Closing the attainment gap in Highland
Highland Council is fully supportive of the aim to close the poverty-related educational attainment gap between children and young people from the least and most disadvantaged communities.
In Highland, 1537 Primary and 1006 Secondary School children live in the most deprived data zones.
Highland Council’s focus is to target interventions to support raising attainment in reading, writing and numeracy. Schools have been supported to make best use of available funding, through existing improvement planning processes, and a ‘bureaucracy-light’ approach.
The Pupil Equity Fund was launched in session 2017-18. Allocations are based on the number of pupils from P1 to S3 who are eligible and registered for free school meals, with schools receiving £1,200 per pupil. This involved 90% of Highland schools, receiving almost £4m.
Approximately 55% of Highland pupils attend the five Primary and four Secondary Schools supported directly by the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) funding. There are 1646 pupils being targeted for extra interventions in these schools.
Health and Wellbeing for Families and Communities is an integral part of tackling educational attainment. Family Link Workers are making a positive difference to attendance, engagement, attitude and ultimately learning in each of four schools.
The Positive Relationships Co-ordinator was appointed in January 2017 and initially worked with schools to establish and develop a nurturing approach. This has led to a raised awareness and understanding for all staff of the importance of social and emotional learning, and the development of a nurturing approach.
Chair of the Highland Council’s People Committee, Councillor Alasdair Christie said: “Highland shares the features of many other rural authorities, in having a significant attainment gap between the highest and poorest performing pupils. The attainment challenge funding is provided to help close the gap in those schools with the highest levels of multiple deprivation. The funding model does not best suit rural schools or address rural deprivation, and I understand the Scottish Government is looking at that and will hopefully address this weakness.
“Our focus is to target interventions to support raising attainment in reading, writing and numeracy. There is large amount of quantitative and qualitative data around measuring the impact of interventions, and there are already positive signs starting to demonstrate impact. We have seen very positive results where parents have been more involved in schools and their children’s education.
“Health and wellbeing of families and communities is a fundamental part of an holistic approach to improving educational achievement and the best outcomes for our young people and I am keen to see that we continue be innovative and to work hard with partners to provide the best environment for children to grow and thrive and learn in.”
He added: “I welcome the constructive dialogue which has taken place between the Scottish Government and Local Authorities and the recognition of our important role in educational strategy and governance.
“However, there still remains too much uncertainty around the role of the new regional improvement collaboratives and how they will enhance the delivery of education and improve attainment.
“The last thing that parents and teachers want is another layer of bureaucracy and governance and Headteachers are particularly concerned about being given additional roles and responsibilities that may impact on learning and teaching time.”
He continued: “The pace of change is very rapid and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and other partners to ensure that education reform has the best outcomes for our children.”