Publication - Impact assessment

Scottish Budget 2020-2021: Equality and Fairer Scotland budget statement

This report assesses the Equality and Fairer Scotland impacts of the Scottish Budget 2020 to 2021.

168 page PDF

4.7 MB

168 page PDF

4.7 MB

Scottish Budget 2020-2021: Equality and Fairer Scotland budget statement
Chapter 7 Education and Skills

168 page PDF

4.7 MB

Chapter 7 Education and Skills


The Education and Skills portfolio has a vital role in ensuring that all children and young people, whatever their background, are able to reach their full potential. Improving the life chances of our children and young people through education, excellence and equity continues to be the principal mission of this Government. The Education and Skills portfolio is focused on changing children's and young people's lives for the better in and beyond educational settings.

The portfolio provides wide-ranging support which includes: support for children and families, focused on those in greatest need and protecting the rights of our children; early learning and childcare; school education and additional support for learners; further and higher education; student support; university research, knowledge exchange and innovation; science; the promotion of Gaelic; Community Learning and Development; and developing the skills of our current and future workforce.

Key Inequalities of Outcome

The key equalities issues and barriers being tackled by the Education and Skills portfolio through targeted budget spend are characterised by differences in attainment levels and consequent inequality in social and economic outcomes for individuals with particular characteristics or experiencing socio‑economic disadvantage. These inequalities are discussed in detail throughout the chapter.

At a strategic level, 'Scotland's Wellbeing Report' highlights that whilst positive progress has been made with raising national attainment levels, some significant gaps still exist for pupils by protected characteristics.[1] We know that girls outperform boys in educational attainment and that there is an attainment gap between certain minority ethnic groups, for children with additional support needs and for looked-after children and their peers. Gypsy/Traveller pupils continue to have the lowest educational attainment rates of all ethnic groups. There are also continued gender differences in subject choice, which are evident throughout school, in apprenticeships, in further education and the labour market.

We also know that socio‑economic disadvantage has been a key driver of poorer attainment. Children living in the most deprived areas are still less likely to achieve all the Curriculum for Excellence levels than those from the least deprived areas, although the attainment gap has been narrowing.[2] Moreover, evidence shows that a socio-economic gap in cognitive attainment is apparent well before children attend primary school. Children from less advantaged families perform less well at age 3 than children from more advantaged backgrounds.

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

At a later stage, participation in education, employment and training also has a socio‑economic dimension and whilst the participation measure for 16‑19 year olds has increased slightly between 2016 and 2018, young people from the more deprived backgrounds are less likely to be participating than those from the least deprived.[4]

Whilst the proportion of adults with a degree level qualification has increased, not everyone is equally likely to achieve this qualification. For example, women and some ethnic minority groups are more likely to have a degree level qualification, disabled people are less likely to achieve this and ethnic minority students received lower final grades for their degrees compared with White students. From a socio-economic perspective people from the most deprived communities are underrepresented at universities.[5]

Preparation and participation in the economy also has an equality dimension with women, people from ethnic minority groups and disabled people being underrepresented in Modern Apprenticeships. Reflecting the labour market, Modern Apprenticeships continue to show gender segregation within sectors.[6]

Key Strategic Budget Priorities

The key strategic priorities of the Education and Skills portfolio are closely linked to the Scottish Government's agenda to improve outcomes for all children, young people, and their families, recognising that all children and young people are different and that some will need additional support on their learner journey to reach their full potential.

Our top strategic spending priorities are:

  • To raise attainment and to close the attainment gap through prevention and early intervention, which supports young people to maximise their opportunities and tackle endemic societal issues that can cause them to fall behind economically and socially.
  • A commitment to almost double children's entitlement to high quality early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours a year from August 2020.
  • Ensuring the role that the further and higher education sectors, and skills provision play in supporting inclusive economic growth is maximised, including reducing the impact of gender stereotypes. Given the additional need to be ready to respond to the economic challenges anticipated in the context of the UK's exit from the EU, we will continue to prioritise investment in skills and training.

Equality Implications of The Scottish Budget 202021

Early Learning And Childcare

In 2020‑21 the budget includes funding to prepare for the near doubling of the statutory entitlement to funded early learning and childcare (ELC) hours for all 3 and 4 year olds, and around a quarter of 2 year olds from August 2020.

During 2020‑21 (Year 2 of a 3‑year funding agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA which was based on local authorities' own financial plans for the ELC expansion), total Scottish Government resource of £508 million will support local authorities to offer the additional funded hours early as part of a phased implementation; to expand their ELC workforce to provide additional hours; and to manage their own change programmes. The capital budget of £121 million will enable local authorities to create new ELC provision, and to extend and refurbish existing ELC settings. The remaining ELC Directorate resource of £15.7 million will further support and enable the expansion including investment in new and expanded training and qualifications routes; development and introduction of new National Standards for ELC; and additional resource for the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland to help funded providers to meet the quality aspects of the new National Standard.

The ELC expansion aims to deliver three main benefits for children and families:

  • children's development improves and the poverty-related attainment gap narrows;
  • parents' opportunities to take up work, training or study increase; and
  • family wellbeing improves through enhanced nurture and support.

