A new report by the public spending watchdog has found that there has been “a recent decline” in education performance in North Ayrshire.
Millions have been diverted into the council as one of the Scottish government’s eight Attainment Challenge authorities, which are the focus of its bid to close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils.
Now, analysis of North Ayrshire Council’s performance by the Accounts Commission praised the authority for its "commitment and vision" but told it to focus on improving education amid falling standards.
Background: Swinney talks up impact of Attainment Challenge
The Accounts Commission said North Ayrshire Council had made "significant progress" in the last decade and highlighted its challenging context of “deprivation and demography”, but singled out education as a key area for improvement.
It found that back in 2016-17 and 2017-18, the council was never among the poorest performing councils for education but by 2018-19, 18 per cent of key education indicators were in the bottom quartile of councils.
Since then, the council had provided headteachers with the option to increase subject choice in 2018 and most schools had now done so, said the report.
The report continued: “Improvements will take time to filter through as students move through the senior phase. Despite this decline in LGBF [Local Government Benchmarking Framework] indicators, in-depth reports from Education Scotland are generally positive.”
In 2018-19, five of the nine Education Scotland inspections of schools and early years settings in North Ayrshire were graded as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ and one was graded as ‘weak’.
The Scottish government Attainment Challenge focuses on nine authorities – North Ayrshire, Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. It will have £750 million invested in it from 2015-16 to 2020-21.
Between 2017 and 2019, Education Scotland inspected the nine authorities to monitor their progress closing the gap; North Ayrshire was rated "very good".