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.

7. Concluding remarks

7.1. This report has presented findings from a recent survey of headteachers of schools in receipt of support from the Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF), and associated follow-up qualitative engagement with schools. ASF supports the Scottish Attainment Challenge focus on improving literacy, numeracy, health and well-being of children adversely affected by poverty, and incorporates a number of specific strands to support schools to close the poverty-related gap in attainment and wellbeing.

7.2. As the fourth survey of headteachers, findings continue to demonstrate positive impacts being delivered with ASF support. Moreover, development of the survey evidence base over time shows a number of positive trends. For example, the 91% of schools that have seen improvement in closing the poverty-related gap in literacy, numeracy or health and wellbeing represents a 13 point improvement since 2017. Nearly all schools (98%) also expect further improvement in closing the gap in the next five years.

7.3. Survey findings highlight a number of factors that appear linked to the progress achieved by schools in closing the poverty-related attainment gap. In particular, the headteachers most likely to report improvement were those who (a) have seen a change in ethos through more collaborative working and/or embedding the approach to equity, (b) have improved understanding of barriers faced by pupils and their families, (c) were confident using evidence to develop and measure approaches, and (d) who felt they had sufficient support to develop their plan for PEF.

7.4. The particular importance of changing culture and ethos, and improving understanding of the barriers to be addressed, was reinforced across survey findings and qualitative feedback. In addition to responses continuing to highlight the importance of collaborative working, a large majority responded positively to a new set of questions relating to wider school culture and improved understanding of barriers faced by pupils and families. Survey results and qualitative feedback highlighted the importance of ASF supporting a change of culture and approach. This included ASF encouraging a greater focus on data and evidence in developing and evaluating approaches, and schools reflecting on the role of parental and community engagement in developing a shared school ethos.

7.5. Variation in experience across respondent subgroups also appears to reinforce the importance of culture and ethos (including more collaborative working), an embedded approach to equity, and use of evidence in supporting progress in closing the gap. For example, Schools Programme respondents were more likely than others to report positive impacts to date, and were also more confident in use of data. Conversely, PEF-only schools, and particularly those with a lower PEF allocation, were least likely to report improvement - and were also less likely to feel that the approach to equity is embedded in their school, and were less aware of potential approaches to achieving equity.

7.6. Survey findings provide a number of positive indicators in terms of the impact delivered to date, and the factors that appear to support these positive impacts. For example, there has been a nine point increase since 2017 in schools who are confident using data, and an 18 point increase in schools who feel they had sufficient support to develop their plan for PEF. Qualitative feedback also referred to ASF being used to embed the approach to equity and effect a change in school culture, as means of achieving progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

7.7. However, survey findings suggest that questions remain regarding the extent to which progress to date may be sustainable beyond funding. For example, less than half of schools feel the improvement they have made to date will be sustainable, and this represents a 17 point fall since 2017. This view appears to reflect the importance of dedicated staff input in achieving positive impacts, and concerns amongst schools regarding potential loss of staff resources as a result of any reduction in funding.

7.8. A substantial proportion of schools appeared to be of the view that loss of ASF support would inevitably lead to some loss of progress achieved to date, particularly in the context of ongoing resource pressures. However, schools were not suggesting that positive impacts supported by ASF would be wholly lost when funding ends. For example, a large majority of respondents felt that the focus on equity in their school would be sustainable to some extent and, as noted earlier, this embedding of equity appears to be a driver of progress in closing the gap. Qualitative feedback suggests that schools recognise this, and have sought to establish a shared understanding of equity and a common approach to achieving equity as key elements in their work to ensure that ASF can deliver lasting benefits for pupils and families.



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