The revenue budget is due to increase in 2021‑22 to reflect the new statutory requirement for local authorities to ensure all eligible children can access up to 1,140 hours per year of funded ELC.

There is already very high uptake of funded ELC in Scotland; our latest ELC census data shows near universal uptake of funded ELC by 3 and 4 year olds. Given that children growing up in disadvantaged circumstances stand to benefit the most from high quality ELC, eligibility criteria for the 2 year old offer intends to capture children facing the most disadvantage and includes looked after children and children who are subject to a kinship or guardianship order. It also includes children in families receiving support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and children whose family are in receipt of a 'qualifying benefit'.

Approximately 11% of the total 2-year-old population are registered for funded ELC (compared with the roughly 25% that are eligible). While this has increased gradually over the last few years, it is still relatively low and the Scottish Government and local authorities are working to raise awareness and introduce data‑sharing powers that will help local authorities raise awareness amongst likely eligible families. Our work includes developing a toolkit for stakeholders including trusted professionals such as health visitors and family nurses, which they can draw on when communicating with parents and carers about ELC.

A data transformation project is underway that will improve the data available nationally on the provision of statutory ELC. A significant part of the project is to improve the ELC census, which currently collects information about funded ELC registrations rather than individual children. The future ELC census (available from 2021) will be based on an individual child level collection, and will collect data on the characteristics of children accessing funded ELC, including sex, ethnicity, disability status, whether the child has any additional support needs, and the home postcode of the child (to enable analysis by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation). This will allow for more substantive research on how different families use ELC in Scotland and will help to identify if there are any particular groups where uptake is not as high and where the Scottish Government and local authorities may need to focus attention on promoting uptake.

In addition, the Scottish Study of Early Learning and Childcare is a cross‑sectional and longitudinal study that will evaluate the expansion of the funded entitlement to 1,140 hours. During 2018‑19, baseline data was collected from children and their parents accessing 600 hours of funded ELC. In 2022‑23, data will be collected from those accessing 1,140 hours. Measuring before and after the expansion allows for an assessment of the extent to which the expansion's long‑term benefits have been achieved.

Equality Implications

Equalities Impact Assessments have been carried out for the ELC Expansion, the ELC Workforce, and the Learning and Wellbeing Project in order to assess the impact of the expansion on groups with protected characteristics and to identify potential opportunities to advance equality of opportunity. The following summarises the key impacts and opportunities.


The most significantly underrepresented group in the ELC workforce is men, making up only 2% of the current workforce, compared with 48% of the population in Scotland. However, since 2015 the proportion of male teachers has doubled from 3% to 6%. Subsequent to our establishment of a £50k challenge fund with our colleagues at the Scottish Funding Council, a 'Men In To Early Years' conference was held in September to share learning and best practice in recruiting and retaining men to the ELC sector.

Our research on Parents' Views and Use of ELC in Scotland found that two-thirds of the parents surveyed using ELC for a 3 or 4 year old mentioned working or looking for work as a reason for using ELC. Research has found that typically higher-paid jobs and career progression come with less flexibility and may require someone to work full time. The expanded ELC offer with more flexible provision aims to remove a potential barrier for parents wishing to access work, training or study opportunities, especially those who need help with finding sustainable employment. Women are still more likely to be the primary carers in the family, which can restrict the type of work and working patterns they can take up. The ELC expansion therefore presents further opportunity to enable more women to work, train or study, and help to close the gender-related pay gap. Broader policies in other portfolios such as the Gender Beacon Collaborative, the What Works Centre for gender equality and work to promote fair and inclusive workplaces, all aim to shift broader gender stereotypes around work and caring.

Research, including studies from Scotland, recognise the negative impacts that gender stereotyping can have on children, and the importance of gender‑equal play. The guidance on the National Standard signposts readers to the Care Inspectorate and Zero Tolerance resource to promote gender-equal play in ELC. By promoting play in ELC, which is gender equal, there will be lasting positive impacts on equality between different sexes.


To ensure that disabled children and children with ASN are able to access high quality ELC the National Standard for ELC, which all providers delivering funded ELC from August 2020 will have to meet, has criteria explicitly on inclusion which requires that the setting must comply with the duties under the Equality Act 2010. The criteria also requires that the setting will be willing to provide appropriate support, including making any reasonable changes to the care and learning environment, to ensure that children's additional support needs are not a barrier to learning.

In addition, the ELC Inclusion Fund was launched in 2018 and provides funding to ELC settings to support children with additional support needs to access their funded ELC entitlement. Funding can be awarded to pay for staff in ELC settings to receive appropriate training and funds resources, equipment and adaptations. The fund is worth £2 million over four years and invites bids from settings delivering funded ELC. A total of £521,145 was awarded to 455 applicants in 2018‑19.

Race and Ethnicity

The data currently collected through the ELC census does not allow us to measure uptake of ELC by ethnicity, however, the new ELC census (to be in place from 2021) will collect information about a child's ethnicity and enable us to assess impact on this protected characteristic.

