Five years on with the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) funding and what has changed?
Guest Blog from Carrie Lindsay, ADES President
The introduction of funding that allowed a focus for investment on targeting the poverty-related attainment gap was a very welcome addition for Scottish education authorities. The three types of funding; SAC for local authorities: SAC for individual schools: and Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) for almost all schools in Scotland, has stimulated much debate about the distribution methodology.
What was clear was that an investment of £750 million (over 5 years) into education budgets was a welcome signal and recognition that to achieve more positive and equitable social and economic outcomes for Scotland, we need to invest in our children and young people.
Across Scotland there have been many successful approaches undertaken to meet identified needs in local communities to close the poverty-related attainment gap. The biggest difference and greatest impact have been seen where some key factors are present;
• Strong leadership and shared vision across the local authority to reduce the impact of poverty on life chances
• Motivated staff, supported by career long professional learning that strengthens skills and knowledge of all
• Delivering sustainable approaches through recognising the importance of capacity-building to achieve long-term improvement
• Use of data to select and target approaches to identify confidently those children and young people requiring different support
• Evaluating the impact of initiatives to know what works and where to continue to invest
• Clear and consistent focus on improving aspects of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing
• Developing a strategy that uses universal approaches to raise attainment for all, alongside targeted interventions to close the poverty-related attainment gap.
Where these key factors are in place across Scotland, we have seen significant evidence of improved life chances for our children and young people. We must continue to use our learning and evidence-base to support our whole-system approach to improvement.
Across Scotland, closing the poverty-related attainment gap within the Broad General Education has continued to show a positive trend over the last 5 years. In some senior phase measures performance of pupils living in the 20% most deprived areas is improving at a faster rate than those in the 20% least deprived areas. This is thanks to the policy attention, resource focus in this area, and to the skills of our practitioners.
If education is seen to be the way to achieve a more positive social and economic future for Scotland, then now would be the time to ensure that we use the evidence of what works. Also to review the distribution of spend, and share our learning and resources to make an even bigger impact on closing the poverty-related attainment gap: we need to learn as we go. Our peer to peer approach within ADES is a sound basis from which to develop and spread our learning around the whole of our small country, improving the whole-system and raising attainment for all of our children and young people.