Scottish Budget 2019-2020: Equality and Fairer Scotland statement

An Equality and Fairer Scotland assessment of proposed spending plans by ministerial portfolios for 2019 to 2020.

This document is part of a collection

Chapter 9 Education and Skills


The Education and Skills portfolio has a crucial role in ensuring that all children and young people, whatever their background, are able to reach their full potential. Improving the education and life chances of Scotland's children and young people is the defining mission of the Scottish Government. The work of the Education and Skills portfolio is focused on transforming young lives, in and beyond educational settings. This wide-ranging support spans early learning and childcare provision; support for children and families, with specific focus on those in greatest need; school education; further and higher education; university research, knowledge exchange and innovation; science; the promotion of Gaelic; community and adult learning and development; expanding the opportunities to move into sustained employment; and developing the skills of our current and future workforce.

All children and young people, whatever their background or circumstances, deserve the same chance to reach their full potential. That is why improving outcomes for children, young people and their families continues to feature prominently at the heart of the Scottish Government's agenda and spending plans.

Key Inequalities of Outcome

The key equalities issues and barriers being tackled by the Education and Skills portfolio are characterised by differences in attainment levels for individuals with particular characteristics.

While the attainment gap has narrowed over the past three years, there remains an attainment gap between several groups and their peers. We know, for example, that certain minority ethnic groups, children with additional support needs and those living in the most deprived areas have lower attainment than their peers. Gypsy/Traveller pupils continue to have the lowest educational attainment rates of all ethnic groups. There also remains an attainment gap between looked-after children and their peers[1].

The reported exclusion figures remain high for Gypsy/Traveller children, boys and children and young people with additional support needs (ASN). Figures also show that women and disabled people are more likely to leave education with no qualifications[2].

Bullying is highlighted as an issue for some children and young people who share particular protected characteristics. The reasons why children and young people experience bullying include physical appearance, sex, presence of an additional support need or learning disability, sexual orientation, race or faith[3].

Tackling the number of young people (16-19 years) not participating in education, employment or training remains a challenge. Whilst the annual participation measure for 16-19 year olds increased slightly between 2016 and 2018 from 90.4 per cent to 91.8 per cent (an increase of 1.4 percentage points)[4], this is not the entire picture and participation has an equalities dimension. For example, young people from the most deprived backgrounds are less likely to be participating than those from the least deprived[5].

Key Strategic Budget Priorities

The key strategic priorities of the Education and Skills portfolio are closely linked to the Scottish Government's objective to ensure that all children and young people are equipped to succeed in life.

Our top strategic spending priorities are:

  • Helping to close the attainment gap and contributing to our preventative actions to reduce child poverty.
  • Commitment to the expansion of early learning and childcare and increasing access to high-quality learning for children aged under five years.
  • Strengthening the role that the further and higher education sectors, community learning and training play in providing an educated and skilled workforce and supporting inclusive economic growth. Developing strong links with the business community, recognising and responding to skills shortages in the labour market and ensuring that training and skills provision is tailored to allow individuals to fulfil their potential in the workforce.

Equality Implications of the Scottish Budget 2019-20

Early Learning and Childcare

From August 2020, we are committed to almost doubling entitlement to funded early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours for all 3 and 4 year olds and for eligible 2 year olds. We reached agreement with COSLA in April 2018 on a multi-year revenue and capital funding package to fully fund this expansion. In 2019-20 we are providing local authorities with £307 million revenue (an additional £210 million compared with 2018-19) to support the expansion in funded early learning and childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours by August 2020. This includes funding to support 435 additional graduate posts in nurseries in Scotland's most deprived areas.

To support the creation of additional capacity in the sector, total capital funding of £476 million has been provided to local authorities over the period 2017-18 to 2020-21.

We estimate that a quarter of two year olds will benefit from the early learning and childcare (ELC) expansion and the eligibility criteria is aimed at those who will benefit the most and includes families on disability-related benefits as well as income-related benefits and support under part V1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Evidence shows that minority ethnic households are more likely to experience poverty, which suggests that minority ethnic groups are more likely to benefit from the expanded provision.

