NICOLA Sturgeon could not have been clearer about the importance of education to her administration.

She described school reform as her “defining mission” and promised to close the attainment gap between children from poor and affluent backgrounds.

Although constitutional politics have loomed large for the last twelve months, the First Minister maintains that fixing education is the Government’s top priority.

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However, there are worrying signs that the attainment gap is as complex as it is persistent. On a point of fact, poorer children are less numerate and literate than their more privileged counterparts, and fare worse when exams come round. There is, in fact, not one gap, but many.

As we reveal today, ministers still do not know which specific poverty-related gap they want to close, or by how much.

The basic rule of policy-making is: work out what your problem is, and then solve it.

Ministers should have addressed this point from day one.

The £120m Pupil Equity Fund, which gives money to headteachers, not councils, to spend, is also a risky endeavour.

John Swinney is assuming heads will spend their budgets wisely, but senior council figures fear a chunk of the cash could be wasted.

Education is the Government’s top priority, but it is worrying that heads will be given an unprecedented sum of money to close a gap the Government has not specifically defined.

Thirteen months on from the last Holyrood election, progress in boosting attainment is slow and it looks unlikely a transformation will occur by the end of this parliamentary term.