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3 April 2017, 06:37
Research from an educational think tank says there is no evidence to suggest that denominational or non-denominational schools produce better school performances.
IPPR Scotland, which conducts research into public education, suggested that a religious ethos had no impact on pupils' educational outcomes.
As part of the report, titled Autonomy In The Right Place, the organisation looked at the two main school types in Scotland to consider whether they affected attainment.
Its analysis found 45.37% of pupils in religious schools get three highers or more compared to 45.96% in non-religious schools.
Meanwhile, 58.81% in religious schools meet literacy and numeracy targets, compared to 59.64% in non-religious schools.
Russell Gunson, director of IPPR Scotland, said: "Once you take account of intake, there is no evidence to suggest that denominational schools, or non-denominational schools see better school performance or attainment.
"It may or may not be the case that different school types add value in other ways, but on the issue of pupil attainment, the hard evidence shows that a religious ethos in itself doesn't make a difference.
"Instead we should focus on devolving education powers to the right level to make a difference so that teachers, parents, heads, pupils, councils and the Scottish Government, can play the vital role they each need to play to close the attainment gap in Scotland.''
The report also analysed school governance reforms most likely to have a positive effect on attainment and suggested devolution powers at the local authority, regional or national level.
It suggested increasing breakfast, after-school, weekend and holiday provision for more deprived pupils and offering formal and informal learning for those at risk of falling behind.
The report also recommends creating New Regional Educational Partnerships, which will operate across councils to foster a culture of evidence.
It believes new parent and pupil councils could bring greater accountability and devolution to schools.
Mr Gunson added: "It's crucial that school reform is evidence-led and that we go for change that has the best chance of seeing the improvements in outcomes that we want to see.
"This report helps to outline which changes will likely help and which may not, and we hope it's timely ahead of forthcoming decisions on school reform in Scotland.''
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "As part of our reforms we are reviewing school governance to ensure decisions on learning are made as close to the child as possible.
"This approach is built on strong international evidence that shows empowered schools and engaged parents lead to better educational outcomes.
"The IPPR report is an important contribution to this debate, which concludes that reform of our schools is essential if we are to close the poverty-related attainment gap.
"I particularly welcome the view that devolution of power over learning to schools should be the default within the education system as that approach is at the heart of the governance review.
"The report also proposes new regional bodies to operate across local authorities in a move that would be similar to our plans for regional boards to foster collaboration and improve the spread of best practice among schools.''