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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.

The £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund is a targeted initiative focused on supporting pupils in the local authorities of Scotland with the highest concentrations of deprivation.

The nine 'Challenge Authorities' are Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. It initially focused on primary schools.

A number of primary and secondary schools outwith the Challenge Authorities, with significant proportions of their pupils living in deprived areas are also benefiting. These schools have been identified on the basis of supporting a significant proportion of pupils and families from communities which are facing some of the greatest challenges. Many of these schools are already doing well for all of their pupils and we want to learn from and spread this practice.

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

Challenge Authorities

Local Authority

2020/21 LA ASF Allocations





East Ayrshire






North Ayrshire


North Lanarkshire




West Dunbartonshire




Schools’ Programme

Local Authority

2020/21 LA Level ASF Allocations

Aberdeen City


Argyll & Bute


Dumfries & Galloway










Scottish Borders


South Ayrshire


South Lanarkshire




West Lothian




Pupil Equity Funding (PEF)

The Pupil Equity Funding is being provided as part of the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund which will be invested over the current parliamentary term (2016 to 2021).

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 95% 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. 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 through the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund. This funding will offer targeted initiatives, activities, and resources, that will improve the educational outcomes of this group of disadvantaged young people. This is a new initiative.

£33 million from the Attainment Scotland Fund will be made available over the remainder of this parliament (£8.2 million for 2018 to 2019 part year) and £12.25 million for each subsequent year to 2020 to 2021).

This funding will be 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 will be integral to this process, which is of particular importance and significance in 2018, the Year of Young People. The funding will benefit a wide group, with care experienced children and young people from birth to the age of 26, being eligible for the fund.

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