The Scottish Government is to overhaul how funding aimed at reducing the poverty-related attainment gap is distributed to schools.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed on Tuesday changes to Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) funding which will see the money shares more widely across Scotland.
But what exactly is the Scottish Attainment Challenge and how will these changes impact pupils in Tayside and Fife?
What is the Scottish Attainment Challenge?
The SAC is the Scottish Government’s flagship programme aimed at helping close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils.
It includes funding targeting the nine council areas with the highest levels of deprivation – known as challenge authorities – including Dundee.
Further funding is given to 73 primary and secondary schools – including nine in Fife – facing the biggest challenges in terms of poverty outside these council areas under the challenge schools programme.
Also included in the SAC is the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) which sees money go directly to schools based on the number of pupils claiming free school meals.
What changes are being made to attainment gap funding?
In an update to parliament, the Education Secretary confirmed £200 million of funding for the 2022-23 school year. This is down from the £215 million invested for the 2021-22 year.
It was also confirmed that the £43 million previously ring-fenced for the nine challenge authorities including Dundee will be shared across all 32 local authority areas instead.
It will be distributed equitably between all council areas based on children in low income families data for the last financial year.
Head teachers will receive up to £130 million next year through PEF, down from £147 million this year.
The challenge schools programme has also been scrapped and the £7 million invested in it will be cut.
Fife has nine challenge schools – six primary and three secondary:
- Inzievar Primary
- Pathead Primary
- Southwood Primary
- St Kenneth’s Primary
- St Serf’s Primary
- Warout Primary
- Glenwood High School
- St Columba’s RC High School
- Viewforth High School
Labour slam “callous cuts”
The overhaul of the SAC has been met with criticism from oppositions MSPs, with Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Michael Marra labelling it as “callous cuts”.
He said: “That the SNP are choosing this moment to make callous cuts to the poorest children’s education is grotesque and intolerable.
“It almost defies belief. Far from rhetoric on recovery, they are abandoning any pretence they care about the poorest pupils in the poorest areas.
“This announcement means savage cuts to the nine most deprived education authorities, £25.5 million stripped from attainment funding and hundreds of jobs in frontline education now at risk.”
🧒 The gap between rich and poor kids is widening, and with this decision it will get even wider.
📣 @MichaelJMarra lays bare the devastating impact the SNP's education cuts will have.
— Scottish Labour (@ScottishLabour) November 23, 2021
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville 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.”