There is evidence that some minority ethnic parents are more comfortable using ELC where there is a mix of cultures and ethnic backgrounds in the ELC setting. Comparing the ELC workforce demographic data with data from the 2011 Scotland population census, indicates that a number of minority ethnic groups are underrepresented in the ELC workforce. However, around 10% of those responding to the Care Inspectorate annual return do not provide their ethnicity, making it difficult to be precise about whether minority ethnic communities are proportionately represented in the workforce.

We recognise the importance of the ELC workforce reflecting the diversity of Scotland's population. In addition to our ongoing national recruitment campaign we are actively promoting the diversification of the ELC workforce by funding the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (CEMVO) to promote career opportunities with minority ethnic communities.


Funding Follows the Child will increase parental choice, supported by our parental communication strategy which is designed to raise awareness of the funded ELC entitlement, support take up, and help families make informed decisions about their child's ELC entitlement. By increasing awareness and uptake of funded ELC, we expect that more ELC settings will benefit from having a wider range of young children, including children with a protected characteristic. This means that there is the opportunity for relationships between children who do, and do not, share a protected characteristic to flourish at a young age.

Fairer Scotland implication of the ELC budget

Accessing high quality ELC is associated with improved outcomes in language, cognitive and other essential skills and, importantly, these benefits have been found to be greater for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Since children from disadvantaged backgrounds may benefit more from government-funded ELC, universally available ELC can contribute to narrowing the poverty‑related attainment gap.

Evidence shows that a socio‑economic gap in cognitive attainment is apparent well before children attend primary school. Children from less advantaged families perform less well at age 3 than children from more advantaged backgrounds. There is also evidence of the links between the availability of affordable and accessible ELC and employment opportunities for parents and carers. In addition, analysis of Growing Up in Scotland data has shown that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are no less likely than those from advantaged backgrounds to attend the highest quality pre‑school provision.

The expansion to 1,140 hours intends to maximise the opportunity to ensure that all children in Scotland get the best possible start in life. Given the transformative impact ELC can have on children's development, particularly for children growing up in disadvantaged circumstances, a key aim of the expansion to 1,140 hours is to close the poverty‑related attainment gap. With this at its heart, the policy and implementation have considered inequalities of outcome throughout.[7] For example, our expansion planning guidance issued to local authorities in March 2017[8] made clear that plans for 'phasing in' the expanded offer in the period to August 2020 should reflect the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. This means that families and communities who stand to benefit most from the expansion also benefit first. As a result of 'phasing in', nearly 50,000 children, including over 3,600 eligible 2 year olds, are already accessing more than the minimum 600 hours to which they are currently entitled, as of the end of September 2019.[9]

Children and Families

The new Families and Communities Fund will commence in 2020, providing up to £16 million to support third sector organisations who use early intervention and prevention to improve outcomes for children, young people, families, adult learners and communities.

This is core funding, which will support and enhance the sustainability of the third sector, including supporting the way organisations integrate equality issues into the delivery of their services.

The Scottish Government is committed to providing redress to survivors of historical child abuse in care. Legislation for a statutory scheme is being developed and will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament during 2020. We recognise that creating a new statutory scheme takes time, so in April 2019 we established the Advance Payment Scheme to ensure that elderly survivors and those who have a terminal illness benefit from our commitment to financial redress as soon as possible. The age threshold for applying to the scheme was lowered from age 70 to 68 in November 2019 following a review. To date the scheme has made advance payments to over 270 survivors. The intention is that it remains open until the statutory scheme is operational.

The Advance Payment Scheme improves access to financial redress and acknowledgement for vulnerable and historically excluded groups. Due to their age or terminal illness, such people are more likely to be disabled than the general population. Historically however, there is little analytical information available for children in care in relation to protected characteristics in Scotland. As this is the first national scheme of its kind in Scotland, with a range of uncertainty regarding the population it will serve, the impact on people because of their protected characteristic is yet to be determined.


The Scottish Attainment Challenge seeks to achieve equity in educational outcomes, with a particular focus on closing the poverty‑related attainment gap. The Attainment Challenge focuses and accelerates targeted improvement activity in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. It also supports and complements the broader range of initiatives and programmes to ensure that all of Scotland's children and young people reach their full potential. The Attainment Challenge is supported by the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF), which comprises the following elements:

1. Challenge Authorities

2. Schools Programme

3. Pupil Equity Funding

4. Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund

5. National Programmes (Third Sector)

Funding is allocated to local authorities through the Challenge Authorities and Care Experienced Children and Young People (CECYP) Funds. It is allocated directly to schools through the Schools Programme and Pupil Equity Fund (PEF). Funding for National Programmes is allocated directly to the respective organisations. Guidance[10],[11] on the use of funding is provided or explained in the terms and conditions of grant letters. Spending is stable as the funding has been committed using established methodologies for the full parliamentary term with a commitment to continue funding the ASF in 2021‑22 at current levels made in the 'Programme for Government 2019-20'.

