A former Dundee head teacher has labelled cuts to funding aimed at reducing the poverty-related attainment gap as “immoral”.
Speaking in front of MSPs on Wednesday, former Harris Academy head teacher Jim Thewliss criticised changes in the distribution of Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) funding.
These changes mean that the £43 million previously ring-fenced for nine “challenge authorities” would instead be shared across all 32 local authority areas – a move which could see Dundee schools lose out on more than £4 million of funding.
“Immoral to take away that funding”
The SAC is the Scottish Government’s flagship programme aimed at helping close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils.
It previously included funding targeting the nine council areas with the highest levels of deprivation – known as challenge authorities – including Dundee.
Last year, however, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed plans to redistribute SAC money to support deprived children all across Scotland.
This change has been met by criticism from union and education leaders, including Mr Thewliss, who have raised concerns deprived pupils could be negatively impacted.
See Jim Thewliss’ comments on how Dundee will be impacted by the cuts:
Speaking in front of the Scottish Parliament’s education, children and young people committee, Mr Thewliss said: “When we look at attainment challenge funding to begin with, it was directed at deprivation and nine areas were picked up.
“We know the number of young people impacted by deprivation in these nine challenge areas, surely it’s immoral to take away that funding.
“They should allocate (the funding) across all the areas on a per capita basis, working out how much was allocated per capita in the nine areas in the first place.”
Dundee schools to lose £4.9 million
The changes in SAC funding distribution will mean Dundee schools could lose around £4.9 million over the next four years.
Michael Marra, Labour MSP for North East Scotland, said there was “justifiable outrage” at the cuts and called on the government to listen to Mr Thewliss’ comments.
He said. “These cuts hit the very poorest communities across Scotland and the cut to Dundee’s funding is the biggest cut of all.
Mr Thewliss was right to call the cuts immoral.”
Michael Marra MSP
“There is justifiable outrage at the scale of these cuts and the fact that they are set to remove support for some of the most vulnerable children in our city.
“Mr Thewliss was right to call the cuts immoral. He knows education in Dundee very well with decades of distinguished leadership in our city. If SNP ministers will not listen to unions, parents or politicians surely they must listen to him and put this resource back in place.”
Closing the attainment gap “long-term ambition”
Announcing the changes last year, education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said that closing the attainment gap remained a priority and that the Scottish Government was increasing investment in education.
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.
“We are determined to increase the pace of this crucial work and to ensure children and young people across different parts of Scotland reach their full potential. Our head teachers and teachers know their pupils best, and they have our full trust to help achieve this backed by £200 million for the year ahead.”