4. Progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap
There is a strong body of evidence that shows good progress is being made towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap and that the SAC, supported by the £750 million ASF, is having a positive impact.
The attainment data shows a variation in pace of progress across different local authorities and different measures. However the change in culture and ethos; improved learning and teaching; strengthened collaboration; work with families and communities and the focus on health and wellbeing that is being seen, with a stronger focus on poverty and equity, will maximise the sustainability of those improvements already achieved. Where the level of progress has been more varied, this has often been a result of the attainment of those from the most deprived areas increasing but not at the same rate as those in the least deprived areas.
Internationally, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 indicated that in Scotland the background of students had less of an influence on attainment than the OECD average and less of an influence than it did in Scotland in 2009. Additionally, the ICEA acknowledged the progress that is being made in Scottish education to close the attainment gap through the SAC and wider education policies.
Almost nine out of ten schools reported to have seen an improvement in closing the poverty-related gap in attainment and/or health and wellbeing as a result of ASF supported approaches, with a similar proportion of schools (88%) expecting to see improvements in the next five years as a result of the approaches being delivered. The autonomy and flexibility provided by PEF has empowered schools to deliver bespoke and creative approaches for learning, tailored to the specific needs of the learners.
Challenge Authorities have benefitted from being part of SAC since the beginning of the programme. Whilst evidence shows a variation in the rate of progress towards closing the attainment gap between the Challenge Authorities, it also demonstrates that, collectively they have made greater progress towards achieving the medium-term outcomes of the programme as a result of this longer-term investment.
Over the first five years of the SAC programme there is evidence that almost all of the short and medium-term outcomes have been overtaken. More time and further development of the programme is now needed to ensure the long-term aspirations are achieved.