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by Louise Wilson
18 January 2022
Education committee launch inquiry on attainment gap cash

Alamy Stock

Education committee launch inquiry on attainment gap cash

MSPs are assessing the efforts of the Scottish Government in closing the attainment gap between pupils from the most and least deprived backgrounds.

Opening an inquiry into the Scottish Attainment Challenge – a programme launched in 2015 with various strands of funding to support schools – Holyrood’s education committee is seeking views on the impact of the cash.

Committee convener Stephen Kerr said the inquiry was particularly important given the government’s plans to increase the funding over the next five years.

He said: “To assist with our inquiry, we want your views not only on the progress of the fund but also on how we can best measure its success. That way, we can make sure the money is getting to those who need it the most.”

In the five years to 2021, the government spent £750 million on the Attainment Challenge.

The majority of the cash goes towards the Pupil Equity Fund, whereby funding it provided directly to schools to help support low income families, though other strands exist for care experience young people and for local authorities with particular challenges.

The government came under fire late last year for announcing a cut to the funding for these so-called challenge authorities, with the strand of funding to be scrapped and the cash dispersed across all 32 local authorities instead of the nine with the highest levels of deprivation.

But at the same time, education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed overall funding for the Scottish Attainment Challenge would increase to £1bn over the next five years.

Addressing MSPs in November, she said: “Closing the attainment gap remains our key long-term ambition. We are increasing our investment to £1 billion over this parliamentary term to support education recovery and improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty.”

The education committee’s inquiry will also consider the impact of the pandemic on attainment and achievement.

Figures published in December found the gap has widened between primary pupils from the most and least deprived areas of Scotland.

The attainment gap for literacy was 24.7 percentage points in 2020/21, and for numeracy is was 21.4 percentage points.

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