We evaluate the effectiveness of the funding through the National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan (NIF). Evidence is demonstrating that the improvement activities being undertaken under each of the NIF drivers of improvement (school leadership, teacher professionalism, parental engagement, assessment of children's progress, school improvement, and performance information) are helping to deliver a narrowing of the attainment gap across the key measures, which have been assessed since the 2018 NIF and Improvement Plan were published.

Of the 11 key measures to assess progress, six are showing a small narrowing of the gap albeit due to a mixed underlying picture and to varying extents. For the other five measures, two are showing little change in the size of the gap; one measure is showing a small widening of the gap; one measure has not had any more up‑to‑date information made available in order to assess its progress; and one measure we cannot now compare directly over time, as there has been a change in the underlying process which has affected the reporting of this information. More detail is provided on pages 19 to 24 of the NIF.

Equality Implications

An Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) was undertaken to consider the potential impact of the Scottish Attainment Challenge on children and young people with protected characteristics and to identify potential opportunities to advance equality of opportunity for pupils with protected characteristics.

The process identified that some groups with protected characteristics, for example some ethnic minority groups and those with disabilities, are overrepresented in the lower Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) quintiles. Evidence also shows that some children with protected characteristics and children and young people living in areas of deprivation perform less well than the general school population. Therefore, some children and young people have more significant barriers to learning because they are affected by deprivation and may also face additional barriers as a result of protected characteristics.

The EQIA process did not identify any indirect or direct discrimination through the policy intention, design or activity being implemented as part of the Attainment Challenge and has identified some areas where opportunities for pupils with protected characteristics might be advanced.

A number of actions are underway to ensure that the Attainment Challenge promotes the duties of the Equality Act. For example:

  • The National Operational Guidance and grant terms and conditions for Pupil Equity Funding require that schools should promote equity by taking into account equality groups when planning support and interventions.
    • For example, disadvantage relating to: a protected characteristic (disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex (gender) and sexual orientation); a need for which they require additional support; being looked after; or having caring responsibilities.
    • The Grantee (the relevant local authorities) should consider additional steps that might be required to close the educational attainment gap for pupils affected by poverty who also experience disadvantage for other reasons. For example, disadvantage related to: a protected characteristic (as defined in the Equality Act 2010); a need for which they require additional support; being looked after; or having caring responsibilities.
  • Tools and resources on the National Improvement Hub include examples of effective interventions that apply to all children and young people, including those in equality groups.
  • Many of the strategies deployed in the Scottish Attainment Challenge such as reciprocal reading, communication support from speech and language therapists, nurture, etc. provides help for children with ASN.
  • Any equality issues identified through school inspections by Education Scotland will be highlighted to the Attainment Challenge team by HMI and reviewed to ensure that there has been no unintended consequence on the protected characteristics as a result of the Attainment Challenge.

Inequalities in outcomes for people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged

The Attainment Challenge is intended to be inclusive. Targeting resources, through the Attainment Scotland Fund, to children and young people is expected to have a positive impact on the lives of children and young people affected by poverty, including those in the equality groups.

To enhance the support provided to children and young people with additional support needs the Scottish Government is providing £15 million of funding, this year, to further support the provision of front-line staff, contributing to the improvement of outcomes for children and young people with additional support needs. This work is in addition to guidance on improving educational outcomes for Gypsy/Traveller children and the national approach to anti‑bullying, promoting respect for all.

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. Four main areas of budget allocation cover activities that include work to further equalities in Further Education (FE), Higher Education (HE) and Community Learning and Development (CLD):

  • The HE resource budget, delivered via the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), enables universities to deliver their core teaching and research activity as well as providing non‑core funding for a range of strategic projects and support for Scotland's Innovation Centres. Scottish Government funding provides around 40% of total university income, and provides a stable foundation on which they can build and leverage money from other sources.
  • The Higher Education Student Support (HESS) budget provides financial support to Scottish‑domiciled and EU students undertaking HE courses in Scotland, and Scottish‑domiciled students studying in the rest of the UK. This includes the provision of free tuition in HE. The HESS budget is administered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
  • The college resource budget funds a variety of activity, including college teaching, and part‑funds the Flexible Workforce Development Fund, through which employers' skills needs in key sectors are met. It also supports funding for a range of key Ministerial priorities in FE including funding college bursaries and childcare and discretionary (hardship) funds. These funds enable disadvantaged learners to participate in FE and access opportunities to upskill and gain qualifications, thus improving their employability and in turn Scotland's productivity.
  • Budget allocation to CLD allows us to work with the CLD sector to support targeted learning which aims to improve life chances and empower communities. CLD services and organisations predominantly work with those furthest from mainstream provision, or who face barriers to inclusion. Budget allocation to the youth work sector through Youthlink Scotland and Youth Scotland supports policy development and capacity building within the youth work sector. Through youth work, many young people who may experience less favourable outcomes, can be supported to engage or re‑engage with learning.

Equality Implications of Higher Education Resource


At present, slightly more women than men attend university in Scotland. Attainment of female first‑degree qualifiers at HE providers in Scotland is slightly higher than males for first-class honours and second‑class honours.

