Dr. Edward Sousa of Strathclyde University argued, what to my mind was a highly questionable proposition, that "Who you are in Scotland is far more important than what school you attend." He was however making the valid point that parental involvement and encouragement is important - as are 'rich experiences' for children
On 'aspirations and expectations' he suggested that aspirations of parents and pupils across income groups are often similar, but expectations are quite different.
Sara Spencer of the Child Poverty Action Group gave us many insights into their report 'Cost of the School Day' which is to be published on 2nd October. She illustrated 'cost' barriers to full participation in school life. Often even short school trips and the small costs of clubs and fun events are impossible for some. Costs are complex but the Commission agreed that we should be looking at the desirability of increasing the clothing grant.
Paul Clancy of Dundee City Council Education Department outlined some of the initiatives being pursued by the City Council to lessen the attainment gap. He also spoke of 'placing requests' which have resulted in 1 in 3 children in Dundee attending schools outwith their catchment areas. When asked what effect the ending of these placement requests might have, he replied, "Dramatic, but it wouldn't be a popular policy!"
If the Fairness Commission is to achieve change then it cannot be afraid of championing unpopular policies. It must ask of what it proposes, "Is it right and is it fair to those who are least able to articulate their needs?" In this case we must ask ourselves, "Do we wish to push for an end to parental placing requests? What benefits would accrue? What would be lost?"