Making headway in reducing the attainment gap for young people from deprived backgrounds

Improving literacy and numeracy is giving more young people a better chance of fulfilling their potential in life.

Highland Council is committed to tackling poverty and inequality and enabling all our children and young people to reach their full potential, with a focus on reducing the attainment gap for those from more disadvantaged communities across the Highlands.

A report to committee on Thursday 5th December, will set out significant progress that schools in the region are making in closing the poverty-related attainment gap, by improving equity for students living in deprivation.

The improved measures and progress being made in pupil education are being supported through Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) and Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC). Working within the National Improvement Framework, alongside the Council’s vision of ambitious, sustainable and connected communities, schools have identified local barriers to equity and developed plans and initiatives to improve literacy, Numeracy, Health and Wellbeing as well as positive destinations for young people.

Initial figures highlight the increase in both numeracy and literacy levels, as well as a significant reduction in the number of exclusions. The percentage level increase over 4 years has seen a significant improvement at all levels of literacy and numeracy. These improvements have translated into reductions in the attainment gap at almost all levels, and particularly at level 4 literacy and numeracy.

Attainment in literacy and numeracy for young people from our most deprived communities has seen increasing percentages of leavers attaining in National Level 3,4 and 5 awards in other literacy and numeracy and a rising trend for them to access employment, further education and higher education. The Council is now 3.65% above the national percentage for young people from deprived areas reaching a positive destination after school.

Exclusions for our young people from our most deprived backgrounds have reduced by 36% at a time when significant numbers of our most vulnerable young people have been returning to be cared and educated within the Highlands. This is a very good outcome and credit must be given to all our staff who are contributing to achieving much more inclusive approaches across our services and communities.

Members will be asked to note this good news and examples of best practice. They will also be asked to endorse and contribute to an annual reporting mechanism on young peoples’ attainment from deprived backgrounds at local area Council committees.

Interim Head of Education Nicky Grant commented on the report. She said: “In tackling the twin targets of excellence and equity, we need to be ambitious in aiming for the best possible outcomes for all our young people.  We need these outcomes to be sustainable, and we will do that by developing the skills and attributes of all children and young people regardless of their backgrounds.  Our work needs to be connected, so that we can learn from each other, drawing on best practice and discover what is working well that might be adapted for use in each local setting. This improvement reflects the important work of all out staff and those involved in supporting young people in deprived communities.”

4 Dec 2019
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