According to the SFC Gender Action Plan, the gender imbalance of Scottish Domiciled Undergraduate Entrants at university was 17.2 percentage points in 2016‑17. Women accounted for 58.6% of entrants.

The SFC Gender Action Plan includes the overall ambition that by 2030 no college or university subject will have a gender imbalance of greater than 75% of one gender; and that the proportion of men studying at undergraduate level at university will be at least 47.5%.

Nine subjects[12] have been identified as having the greatest gender imbalance. Across all but one of these subjects (engineering), the majority gender proportion of Scottish Domiciled Undergraduate Entrants at university has increased or remained the same since 2011‑12, i.e. the gender balance has not improved, or has worsened.[13]


In 2018‑19, 13% of enrolments at Scottish HE institutions (HEIs) were identified as having a known disability – this is an increase of 1 percentage point since 2017‑18. This figure has increased steadily since 2014‑15.

Race and Ethnicity

In 2018‑19, 91% of enrolments at Scottish HEI's identified as White. This is a decrease of 1 percentage point since 2016‑17. This figure has decreased slightly since 2014‑15.

At HE providers in Scotland, HE student enrolments identifying as:

  • Black has remained at 2% from 2014‑15 to 2018‑19;
  • Asian has remained stable at around 4% from 2014‑15 to 2018‑19; and
  • Mixed ethnicity has remained at 2% from 2014‑15 to 2018‑19.

The SFC, with the support of the Scottish Government, is leading on taking forward the relevant recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Racial Harassment in British Universities entitled 'Tackling racial harassment: Universities Challenged' (October, 2019). This includes work taken forward by Advance HE, directed by staff and students with lived experience of racism to develop resources to support institutions tackle the causes of racial harassment.

Independent of this Inquiry the SFC is entering into a formal Memorandum of Understanding with EHRC in order to reduce the burden of equalities reporting for institutions and better focus on actions to tackle persistent inequalities. A Data Expert Group will be established to identify persistent inequalities across the sector. Membership will include the SFC, the Scottish Government, EHRC and sector representatives.

Higher Education Student Support (HESS)

The HESS budget provides bursaries and access to student loans and free tuition in order to support young people and adult learners to access educational opportunities and support entry to future employment. This is a demand-led line, and expenditure is directly proportional to the number of students and the rates of payments.

Free tuition benefits over 120,000 undergraduates each year studying in Scotland, contributing to the delivery of fair access. Whilst free tuition is fundamentally important to fair access, it is not sufficient by itself to deliver fair access. Through the Commission on Widening Access, further work is being done and progress is being made to address the disparity in university entrance, retention and qualification that people from SIMD20 areas have historically experienced.

Commission on Widening Access

The Commission on Widening Access's interim target is for students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds to represent at least 16% of full‑time first degree entrants to Scottish universities by 2021. By 2030, the target is for students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds to represent at least 20% of entrants to higher education.

The Scottish Government accepted all the recommendations from the Commission and has been driving forward implementation through its Access Delivery Group. Since the Commission reported, we have seen improvements in entrance, retention and qualifications for people from SIMD20 areas. Latest statistics show that we are now only 0.1 percentage points away from the Commission's interim target for 2021:

  • Entrants: 15.9% of Scottish full-time first degree entrants to Scottish universities were from the 20% most deprived areas (SIMD20) in 2018‑19.
  • Retention: The percentage of entrants from the 20% most deprived areas (SIMD20) returning to study in year 2 of their degrees increased to 89.4% in 2017‑18 (the figure for the overall sector is 92.5%; this difference in retention between the most deprived areas and the overall sector has decreased by 1.3 percentage points since 2016‑17).
  • Qualifiers: In 2017‑18, 13.4% of Scottish domiciled full‑time first degree qualifiers from university were from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland (increase from 13.1% in 2016‑17).

Bursary and Grants budget

Alongside HESS, free tuition support, the bursary and grants budget helps to support specific groups. The Scottish Government:

  • continues to provide the care‑experienced bursary at £8,100 for eligible students and has committed to extend this to individuals aged over 26;
  • provides a minimum income guarantee of £7,750 per year in bursaries and loans to support students from the lowest income households;
  • provides Discretionary Funds to HEIs to distribute to support eligible students experiencing hardship with a priority given to those most vulnerable;
  • provides funding to help with the costs of childcare for eligible students; and
  • provides additional financial support for eligible disabled students to support access.

The number of supported full‑time students has increased by 0.7% between academic sessions 2017‑18 and 2018‑19, and by 13.9% between academic sessions 2009‑10 and 2018‑19.

A total of £280.3 million was paid out in fee support in academic session 2018‑19 (up from £278.0 million in academic session 2017‑18). £222.9 million was paid out for tuition fees (down from £223.5 million) and £57.4 million was paid out in fee loans (up from £54.5 million). The majority of fee loans were paid out to postgraduate students (5,895). The average undergraduate fee loan awarded (£8,620) was almost double the average postgraduate loan awarded (£4,660).

