Five years of Scottish Attainment Challenge

Education Secretary to make flagship speech on attainment.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney will deliver a key education speech this week marking the fifth anniversary of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

In his address to headteachers and key education leaders, Mr Swinney will reflect on progress made in closing the attainment gap and provide an update on the forthcoming review of the Curriculum for Excellence.

Mr Swinney will also thank headteachers, practitioners and local authorities for their commitment and innovation in raising attainment.  

He said:

“As we mark the fifth year of the Scottish Attainment Challenge we must reflect on our journey and look ahead to what we hope to achieve in the coming years.

“Our measures are making a tangible impact and I am proud of the work undertaken by headteachers and others to break down barriers to learning and raise the attainment of children in our schools. We have seen 88% of headteachers report improvements in closing the attainment gap directly as a result of our investment and we are seeing increased cohesion and collaboration across local authorities and schools. Pupil Equity Funding is also empowering our Headteachers to make the decisions that directly improve the life chances of our young people.

“We are also seeing steady, incremental gains in attainment across the broad general education. This is in line with the sustainable progress we would expect to see at this stage, according to international experts.

“As the International Council of Education Advisers have set out - Scotland is heading in the right direction but achieving equity and excellence is a long-term task. We now need a period of consolidation and sustainability to ensure that our reforms have the chance to become properly embedded in our education system.”

In his speech Mr Swinney will reflect on progress made since the introduction of the Challenge, including:

  • the latest Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Level (ACEL) data which shows attainment among the most disadvantaged pupils rose in numeracy, reading and writing at P1, P4 and P7
  • feedback from headteachers which shows 88% percent have reported improvements in closing the poverty-related attainment gap as a result of the Scottish Attainment Challenge
  • feedback from headteachers in which 95% have indicated they expect to see further improvements over the next 5 years
  • the latest PISA stats which reported that pupils’ social backgrounds have less of an influence on reading and maths attainment in Scotland than the OECD average


The First Minister launched the Scottish Attainment Challenge in February 2015 to help close the poverty-related attainment gap in Scotland.

The Attainment Scotland Fund was established to support the Scottish Attainment Challenge in 2015.  This is a £750 million commitment over the course of this parliamentary term.

Attainment Scotland Fund interim evaluation (year 3)

Headteacher Survey 2018 

Attainment Scotland Fund Evaluation: School Case Studies


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