As part of our ongoing work to recruit up to 11,000 new staff into the ELC workforce to deliver the 1,140 hours from 2020, we are providing £62,780 of funding to the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations - Scotland (CEMVO) in 2019-20 to raise awareness of and promote the increased ELC employment opportunities among members of Mixed Ethnic Group communities across Scotland. Our aim here is to use the opportunity of the increase in hours and the staffing required to deliver that commitment, to diversify the ELC workforce so that it is more representative of the Scottish population. Our ongoing national recruitment campaign will also include activity to target under-represented groups in the ELC workforce including males and disabled people.

Children and Families

The Children, Young People, Families and Early Intervention/Adult Learning and Empowering Communities (CYPFEI/ALEC) Fund has contributed £14 million per annum over four years to the third sector. The funding is aimed at early intervention/support and increasing the sustainability of the third sector through the provision of core funding.

It has been estimated that there have been 1.8 million beneficiaries in relation to children and young people and the interim evaluation shows a positive impact on the way organisations integrate equality issues into the delivery of their core services. We will continue to provide £14 million core funding during 2019-20.

Additional, time-limited project funding of £1 million per annum also ran for 2017-18 and 2018-19. This project funding was introduced to complement core funding to support new innovative projects and to support organisations to sustainably improve the way they work with a view to rolling out interventions. The additional project funding is coming to an end as planned. However, due to the time-limited nature of this project funding, many of the funded organisations have created resources that will go on to support children and families in future years. For example, a resource pack supporting parents caring for a disabled child during the transition from child to adult services.

On 23 October 2018, it was announced that the Scottish Government accepted the main recommendations from the InterAction Action Plan Review Group on the issue of financial redress/compensation for victims/survivors of abuse in care in Scotland. The provision of financial redress to survivors of historical child abuse in care is designed to address an existing inequality, whereby children were harmed by those who were trusted to care for them, with traumatic impacts throughout their childhood and adult life. A redress scheme will be open to all survivors of in care child abuse, regardless of age, disability, religion or other protected characteristics.


The Scottish Attainment Challenge, which is focused on improving numeracy, literacy and health and wellbeing, will continue to push forward the Scottish Government's defining mission of improving the life chances of all of our children. Investment through the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund, including Pupil Equity Funding, is vital in helping schools address the poverty-related attainment gap, thus helping children overcome barriers so that no child is left behind. We will continue to invest £120 million in 2019-20 directly to schools, matching the investment in 2018-19. In addition, almost £33 million has been made available until the end of the Parliament to local authorities through the Scottish Attainment Challenge to help close the attainment gap for care-experienced young people from birth to the age of 26 years.

Work to close the poverty-related attainment gap will have a positive impact on school-age children and young people, including disabled children and young people and those from Gypsy/Traveller, Polish, Caribbean/Black, African and Arab groups who are over-represented in the most deprived areas. The funding will also have a positive effect on advancing equality of attainment for children with Additional Support Needs by continuing to provide important resources, such as speech and language development; additional support for speakers of English as an additional language; and support from educational psychologists and counsellors. Funding will also provide a school clothing grant to those who are eligible.

An investment of over £60 million from the Health and Sport budget in school nursing and counselling services will enable the recruitment of 350 counsellors in school education across Scotland, and an additional 250 school nurses by 2022. This will ensure that schools are supported to deal with wellbeing concerns, and that children and young people in schools have the support they need at the earliest possible stage. Based on the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) in 2015, students living in more deprived areas, who had caring responsibilities, and/or were female students around the age of 15 had lower wellbeing scores than the average, so are more likely to benefit from this investment.

Scotland will become the first country in the world to have the teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) inclusive education embedded in the curriculum. All state schools will be supported to teach LGBTI equality and inclusion across different age groups and subjects, grouped under various themes. The themes will include LGBTI terminology and identities; tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia; prejudice in relation to the LGBTI community; and promoting awareness of the history of LGBTI equalities and movements. All 33 recommendations by the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group, created to improve the learning experience for LGBTI young people, have been accepted in full by the Scottish Government. Work to implement the recommendations will start immediately.

During 2019-20, we will continue to support the delivery of our Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Education and Training Strategy. Equity is a key theme of the strategy, which contains specific actions aimed at closing gaps in participation and attainment in STEM so that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and contribute to Scotland's economic prosperity. Actions relating to STEM learning will be delivered in early years learning, schools and community settings, colleges, universities, apprenticeships and through public science engagement activities. Through our delivery arrangements we will also monitor how equality in STEM learning and participation is being promoted by all the actions in the Strategy, not just those in the equity theme.