Non‑repayable bursaries and grants are available to help students who meet certain criteria to access education. The number of full‑time students receiving a bursary and/or grant in academic session 2018‑19 increased by 1.7% compared to academic session 2017‑18. The total amount awarded was £80.3 million at an average of £1,470 per student.

Equality Implications


In 2017‑18, there were more female students being supported by SAAS than male: 83,740 female students, or 56.6%, compared to 64,180 male students, or 43.4%. The percentage of female students increased since 2016‑17 (when the figure was 56.0%), and has been increasing gradually since 2008‑09, when 52.5% of students were female.

In 2018‑19, the majority of part‑time students were female (72.9%). Over three-quarters of all part‑time students were aged over 25 (81.1%). The age profile variation for both male and female students is broadly similar.

In 2018‑19, SAAS provided a total of £3.8 million in Lone Parents' Grants, making payments in 3,210 instances. The vast majority of lone parents are women.

Care experience

Care experienced students are also benefiting, with the number of individuals receiving the HE care‑experienced bursary increasing to 840 in 2018‑19, up from 545 in 2017‑18.

The Scottish Government has committed to continue funding to provide care‑experienced individuals with a bursary of £8,100 per year. The 'Programme for Government 2019-20' has also committed to remove the current upper age limit of 26 years, so that care experienced individuals over the age of 26 can access this bursary.


The main bursary for individuals aged under 25 with lower household incomes is the Young Students Bursary, which provided £43.4 million to 30,825 students in 2018‑19.

Students aged 25 and over with lower household incomes can access support via the Independent Students Bursary, which provided £15.8 million to 19,180 students in 2018‑19.


4,895 full‑time students received Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) in academic session 2018‑19, an increase of 5.2% compared to academic session 2017‑18. The total amount awarded was £9.7 million, at an average of £1,990 per student.

Discretionary fund

The discretionary fund provides financial support to students who have difficulty entering Higher Education for financial reasons, or have financial difficulties while they study. There were 11,715 instances of assistance in academic session 2017‑18, providing £12.8 million of support at an average of £1,100 per instance. Discretionary fund support was most typically provided for general living expenses – payments of this nature were issued 9,445 times at an average of £1,140 per instance.

A separate discretionary childcare fund is available for students to apply for help towards registered or formal childcare costs. There were 950 instances of support in academic session 2017‑18, providing £3.7 million of support at an average of £3,870 per instance.

In keeping with Commission on Widening Access priorities, students from the most deprived areas of Scotland receive more support per student than students from the least deprived areas of Scotland: £7,100 per SIMD20 student compared to £5,820 per SIMD80 student. Students from the most deprived areas are more likely to receive a bursary and/or grant than those from less deprived areas: 67.2% of SIMD20 students receive bursaries or grants, compared to 22.0% of SIMD80 students.

Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities

The 'Programme for Government 2018‑19' underscored the Scottish Government's commitment to student mental health with provision for more than 80 additional counsellors in Further and Higher Education over 4 years, with an investment of around £20 million. Institutions are receiving more than £3.6 million in academic year 2019‑20. An additional £50,000 per year for two years has been allocated to the SFC, to support implementation, including to support equity of access to counselling support by all students across both sectors.

Our aim is to support equity of access to counselling support across colleges and universities, informed by equality principles and shaped by robust monitoring and evaluation data for the first year, such that the student experience of accessing counselling services is comparable across both sectors, recognising that needs and approaches are diverse. We will work with the sectors and stakeholders through the Scottish Government's Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group to develop this over the four years of the additional counsellor commitment, and reflect this in the approach in future years to allocating funding.

Colleges and universities should be places where students can live, study and research free of sexual harassment and gender-based violence (GBV). The Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities Working Group's Work Plan (June 2019) will continue to support further progress on this, and we will look to continue to invest in work to support this.

College Resource

Scotland's colleges play a central role in delivering inclusive economic growth in Scotland, providing learning opportunities to a demographic which extends from school age right across the working-age population. With their role in delivering for learners, the economy, society and their reach, colleges have an impact on all of the national outcomes, but most particularly on education, inclusive economic growth, communities and fair work.

Through the upskilling of learners across further and higher education levels, increasing their employability and productivity, colleges play an important role in improving participation levels and the reduction of child poverty (given the proportion of college learners who are also parents). The benefits to individuals associated with increasing qualification levels and improvements in employment outcomes also have a significant and positive impact on wellbeing, as well as supporting economic return. Colleges also make a contribution to developing the new thinking and technologies, which are central to tackling climate change.

Equality Implications


The SFC's Gender Action Plan outlines key issues that the college and university sector are to work to address.

For colleges, these are:

  • By 2021, increase by five percentage points the minority gender share in each of the 10 largest and most imbalanced 'superclasses' among 16‑24 year olds.
  • By 2030, no subject has an extreme gender imbalance (75:25).

Gender segregation of college superclasses[14] reflects occupational gender segregation in the wider labour market, and contributes to the gender pay gap; women more typically undertake qualifications in subjects which lead to jobs in industries with lower wages (e.g. childcare), whereas men more typically undertake qualifications in subjects which lead to jobs in industries with higher wages (e.g. engineering). Occupational segregation and the gender pay gap persists despite women's on average higher attainment in university qualifications.

