Attainment funding targeted too late, warns Save the Children
Toddler - credit Andrew Seaman
The Scottish Government’s attainment challenge funding should be channelled to pre-school years if it wants to close the gap between rich and poor, a leading charity has warned.
Save the Children has said funding aimed at schools would be be more effective tackling the impact of poverty in pre-school years.
This week Education Secretary John Swinney announced the latest round of the government’s Scottish Attainment Challenge funding, which is awarded to nine local authorities and some individual schools to target funding at pupils from deprived areas.
The £750m fund is spread over the five years of this parliament, but the first two years have seen less than £100m allocated.
In the first year only primary schools in seven local authorities received the extra funding, but this year £45m has been awarded to both primary and secondary.
However, Save the Children has pointed to growing evidence which shows brain development stems from experiences in the first months of life.
The charity’s policy manager in Scotland Vicky Crichton said that although it was “encouraging” that the Scottish Government has made tackling the attainment gap its ‘defining mission’, the money should be targeted earlier.
“Statistics from Scotland’s health visitors have shown that young children living in poverty are twice as likely to have difficulties in early development of language and communication,” she said.
“The earlier we tackle this, the more likely we are to make a lasting difference to children’s learning.
“So many children start school without the developmental building blocks they need to learn and struggle to catch up throughout their school years. If we’re serious as a nation about investing to close the attainment gap, we know can make the biggest difference in those crucial early years.”
According to research for UNICEF, approximately 1,000 synaptic connections are formed every second in the first months of life, which can impact on a child’s health, brain development and life chances, as shown through our Holyrood baby campaign.