Attainment Scotland Fund evaluation: headteacher survey report 2019

This report presents findings from a recent survey of headteachers of schools in receipt of support from the Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF). This is the fourth survey of headteachers, previous surveys having been conducted in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

1. Introduction

1.1. This report presents findings from the 2019 survey of headteachers of schools in receipt of support from the Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF). The survey was commissioned by Scottish Government's Learning Analysis Unit to inform the wider evaluation of ASF.

1.2. This section summarises the background and objectives for the survey. The remainder of this report sets out the fieldwork approach, level and profile of survey response, and findings across the key themes addressed through the survey:

  • Development of ASF supported approaches
  • An overview of supported approaches;
  • Use of data and evaluation;
  • Impact, including sustainability; and
  • Pupil Equity Funding.


1.3. The Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) was launched by the First Minister in February 2015 to help close the poverty-related attainment gap. It is underpinned by the National Improvement Framework, Curriculum for Excellence and Getting it Right for Every Child. Backed by the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund over the course of this Parliament, it prioritises improvements in literacy, numeracy, health and well-being of those children adversely affected by poverty in Scotland's schools. Achieving excellence and equity in education is the key aim.

1.4. The Attainment Challenge leads system change through a tripartite shared leadership of national government, local government and the executive improvement agency, Education Scotland. The core aims of the programme are to support and empower headteachers, schools, local authorities and their partners to develop their own approaches, reflecting their own local circumstances.

1.5. The Scottish Attainment Challenge has the following main strands:

  • Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) provides £120m directly to schools for headteachers to use at their discretion on initiatives that they consider will help close the poverty related attainment gap. Over 95% of schools in Scotland have been allocated funding for pupils in Primary 1 through to third year of secondary school, based on the estimated numbers of pupils registered for free school meals.
  • The Challenge Authority and Schools Programmes provide additional resource to nine local authorities, and 73[1] schools outwith those local authorities with the highest levels of deprivation. Each Challenge Authority/Schools Programme school receives funding and support to deliver improvement plans focused on literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing to tackle the poverty related attainment gap.
  • Care Experienced Children and Young People funding for targeted initiatives, activities, and resources, designed to improve the educational outcomes of this group.

1.6. These strands have developed over the period of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Challenge Authority and Schools Programme were the initial funding streams which commenced in 2015, followed by the introduction of Pupil Equity Funding in 2017/18. Finally, the Care Experienced Children and Young People grant was introduced in 2018/19. Additionally, the Scottish Attainment Challenge supports a number of national programmes including staffing supply and capacity; professional learning and school leadership; investment in Regional Improvement Collaboratives; and a small number of third sector led initiatives.

1.7. The government's 2019/20 Programme for Government included a commitment to continue funding the Scottish Attainment Challenge at current levels in 2021/22, reinforcing their sustained focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

1.8. This is the fourth survey of headteachers of schools in receipt of ASF support. Surveys in 2016 and 2017 included headteachers across the Challenge Authorities and Schools Programmes, and a sample of PEF-only schools was included for the first time in the 2018 survey.[2] For the present survey, the sample was expanded to include all schools in receipt of PEF, and therefore all schools in receipt of ASF support. The 2019 survey explores views of Challenge Authorities, Schools Programme and Pupil Equity Fund. An exploration of views on the Care Experienced Children and Young People fund was outwith the scope of the survey.

1.9. The figure below summarises development of the ASF, and surveys of headteachers conducted to date.

Attainment Scotland Fund timeline
Chart showing the timeline of the Attainment Scotland Fund between 2015/16 and 2019/20

1.10. As the Scottish Attainment Challenge has evolved, the focus of the evidence being collected through the Headteacher survey has moved from primarily being about processes towards a greater focus on progress and impact of approaches being delivered. This evidence is helping to inform the progress being made towards delivering the long-term outcomes of the programme. Information is being used to sharpen the government's focus and inform how support and challenge will be enhanced over the next period to the end of this Parliament.

Study objectives

1.11. The ASF Headteacher survey is a Scottish Government commissioned survey which includes headteachers of schools in receipt of Challenge Authority, Schools Programme and/or Pupil Equity Funding. The overall aim was to build on learning from previous surveys to further improve operation of the ASF, and to maximise the impact of programmes supported by the Fund. This included the following specific objectives:

  • Provide insight on the experience of headteachers benefiting through each of the ASF streams, identifying any variation in experience or views across schools;
  • Build on longitudinal data to monitor changes over time; and
  • Provide evidence of what is working and what is not working well to inform ongoing delivery of the ASF.



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