East Renfrewshire councillors have praised the area’s schools for reducing the attainment gap, despite challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Education chiefs have revealed the gap – between children living in the most and least deprived areas – for S4 pupils attaining five or more awards at National 5 has decreased for the third consecutive year.

Councillor Colm Merrick said the figures were “particularly pleasing” and “really something to celebrate.”

He added: “I’m hearing through the media that the attainment gap has got bigger across the country, as you would have expected because the pandemic has hit the people with the greatest challenges hardest.”

The SNP man also asked how East Renfrewshire had managed to reduce the gap, adding: “That is something that is outstanding and I suspect other parts of the country will want to try to copy that.”

Council chiefs reported that 79% of S4 pupils attained five or more awards at National 5 or better – the second highest in East Renfrewshire’s history.

According to council leader Tony Buchanan, the gap is “thankfully moving in the right direction.” despite setbacks experienced over the last 18 months.

A council officer said there had been a “concerted effort for a considerable amount of time” to close the poverty-related attainment gap.

“This local authority had a continuous focus on equality for all and improving the life chances for children and young people regardless of their backgrounds,” added the officer.

“I think one of the key reasons in the ability to do so is our relentless interrogation of the data we have on our children and young people.”

He added there was a “continuous focus” on closing equity gaps and teachers can monitor data and introduce appropriate interventions.

Another council officer praised the work done at childcare hubs set up during the pandemic.

She said: “Our staff were fully committed to reaching out to those kids that maybe weren’t traditionally known as vulnerable but we knew that learning from home was challenging.

“Attendance at our hubs was exceptionally high because we realised, for some children, not attending school wasn’t the best mode to learn, so we did have a lot of children in the hub that required that support.”

The officer added the education department worked closely with the area’s health and social care partnership.

“We were able to reach out and invite children to come into a school building,” she said.