16 We will work together so that children’s voices are heard in the delivery of our commitments to tackle child poverty.
We held a session with children on 3 June, which focused on our ambition to eradicate child poverty. The Children’s Parliament led this session for us.
The findings from this session were included in the first annual progress report on child poverty, published on 26 June.
We have also engaged with young people when developing relevant policies that are featured in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. For example, we carried out a survey and focus groups with young people to help shape how we provide access to free period products in schools, colleges and universities. Delivery organisations have also carried out consultations with pupils to make sure that delivery of products meets local needs.
To help develop our ‘Out of school care in Scotland - draft framework’ - which was open for public consultation between August and December 2019 - we delivered a series of theatre workshops for children in after school clubs with our partners, Active Inquiry. These workshops captured children’s views on what they would like to do around about the school day and during the holidays, making sure that their voices were heard as part of our early policy development. We created a film to describe this work.
Throughout the out of school care consultation period, we continued delivering theatre workshops with Active Inquiry but also worked with another partner, Starcatchers, to gather the views of younger children, aged 4-6. These sessions used art and drama as a way of capturing children’s views. Again we created short films to show the results.
17 We will work on making the school day free or affordable for children and young people, such as through the Pupil Equity Fund, Cost of a School Day Project, Free School Meals, Best Start Grant and the minimum School Clothing Grant. This should help towards the costs of meals during school, trips and uniforms.
Pupil Equity Funding (PEF)
The Deputy First Minister introduced Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) in 2017 as a new way of working to close the poverty-related attainment gap. Money is given directly to the schools and head teachers who know their pupils best.
£120 million per year has been allocated for PEF. This funding has given teachers the opportunity to carry out creative new initiatives to tackle the attainment gap.
Our PEF allocations are based on the number of children between P1-S3 who are registered for free school meals. £1200 per child is given directly to that school by the local authority. Over 95% of schools across Scotland receive PEF.
The latest PEF spend data was published on 31 October 2019 and can be accessed here. In total, over 2017/18 and 2018/19, £204.8 million has been invested of the £242.5 million (84%) allocated over two years – with £37.7 million carried forward to 2019-20. This ability to carry forward unspent funds was a specific design of PEF to allow schools to use the funding sensibly across the academic year. The increase in PEF investment by head teachers in 2018-19 shows that our measures to empower teachers are working.
Scottish Attainment Challenge
We have provided Scottish Attainment Challenge funding – along with support to Young Scot – to support pilots in six local authority areas over three years (2017-2020). The Young Scot National Entitlement Card has been used as a non-stigmatising way to improve access to activities and services (including bus travel, leisure services and food entitlements). Targeted work has also taken place with groups, such as care experienced children and young people. This pilot has been recognised positively by a variety of organisations, including the UK Children’s Future Food Inquiry report – who have said that the project is an example of best practice for tackling food insecurity.
Case studies from Phase One of the Young Scot Attainment Pilot Project were published on 21 August.
There is a Programme for Government commitment to continue to fund the Scottish Attainment Challenge at current levels beyond this parliamentary term and into 2021/22 giving vital clarity to schools and councils that this support will continue.
Cost of the School Day Programme (COSD)
Our current two year funding agreement (2018/19 and 2019/20) supports a Cost of School Day Project Manager and Information Officer, based at the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland. They are supporting schools and local authorities to identify and overcome barriers that children from low income families face in costs related to their participation and engagement at school.
A COSD toolkit has been developed to help guide school communities - teaching staff, parents, children and young people - to find appropriate approaches and projects which suit individual schools.
In addition, Cost of the School Day short videos have recently been released highlighting the innovative ways schools and pupils have come together to overcome costs associated with their schools, including a focus on costs of school uniforms.
We also provided support towards an evaluation of the COSD programme (run by NHS Health Scotland), which is due to be published in 2020, which should provide us with valuable learning.
Free school meals
We have updated the eligibility criteria for free school meals, for people who get both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. This brings it in line with earnings under the National Living Wage. This change started on 1 August 2019.
Best Start Grant (BSG)
The Best Start Grant School Age Payment opened for applications on Monday 3 June 2019. This provides families on certain benefits and tax credits with £250 per child in the year they are first old enough to start school. Further information and a link to the Best Start Grant application form can be found here.
School Clothing Grant
A new national minimum School Clothing Grant of £100 has been in place for a year and delivers support to around 120,000 children. We are scheduled to review the level of grant in 2020.