£7.5 million for city schools to tackle attainment gap

John Swinney launches the funding
John Swinney launches the funding
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SCHOOLS in the Capital will receive almost £7.5 million direct from the Scottish Government to help close the poverty-related attainment gap.

Headteachers are being handed the cash, based on the number of pupils eligible for free school meals, in a controversial Scotland-wide move which bypasses local authorities.

But Edinburgh’s education convener Cammy Day said he was hoping to encourage schools to work together and pool their extra funding to achieve more.

He said sharing the resources at “cluster” level – where typically one secondary and up to five primary schools are linked – could allow more effective action.

The cash – from the government’s £120m “pupil equity funding” scheme – amounts to around £1200 for each P1 to S3 pupil on free school meals.

Across the city, that amounts to £7,472,400. The Edinburgh primary school with the biggest allocation is Canal View in Wester Hailes, which will get £223,200, and ten of the schools with the highest levels of poverty share £1.6m.

The attainment gap sees 83.2 per cent of school-leavers from the ten per cent least-deprived communities in Scotland finish school with one Higher or above, while the figure for the ten per cent most deprived communities is 38.6 per cent.

Cllr Day said: “Any money which can be spent on education and increasing attainment is to be welcomed.

“This money bypasses the councils and goes straight to headteachers who will be ultimately responsible for making sure it helps each of the young people intended to benefit.

“The council is getting the schools to discuss whether putting the money together would help them to think and act more strategically.

“We’d like to see local primary and secondary schools working together to get more strategic gain for that extra funding and a better outcome for the young people this is 
targeted at.”

He said pooled funds might be used to bring in an extra teacher or a third-sector agency to work with pupils.

Announcing the allocation of the new funding, education secretary John Swinney said: “I want every child in Scotland to have the best possible start in life, and it is unacceptable for children from the poorest backgrounds to have their chances limited by circumstances outside their control.

“This government has made clear our priority is to close the poverty-related attainment gap and our new £120m pupil equity funding is aimed at doing just that. We are providing additional ring-fenced funding which will enable individual schools to target support where it is needed the most.”

The government originally planned to meet the cost of pupil equity funding with revenue from council tax increases, but is now financing it from the general budget.

Labour said the extra cash for schools was dwarfed by the size of cuts to council funding – £38.3m in Edinburgh’s case, the party said.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com