As a key equality issue for STEM, there will be a primary focus on gender but issues relating to all protected characteristics, deprivation and rurality will also be considered. One of the actions we are taking through the Strategy is to support the recruitment of six Gender and Equality Officers at Education Scotland to address gender stereotyping and bias in schools. The team will deliver gender and equality training and develop a gender champion network and gender kitemarking to grow and spread best practice. They will focus on gender initially but, over the five-year lifetime of the Strategy, they will also work with schools to address additional equalities issues.

Advanced Learning and Science

We will continue to drive forward our widening access programme, which supports our ambition that a child born today in one of our most deprived communities will have the same chance of attending university as those from our least deprived communities. One of the recommendations made by the Commission on Widening Access was that the Commissioner for Fair Access should consider what further work is required to support equal access for other groups of learners, and within specific degree subjects. The Commissioner has indicated that as part of his workplan he will look at students with a disability.

In 2019-20, we will provide investment for improvements to financial support for students in further (FE) and higher education (HE) in response to the recommendations made by the independent review of student support. This will ensure that eligible care-experienced students under the age of 26 years in both FE and HE will receive a bursary of £8,100 per year. Further to that, improvements will be made to both FE and HE bursaries to ensure that students with the lowest incomes receive increased bursary support and increased access to bursaries through improvements to the HE bursary threshold and the introduction of the FE 'bursary guarantee'. The FE 'bursary guarantee' will ensure that all eligible students receive a bursary award and remove previous inconsistencies for students aged 18 or 19 years.

Through Developing the Young Workforce (DYW), we are committed to improving outcomes for those who experience difficulty engaging with education and with the labour market, such as those from care-experienced backgrounds and disabled young people. DYW utilises existing funding arrangements to advance equality throughout the education system and embed equality within the Curriculum for Excellence. This is being progressed through a clear communication of career options, with significant involvement from employers, schools and colleges. This work is actively targeting equality groups to promote diverse participation across gender, ethnicity, disabled young people and care leavers.

There is evidence of positive impact through DYW for these cohorts of learners. For example, the employment rate for disabled young people has increased from 35.6 per cent in January-December 2016 to 43.2 per cent for the same period in 2017. This is an increase of 8.0 percentage points compared with the baseline figure of 35.2 per cent in 2014. We have also seen the proportion of looked-after children in positive destinations increase by 6.7 per cent. This figure sits at 76.0 per cent as of 2016-17. This is an increase of 4.8 percentage points since 2015-16, and an increase of 6.7 percentage points since the baseline figures were recorded in 2012-13.

A clear direction of travel is also in place in relation to gender - in a range of school clusters, learners have benefited from improved resources, academic research and whole school approaches to promoting gender equality in STEM subjects.

We also have a clearer understanding of what activity works with young people at risk of disengaging/already disengaged and as we move into year four of the DYW programme, the challenge will be ensuring that we prioritise those young people aged 3-18 years who continue to face barriers in an improving labour market, and to enable them to achieve within an evolving employability and apprenticeship landscape.

We also look to support holistic approaches to access. As part of the wider Tackling Child Poverty Action Plan, we are providing £175,000 of funding over academic years 2018-19 and 2019-20 to Fife College. This project will work with prisoners to develop life skills and encourage positive life-style choices. This is expected to positively impact the children of prisoners, helping to maintain family relationships, aid integration back to the community and reduce negative effects on their children's development and mental health.

Colleges and universities should be places where students can live, study and research free of sexual harassment and gender-based violence (GBV). In 2019-20, we will commit £204,453 to promote the implementation of the Equally Safe in Higher Education (ESHE) Toolkit in Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs); adapt the ESHE Toolkit for use in colleges as Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities in collaboration with the sector; and create an Implementation Plan for the new ESHE Toolkit. This investment will ensure that colleges and universities are supported to adopt and adapt the ESHE Toolkit - a Gendered Analysis - to assess their own policies and practices against the toolkit and put in place measures to keep students safe and engaged with their studies while meeting the needs and diversity of survivors. The Outcome Agreement Guidance, developed by the Scottish Funding Council for 2019-20 in response to the Ministerial Letter of Guidance, takes forward our expectations that institutions adopt, adapt and work with the Toolkit and that this is reflected in institutional Gender Action Plans.

