Attainment Scotland Fund evaluation: headteacher survey - topline briefing report 2020

This report presents and overview of headline findings from the 2020 survey of headteachers of schools in receipt of support from the Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF). This is the fifth survey of headteachers, previous surveys having been conducted in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Key Messages

This report presents key findings from the fifth survey of headteachers of schools in receipt of Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF) support.The survey was issued to all schools in receipt of Challenge Authority (CA) and Schools Programme (SP) funding, and 50% of those in receipt of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF). A total of 420 responses were received, a 27% response rate.

ASF and supported approaches

A great majority of headteachers (98%) felt they understood the challenges and barriers faced by pupils affected by poverty. A large majority (84%) indicated that the approach to achieving equity is embedded within their school.

98% understand the barriers for pupils affected by poverty

A large majority of schools (85%) had developed their approach to achieving equity from the previous year, a significant increase since 2019. A substantial proportion (46%) of schools also developed their approach further during school building closures in March to June 2020. Schools were more likely to have developed their approach during school building closures if their approach had developed from the previous year.

84% have embedded the approach to equity in their school

Use of data and evaluation

84% felt they have good data/evidence skills

A large majority of headteachers were positive about their use of data and evidence in developing approaches (84%), and measuring the impact of their approaches (82%). Most were also positive about use of evidence to measure impact (76%), and measuring of progress (78%). However, there has been a deterioration since 2019 in headteachers' rating of their use of data to develop approaches, and measure impact.


90% have seen improvement in closing the gap, 88% expect improvement in the next few years

A large majority (90%) of headteachers have seen improvement in closing the poverty-related gap in attainment and/or health and wellbeing as a result of ASF supported approaches (a 12-point increase since 2017). A similar number (88%) expected to see improvement in closing the gap over the next few years, although this represents a 10-point reduction since 2019. Headteachers were more likely to expect further improvement if they had already seen 'a lot' of improvement to date.

The great majority (95%) felt that COVID-19 and school building closures had at least some impact on their progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap (61% had seen a 'significant impact'). Secondary schools and those with middle to higher PEF allocations were most likely to feel that their progress had been significantly affected. 

Survey analysis indicates that headteachers are most likely to have seen progress in closing the gap where there has been changes of culture or ethos (such as embedding the approach to equity or improved collaborative working), improved understanding of barriers faced by pupils and families, strong skills and knowledge in use of data and evidence, and engagement with families and communities.

63% expect progress and/or the focus on closing the gap to be sustainable

Nearly two thirds (63%) of headteachers expected progress to date and/or the focus on equity to be sustainable beyond funding. Headteachers were more positive about sustainability of focus than of progress to date; 34% expected progress to be sustainable, and 58% expected the focus on equity to be sustainable (a significant increase since 2019).

65% have seen an increase in collaborative working

Nearly two thirds (65%) of headteachers had seen an increase in collaborative working up to March 2020 as a result of ASF support. A substantial proportion (46%) also indicated that they had seen a further increase in collaborative working during school building closures.

Pupil Equity Funding

The majority (76%) of headteachers felt there was sufficient support in place to develop and implement their school plan for PEF, a 20-point increase since 2017. 

94% felt they had autonomy, 89% felt PEF provided additional resource to address the attainment gap

The great majority (94%) of headteachers felt they had the autonomy to develop PEF plans that responded to local context and needs. Views were also very positive on whether PEF had provided additional resources to help schools address the poverty-related attainment gap (89% felt this had been the case). 



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