The drive to close the attainment gap has led to big boosts to school budgets and that money will keep coming until 2022 and possibly beyond, Scotland's first minister confirmed today.
Nicola Sturgeon announced the programme for government this afternoon as MSPs returned to Holyrood.
The big focus of the programme was on ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change and setting out the steps the Scottish government would take in response to the climate emergency.
However, Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that the government’s investment in the Attainment Fund – the cash aimed at improving the education outcomes of disadvantaged pupils and which includes the Pupil Equity Fund that goes straight to schools – would continue “until at least March 2022” so that schools could “plan ahead”.
She said the government would start to deliver the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Career Pathways for Teachers – which called for a new post of “lead teacher” to be introduced. And announced an extra £15 million to improve the experience of children who have additional support needs.
Closing the attainment gap
Coping with the range of ASNs in the classroom is frequently highlighted by teachers as one of their top concerns, especially in light of council budget cuts and falling support staff numbers. The latest pupil census shows that the number of pupils with an identified support need has increased by over 60 per cent since 2012.
Ms Sturgeon also said that by next August 80,000 families would benefit from the expansion of free nursery hours and confirmed that the first wave of schools to be built or refurbished through a new £1 billion school investment programme would be announced later this month.
A priority for that scheme would be working with Fife Council to rebuild Woodmill High in Dunfermline, which was recently badly damaged in a fire, “as quickly as possible”, she said.
However, the Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, outlined the failure of the SNP government to deliver on promises. He highlighted the fall in Higher pass rates for the fourth consecutive year despite the first minister stating last year that “closing the attainment gap and raising standards in our schools remains the government’s overriding mission”.
He also challenged the first minister to quicken the pace of change on child and adolescent mental health after new figures today revealed that more than 30 per cent of young people were waiting longer than the 18-week target time.