The SFC's Gender Action Plan includes Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) KPI 8: 'Increase by 5 percentage points the minority gender share in each of the 10 largest and most imbalanced college superclasses by 2021'. The average minority gender share across the 10 largest and most imbalanced college superclasses is currently 8% – the target is currently 10%.

The minority gender share currently ranges from 3% in Building/Construction Operations to 16% in Engineering/Technology (general). The minority gender share increased by at least one percentage point in six out of the 10 largest and most imbalanced college superclasses between 2015‑16 and 2016‑17.

National Improvement Programme


For students with a declared disability, successful completion rates for college courses lasting 160 hours or more increased to 67.0% in 2017‑18, up from 66.5% in 2016‑17. Students with a disability underperform against the comparator group and have a similar success rate to those from the 10% and 20% most deprived postcode areas.[15]

Race and Ethnicity

In 2017‑18, 71.4% of minority ethnic students on college courses lasting 160 hours or more successfully completed their course, compared to 69.8% for all enrolments lasting 160 hours or more. The overall sector figure indicates that those students from an ethnic minority background outperform the 'all enrolments' comparator group.


For learners aged 25 and over, successful completion rates for college courses lasting 160 hours or more increased to 73.3% in 2017‑18, up from 73.0% in 2016‑17.


Between 2015‑16 and 2017‑18 there was improved attainment for college students on courses lasting 160 hours or more from the 10% most deprived areas. The successful completion rate for college courses lasting 160 hours or more increased to 66.3%, up from 65.7% in 2015‑16.

For students from the 20% most deprived areas, successful completion rates for college courses lasting 160 hours or more increased to 66.6% in 2017‑18, up from 66.2% in 2016‑17.

Care Experience

Attainment for care‑experienced students continues to be well below the national average (55.0% compared to 69.8%, for students on courses lasting 160 hours or more). Overall, sector figures show that care-experienced students are more likely to withdraw from their course and less likely to successfully complete than any of the other reported key interest groups.

Youth Employment and Skills

Our aim is that every young person in Scotland can make the right choices about their education and skills and be confident that they are making the right decisions.

In 2020‑21, we will continue to ensure that apprenticeship opportunities are open to all by investing over £224 million to support Skills Development Scotland (SDS). SDS are responsible for a number of key Ministerial targets, such as delivering 30,000 apprentice starts. These costs enable SDS to deliver against these targets and contribute to a number of National Outcomes including Children and Young People, Education, Fair Work and Business, Communities, Economy and Health.

The programmes that SDS deliver help ensure that individuals can increase their work‑based and employability skills to ensure they are ready to enter the labour market. They also provide advice on career change and re‑skilling. Through their skills planning work, they ensure that the population have the right skills in place to help future demand needs and through the Career Information, Advice and Guidance programme, they ensure that Scotland's current and future workforce have the correct skills that they require to achieve their potential. SDS continue to work with partners to take forward and monitor the measures set out in the Equality Action Plan (EAP) for Apprenticeships in order to better advance equality in relation to the labour market. The plan outlines the contribution towards achieving the ambitions from Developing Scotland's Young Workforce.

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 experienced, and aims to tackle apprenticeship areas where there are gender imbalances.

Equality Implications

Evidence shows that the number of Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) starts identifying as disabled has increased year on year in line with targets set. There will be a continued focus to support disabled people to access and achieve MAs with a focus on those with complex need.

MAs continue to reflect the gender imbalance in the wider workforces which is accentuated by the fact that the biggest occupational grouping is construction and related apprenticeships where 2% of participants are female. There has been a drive to increase the numbers of apprenticeships in STEM sectors, which tend to be traditionally male dominated.

Positive progress is illustrated by the number of female starts in construction and engineering, being the highest in the past five years. Male starts in Sports, Health and Social Care and in Administration and Related are also at the highest number in the past five years. There is some incremental progress in the participation of ethnic minority individuals in MAs, however, this is not at the level hoped for. There has also been a slight decrease in the percentage of MA starts who are care experienced and this will be monitored to determine if a trend is established. Whilst progress is being made, there are still some key areas to drive forward change.

Gender Balance

More males than females started MAs at all levels in 2018‑19. The 2018‑19 gender breakdown of MA starts was 62% male to 38% female. The proportion of female starts decreased by 0.04 percentage points since 2017‑18.


The 2018‑19 proportion of MA starts in 2018‑19 self‑identifying an impairment, health condition or learning difficulty is 14.1% (3,771), which is 2.8 percentage points higher than 2017‑18. Last year, 2,954 MA starts self‑identified an impairment, health condition or learning difficulty.

Race and Ethnicity

The 2018‑19 proportion of MAs who self‑identify as being from a Mixed or Multiple; Asian; African; Caribbean or Black; and Other ethnic group is 2.3% (621) of MA starts, slightly higher than in 2017‑18 (increased by 0.4 percentage points).

