Coronavirus (COVID-19) education recovery: key actions and next steps

Outlines our ongoing response to the impacts of the pandemic on education in Scotland, and sets out some key next steps we will take to address them.

5. Ensuring Equity

Over the last five years, we have put in place a comprehensive range of measures to close the attainment gap, built around the £750m Scottish Attainment Challenge programme.

In March 2021, Audit Scotland published Improving outcomes for young people through school education and in the same month the Scottish Government published the Closing the Poverty-Related Attainment Gap – A Report on Progress 2016-2021 which reflected on the first five years of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. The two reports reached similar conclusions: progress has been made towards reducing the poverty-related attainment gap in a context in which attainment generally has improved.

That is why we have committed to investing a further £1bn in tackling the poverty related attainment gap and supporting education recovery over this current parliamentary cycle to further narrow the gap. The first instalment of that expanded fund was paid in June, during the first 100 days of Parliament and, at £215m, is the largest amount awarded for a single year, including a £20 million Pupil Equity Funding premium to support with immediate education recovery priorities for children and young people most impacted by poverty. The Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund with over £11.6 million being invested in 2021/22, is used to support programmes such as enhanced tutoring and mentoring, which help support vulnerable children and young people, and their families, to engage better with education.

Audit Scotland recommended that we "ensure that future methods for targeting support to address inequalities reflect broader demographic issues, which are not well reflected in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), and updated data on the economic impact of Covid-19 on communities." We are committed to taking forward this recommendation and ensuring that support is targeted at those children and young people who need it most.

We have committed to introduce a Care Experience Grant to provide an annual payment of £200 to all young people with care experience aged between 16 and 26. Young people with care experience, just like everyone else, are individuals with their own needs, desires, and aspirations. In recognition of this, the Care Experience Grant can be used for whatever the young person considers appropriate for them in meeting the financial demands of life.

The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black and Minority Ethnic communities has been clear and has brought in to sharp focus the need to take a strategic approach to tackling race inequality in schools. The Scottish Government is clear that there is no place for racism in our schools. Diversity and equality are at the heart of policies that underpin education in Scotland.

Next Steps

In addition to the work set out above, we will take the following key next steps to ensure equity and recover from the impacts of COVID-19:

1) Pupils living in Scotland's most deprived communities will be among those to benefit from £215 million of targeted funding in 2021-22 to support education recovery, and help close the poverty-related attainment gap. This is distributed across a number of funding streams to schools, local authorities and third sector organisations as part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

(2) Within that £215m investment in the Scottish Attainment Challenge is £147m of Pupil Equity Funding, which includes a 'COVID-premium' payment of £20m, recognising the new and additional challenges schools face as a result of the pandemic.

(3) Education Scotland Attainment Advisors will continue to work closely with school leaders, practitioners and partner organisations, local authorities and Regional Improvement Collaboratives to further develop and adjust approaches to tackling the poverty related attainment gap. During session 2021-22 with a continued focus on support for Covid recovery, this work will include a projects aimed to improve:

  • sustainability through improving leadership and pedagogy for equity.
  • effective use of data to understand the impact of poverty and address this to meet learners' needs.
  • collaboration for equity – improving partnership working to support families and communities.
  • equity throughout the learner journey from ELC to tertiary education and improving transitions.
  • effective use of PEF and the Care Experienced Children and Young People (CECYP) Fund to support equity for specific children and young people.

(4) Building on existing progress, continue to work in partnership with local authorities, schools and other partners to facilitate, broker and support action. As part of this work we will refresh and refocus the Scottish Attainment Challenge programme from 2022/23 onwards. This will continue to empower school leaders to undertake approaches that best suit their local contexts; and develop a clear role for all local authorities to accelerate progress in tackling the poverty related attainment gap.

(5) Providing £7m funding to allow the provision of instrumental music tuition in schools in the 2021/22 academic year to continue at current levels at no cost to families. Councils will also receive £6 million to waive core curriculum charges. This will enable children to take the subjects they want without families having to struggle to meet costs of resources and materials for practical lessons.

(6) Keeping our Promise to improve the lives of care experienced children, young people and their families through delivering the actions needed to meet the Promise Plan 21-24, as detailed in the Promise Change Programme. This will be supported by funding of £4m each year through the Promise Partnership Fund. We are also committed to investing at least £500m over the life of this Parliament to create a Whole Family Wellbeing Fund. This will enable the building of universal, holistic support services, available in communities across Scotland, giving families access to the help they need, where and when they need it. This will help reduce the need for crisis intervention and contribute to improving people's lives across a wide range of different areas, including but not limited to, child and adolescent mental health, child poverty, alcohol and drugs misuse and educational attainment.

(7) New actions to address race inequality in education are currently being developed by education and race equality stakeholders under the newly-established Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme (REAREP), which will be supported by £300,000 in 2021-22. The Programme provides a coherent approach to the key areas identified for reform by education and race equality stakeholders. These are:

  • o School Leadership and Professional Learning
  • o Diversity in the Teaching Profession and Education Workforce
  • o Curriculum Reform (including decolonising the curriculum)
  • o Racism and racist incidents



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