Attainment funding overhaul cuts cash to poorest council areas
An overhaul of the programme to tackle the educational attainment gap will see one of the major funding schemes removed.
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed on Tuesday that the ‘challenge schools progamme’, which supports the nine councils with the highest levels of deprivation, will be scrapped.
The £43m set aside for this programme will instead be dispersed across all 32 local authorities in Scotland.
Scottish Labour accused the government of making “callous cuts” to education budgets.
Somerville said the move was to address the attainment gap in all areas of Scotland and was part of a “new mission” to embed the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) into the wider child poverty agenda.
She told MSPs: “All local authority areas, not just the nine challenge authorities funded under the challenge to date, will have an enhanced leadership and support role to play.
“All local authorities will now share an investment of the £43m to help tackle the poverty-related attainment gap and support education recovery.”
Allocations will be provided to education directors at each local authority within the coming weeks, agreed in partnership with umbrella group COSLA.
The councils set to lose out are Clackmannanshire, Dundee, East Ayrshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.
The SAC is made up of five separate funding channels targeting different areas.
The education secretary confirmed the Pupil Equity Fund, the Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund and National Programmes cash will continue as part of the “refreshed” SAC.
Scottish Labour said the changes were “grotesque and intolerable”. Education spokesperson Michael Marra warned it would lead to teaching posts funded by the SAC being cut in the nine challenge areas.
He said: “This policy decimates education funding for the poorest children in the nine poorest local authorities in Scotland. These children have suffered most during the pandemic, they have seen their life changes weakened, and so is the case again today.”
The Scottish Government is also expecting figures, to be published next month, which show the widening of the attainment gap during the pandemic.
In particular, literacy and numeracy levels among the youngest children are anticipated to have fallen.
A framework for recovery from the pandemic will be published in the new year.
Tory education spokesperson Oliver Mundell said the government had no “credible plan to restore standards" in education.
He added: “Nicola Sturgeon has broken her promise to close the attainment gap in the last parliament and nothing the SNP have set out show any real ambition to do so in this one.”