The Programme for Government 2018-19 underscored the Government's commitment to student mental health with provision for more than 80 additional counsellors in Further and Higher Education over the next four years, with an investment of around £20 million. The Programme for Government, in a linked commitment, also committed to wrap-around support for students from day one of their studies to qualification and graduation. The Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government are considering a financial allocation, from the funding committed in the Programme for Government, to both sectors as part of the Academic Year 2019-20 funding allocations, to enable a first tranche of counsellors to be in place by the start of the term commencing September 2019.

The directorate will also actively contribute to the action plan to tackle the Disability Employment gap, which is referenced in the Economy, Finance and Fair Work portfolio chapter.

Youth Employment and Skills

Every young person has to have real choices about their education and skills and be sure that they are making the right decisions.

We will continue funding for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) programme. The budget for 2019-20 is £25 million, matching that of 2018-19. EMA provides financial support for young people from low income households to overcome financial barriers to participate in appropriate school or college courses or Activity Agreements. In 2016-17, the proportion of EMA recipients living in Scotland's 20 per cent most deprived areas increased to 36.8 per cent (up from 35 per cent in 2015-16).

As part of the DYW programme, we have fulfilled our commitment to reduce youth unemployment by 40 per cent, four years ahead of schedule (2021). We will deliver more work-relevant learning to young people in school, giving them appropriate skills for the current and future jobs market, including creating new vocational learning options in our colleges; enabling young people to learn in a range of settings in their senior phase of school; and embedding employer engagement in education.

In 2019-20, we will continue to ensure that apprenticeship opportunities are open to all by investing over £214 million to support Skills Development Scotland (SDS), an increase of £22 million from 2018-19. SDS will continue to work with partners to take forward the measures set out in the Equality Action Plan (EAP) for Apprentices in order to better advance equality in relation to the labour market. The EAP sets out the scale of the challenge relating to occupational segregation and inequality in Scotland's Apprenticeship Programme, and the requirement for all partners to work in collaboration to tackle culturally ingrained challenges. It includes specific improvement targets for Apprenticeship participation by disabled people, minority ethnic groups and care leavers, and aims to tackle apprenticeship areas where there are gender imbalances.

We will continue to build on the successful expansion of our Apprenticeship Programme, which for the first time now includes Graduate Apprenticeships (GA) as we work towards our ambition to provide 30,000 Apprenticeship starts each year by 2020. In line with the skills alignment work stream of the Strategic Board for Enterprise and Skills, we will look to maximise the collective capacity of our skills system as we continue to deliver our commitment to the expansion of apprenticeships in 2019-20. As part of the work to strengthen pathways into and from Modern Apprenticeships, we will also continue to support Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeships in the next academic year. This underpins our youth employment strategy and is a key feature of our ambitions to enhance the learner journey and embed STEM in our education and skills system.

We are developing a new Careers Information Advice and Guidance strategy, ensuring a lifelong careers service that is responsive to labour market change and ensures an equity of access to high-quality services across the sector. In doing so, we will reinforce our commitment to user needs driving the services they receive, enabling all individuals, including those with additional barriers, to fulfil their potential. The strategy will be published in autumn 2019, with development of an action plan on implementation thereafter.

We will build on the delivery of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF), as detailed in the Finance, Economy and Fair Work portfolio chapter, and will use this learning to inform future investment to upskill and reskill the existing workforce.


Investing in the learning and development of Scotland's children and young people so that they can achieve the most that they can in life and removing barriers to that achievement is of utmost importance to the Scottish Government. From the early stages of a child's life, there is a strong commitment to positive change, exemplified by the expansion of free, high-quality early learning and childcare, which is a crucial foundation to giving Scotland's children the best start in life. An ongoing and wide-reaching commitment to close the attainment gap will ensure that all children, whatever their circumstances or background, will have the same chance to reach their full potential. Realising our priorities for schools and the workforce will allow children and young people to gain the skills that they need to take forward their ambitions and through support, overcoming any barriers in their way. The tertiary education system remains a priority for the Scottish Government, providing a range of opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds to increase their skills, develop new skills and to take up job opportunities when they are ready to enter the workplace and in the future.


1. Is Scotland Fairer? EHRC, October 2018

2. ibid.

3. Scottish Parliament, 2017

4. Annual Participation Measure for 16-19 year olds in Scotland 2018. SDS, August and November 2018.

5. ibid.


Email: Liz Hawkins

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