesn’t have a plan, they refuse to talk about a plan.

“So it’s really worrying about how we’re meant to explain to airlines, to passengers, to everyone that relies on aviation in Scotland what to expect in the coming future.”

Mr Dewar said he was not currently asking for financial support from government, but was seeking clarity on when and how trading could resume.

He added: “The UK currently has started to open up – Scotland hasn’t.

“There is no plan whatsoever of any description or any timing for international travel.

“We’re being told we are the price of the recovery.

“I just think that’s utterly unacceptable and I don’t see how any government can know it’s making good decisions if they haven’t done the work to know what a good decision looks like.”

Hunt for man who asked schoolgirl to ‘get into his van’

A manhunt is under way after the incident in Fife on Thursday evening was reported to police.

© Google Maps 2020
The incident reportedly took place outside the Spar on High Street, Freuchie.

A man reportedly asked a ten-year-old girl to get into his van outside a main street shop in a Fife village.

At around 6.30pm on Thursday, the schoolgirl was with her friends outside the Spar on Freuchie’s High Street when the man is said to have approached them.

Police said he had previously been inside the store and, after he spoke to the girl, got into his black van and drove away.

Officers are searching for the man and have asked anyone with any information to get in touch.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police enquiries are ongoing following a report of a ten-year-old girl approached by a man outside the Spar on High Street, Freuchie, around 6.30pm on Thursday, April 15.

“The man had been in the shop before the incident and he drove off in a black van.

“The young girl was with her friends at the time and officers are currently carrying out enquiries to establish more information and trace the man involved.

“Anyone with information should contact officers through 101, quoting reference number 3550 of April 15.”


Covid variant first detected in India found in Scotland

'Cause for concern' as four cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in Scotland as well as 73 cases in England.

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'Cause for concern': Discovery of 77 UK cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India.

The discovery of 77 UK cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India could be a cause for concern, an expert has said.

Public Health England (PHE) reported that 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in England as well as four cases in Scotland.

The figures come from the latest update of PHE’s surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK, based on data up to April 7.

Officials have designated it a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the Manaus (Brazil) or South African variants.

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Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant features two “escape mutations” – E484Q and L452R – which “are causing people to be concerned”.

“There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations,” he said.

“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine.

“But we don’t know that for certain at the moment.”

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In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deats.

Prof Hunter said it is “not surprising” that the variant has come from India.

“If you think about where the main variants have arisen – South Africa, the UK, California, Brazil, and now India – all of these are countries that have really struggled to keep case numbers down.

“So it’s not surprising. India has got a huge pandemic, and therefore that’s where you’re going to be getting the variant.”

He added: “The big, big anxiety with this one is that it seems – and again this is still a little bit speculative because it hasn’t been confirmed – but… there are two mutations here that are causing people to be concerned.”

The news comes as some coronavirus travel restrictions were removed in Scotland on Friday.

From Friday, Scots can leave their local authority area and visit other parts of the country for the purposes of outdoor socialising, recreation or exercise.

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But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.


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