Care Experienced

In 2018‑19, 1.5% of MA starts self‑identified as care experienced. This is compared to 1.6% in 2017‑18, a decrease of 0.1 percentage points.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Positive progress can be seen in Foundation Apprenticeships, where female starts have progressively increased from 49.7% in Cohort 1 (2016‑18) to 56.5% of starts compared in Cohort 3 (2018‑20).

Graduate Apprenticeships

We recognise that there is still work to be done in getting more women into Graduate Apprenticeship roles, and SDS is working in partnership with a range of organisations to address gender imbalance in Scotland's Apprenticeships family. However, there has been an increase in female participation in Graduate Apprenticeships over the past year, rising from 18% of starts in 2017‑18 to 34% in 2018‑19.

An important initiative has been recently introduced to tackle gender segregation. The Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB) Group Board recently considered current trends within apprenticeships and identified a need to provide visible, industry leadership to this issue by setting up a Gender Commission to address gender imbalance.

SDS's Ethnic Intersectionality Pilot, has been extended into 2019‑20. The Enhanced Recruitment Incentive for Intersectional Ethnicity Apprentices (the Incentive) is part of the SDS Equality Action Plan for apprenticeships. The purpose of the intervention is to trial an approach to support the SDS contracting model, which encourages participation of people from a minority ethnic background who may also experience additional barriers to their participation in Modern Apprenticeships.

Inequalities in Outcomes for People Who Are Socioeconomically Disadvantaged

Analysis of MA starts in 2018‑19 by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD, 2016) involved the matching of MA postcodes (based on home address) to SIMD data. The proportion of MA starts who live in the 10% most deprived areas (decile 1) continues to be higher than those who reside in the 10% least deprived areas (decile 10). 11.7% of MA starts in 2018‑19 lived in the 10% most deprived areas in Scotland, 12 lower than 2017‑18 (‑0.5 pp). The analysis shows 24.3% of MA starts in 2018‑19 lived in the 20% most deprived areas (a decrease of ‑0.4 pp on 2017‑18), compared to 13.7% in the 20% least deprived areas (+0.4 pp compared to 2017‑18).

However, the Longitudinal Education Outcomes Modern Apprenticeship data was published on 24 September 2019. The release provides statistics on 2016‑17 median earnings of Modern Apprentices who completed in their apprenticeship in 2011‑12, broken down by characteristics such as gender, occupation, and SIMD quintile. The data showed that individuals from the 20% least deprived areas were earning £4,500 more than individuals from the 20% most deprived areas 5 years after completion.

Whilst outcomes from SDS budget spend show some underrepresentation and disparities in outcomes, which can be seen across education and in the wider workforce, the Scottish Government recognises that they cannot be addressed by a single measure and working in partnership is critical to the future success of the EAP.

Addressing the gender imbalance in some sectors remains a challenge and there are significant cultural and societal inhibitors in our society which result in gender bias and stereotyping, which is reflected in apprenticeships. The Scottish Government, through SDS support, remain absolutely committed to affecting change within the education and skills system and will continue to work closely with partners from the public, private and third sectors to combine expertise and resources.


Investing in the learning and development of Scotland's children and young people remains of the utmost importance to the Scottish Government. Key to this is working across the education system, to reduce the attainment gap and to focus on addressing gender differences in subject choice and destination. There is a recognition that only by removing barriers can children and young people achieve the most they can in life. With differences in cognitive attainment being visible even before children attend school the expansion of free, high quality early learning and childcare is a significant commitment to positive change. The ongoing wide‑ranging work to close the attainment gap aims to ensure that all children, regardless of their background have the same chance to reach their full potential. The range of opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds in the tertiary education system continues to help people increase their skills, develop new skills and to take up employment opportunities when they are ready to enter the workplace.


1. Scotland's Wellbeing – Delivering the National Outcomes. Scottish Government. May 2019

2. Is Scotland Fairer? EHRC. 2018

3. Is Scotland Fairer? EHRC. 2018

4. The proportion of 16‑19 year olds participating in education, training or employment was 91.8% in 2017-18, an increase of 0.7 percentage points compared to 2016-17.

5. Is Scotland Fairer? EHRC. 2018

6. Is Scotland Fairer? EHRC. 2018

7. Scottish Government (2019): Early Learning and Childcare: Fairer Scotland Duty:‑learning‑childcare‑expansion‑fairer‑scotland‑duty‑summary/

8. Scottish Government: A blueprint for 2020: the expansion of early learning and childcare (ELC) in Scotland – ELC expansion planning guidance for local authorities; 2017:‑2020‑expansion‑early‑learning‑childcare‑scotland‑elc‑expansion‑planning/


10. PEF Operational Guidance

11. CECYP Fund Operational Guidance

12. Male dominated subjects: Engineering; Computer Sciences; Architecture, Building and Planning; Technologies. Female dominated subjects: Nursing; Social Studies; Training Teachers; Psychology; and European Languages & Related Subjects

13. SFC, (2019), Gender Action Plan Annual Progress Report

14. Superclasses are subject groups in colleges.

15. College Performance Indicators