Majority of headteachers say attainment gap is closing

Three-quarters of headteachers believe the attainment gap has started to close as a result of targeted national funding, according to new research published by the Scottish Government.

The evaluation of the first two years of the Attainment Scotland Fund looks at the effects of investing £52 million in schools in the country's most deprived areas.

The funding was distributed to schools in nine local authorities with high levels of poverty, and a further 74 schools with the highest levels of deprivation in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Councils and schools used the cash to improve the literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing of pupils.

The evaluation of the scheme included evidence from local authority progress reports, independent qualitative research and an annual headteacher survey.

Education Secretary John Swinney
Education Secretary John Swinney (Jane Barlow/PA)

It found 78% of headteachers surveyed saw improvements in tackling the attainment gap in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing as a result of the fund, while 97% expect to see improvements over the next five years.

The research uncovered widespread support for the aims of the fund, with schools reporting greater collaboration and a focus on improving teaching skills and practice.

However in some areas bureaucracy and challenging timescales were seen as areas that could be improved.

Recruitment of staff was also viewed as a significant challenge for local authorities and schools.

"This put extra pressure on schools and impacted negatively on the success of planned interventions, leading to frustration and underspend", the report stated.

Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney said: "The defining mission of this government is to raise school attainment and close the poverty-related gap, backed by £750 million of investment over the lifetime of this Parliament.

"It is heartening to see that progress is beginning to be made.

"I acknowledge the challenges to progress that exist and have been identified by schools and local authorities.

"We have already taken action to address these and will continue to listen to feedback."

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