As our schools resume this week, I want to wish all pupils, returning and new, every success for the year ahead.

They are certainly returning in a positive atmosphere locally, following the publication of last week’s exam results, which exceeded pre-pandemic levels here in East Lothian. The results also bucked the national trend on tackling the poverty-related attainment gap, with particular success in reducing the gap at Higher level.

All the young people who sat exams this year deserve great credit for their hard work and dedication. Their achievements are a testament to the excellence of our teachers, the support of families, but, more importantly, their own talent and resilience.

However, the wider national picture was not so rosy. The latest results show that the poverty-related attainment gap is still persisting across subjects and that pupils from more deprived backgrounds continue to be failed.

The SNP’s 2016 programme for government stated, “it is the defining mission of this government to close the poverty-related attainment gap”. However, last year, as progress stalled, a key target to ‘substantially eliminate the gap by 2026’ was dropped by Ministers.

The previous First Minister asked to be judged on this issue, saying she was willing to put her “neck on the line” over her commitment to improving education. Six months after her departure from office it is clearer than ever that she failed to meet that commitment.

Her successor as First Minister has not made such bold claims on reducing the attainment gap but has said it remains a key focus for his government. However, across the board in Scotland results have basically gone back to 2019 levels, when we knew this issue was already a major problem.

A return to pre-covid is simply not good enough. The young people of Scotland deserve a government that is genuinely focused on helping to enable everyone to achieve the best possible start in their education.