Pupil attainment: closing the gap

Scottish Attainment Challenge

The Scottish Attainment Challenge is about achieving equity in education. This can be achieved by ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

The Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched by the First Minister in February 2015. It is underpinned by The National Improvement Framework, Curriculum for Excellence and Getting it Right for Every Child.

It focuses on improvement activity in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing in specific areas of Scotland. It will also support and complement the broader range of initiatives and programmes to ensure that all of Scotland's children and young people reach their full potential.

In 2021 to 2022, over £215 million of targeted funding will be invested to help close the poverty related attainment gap. It marks the first year of investment in an expanded £1 billion Attainment Scotland Fund which will be provided over the new Parliamentary term after an investment of over £750 million in the previous Parliamentary term.

The funding in 2021 to 2022 will be distributed through five different programmes, nine local councils with the highest concentrations of deprivation in Scotland, known as 'Challenge Authorities', will share £43 million of investment. A further £7 million from the Schools’ Programme will be shared between 73 additional schools with the highest concentration of pupils from areas of deprivation.

Headteachers will receive £147 million of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) which they will decide how best to invest to support disadvantaged pupils. This includes a top up payment of £20 million, recognising the new and additional challenges schools face as a result of the pandemic.

Local authority work to help improve the attainment of care experienced young people, including through mentoring programmes, will receive up to £12 million. A further £7 million is being invested in a number of a national programmes, including third-sector organisations, to support their targeted work to raise the attainment of young people.

Scottish Attainment Challenge 2021 to 2022

2021 to 2022 allocations

Challenge Authorities*


Schools Programme*






National programmes





The Scottish Attainment Challenge Equity Audit deepens the understanding of the impact COVID-19 and school closures had on children and young people from socio-­economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Two sketchnotes have also been produced to help share some of the key findings of the Equity Audit. These are available on the Education Scotland website

Pupil Equity Funding (PEF)

The Pupil Equity Funding is allocated directly to schools and targeted at closing the poverty related attainment gap. 

Every council area is benefitting from Pupil Equity Funding and 97% of schools in Scotland have been allocated funding for pupils in P1-S3 known to be eligible for free school meals.

This funding is to be spent at the discretion of the head-teacher working in partnership with each other and their local authority, with PEF national operational guidance designed to help support those plans. Schools will now have their plans in place for using their funding and will be implementing those plans.

Related information

Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund

The Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund is also being provided to local authorities to enable them to target initiatives, activities, and resources, that will improve the educational outcomes of this group of disadvantaged young people. 

Up to £33 million from the Attainment Scotland Fund was made available over the previoius parliament.

This funding was distributed to local authorities, and directed by Chief Social Work and Education Officers, in conjunction with key planning partners to target this funding. The voices of care experienced children and young people are integral to this process. The funding benefits a wide group, with care experienced children and young people from birth to the age of 26, being eligible for the fund.

In addition to the funding provided in the previous parliament, over the 2021 to 2022 academic year local authority work to help improve the attainment of care experienced young people, including through mentoring programmes, will be supported with over £11.5 million, through the Care Experienced Children and Young People Grant.

The 2021/22 allocations are as follows:

Local authority

2021 to 2022 allocation

Aberdeen City






Argyll & Bute




Dumfries & Galloway


Dundee City


East Ayrshire


East Dunbartonshire


East Lothian


East Renfrewshire


Edinburgh City


Eilean Siar






Glasgow City










North Ayrshire


North Lanarkshire


Orkney Islands


Perth & Kinross




Scottish Borders


Shetland Islands


South Ayrshire


South Lanarkshire




West Dunbartonshire


West Lothian


Scotland Total


Related Information

Assessment and evaluation of attainment

We will evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions made by schools via the National Improvement Framework: drivers of improvement. This details all the evidence we will gather to monitor progress.

School education statistics also provide comprehensive data on performance including pupil and teacher information, and attainment and qualification results.

Scottish national standardised assessment

Children in P1, P4, P7 and S3 will complete online standardised assessments in literacy and numeracy, aligned to the Curriculum for Excellence. The assessments help to identify children's progress, providing information to support teachers' professional judgement.

Find out more: Scottish National Standarised Assessment

Regional improvement collaboratives

Regional improvement collaboratives (RICs) are an initiative to ensure the provision of educational improvement support.

RICs will:

  • support teachers through dedicated teams of professionals, drawing on staff from Education Scotland staff, local authorities and others
  • provide focus through the delivery of an annual regional plan and work programme aligned to the National Improvement Framework
  • deliver collaborative working, including sharing best practice
  • be led by a regional director, appointed by the government, who will report to the HM Chief Inspector/Chief Executive of Education Scotland

The Regional Improvement Collaboratives focus on meeting local needs, putting Getting It Right For Every Child at the heart of their work and delivering a relentless focus on improvement.

They will ensure the provision of specialist support and advice across all eight curriculum areas particularly literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. They will also identify the particular areas for improvement within their region and ensure the interventions are put in place to address them.

Six regional improvement leads have been appointed and each collaborative will have a detailed improvement plan in place by January 2018. The improvement plans and the workforce plans will be agreed with the Chief Inspector of Education.

Advisory groups