Education and Skills
The Education and Skills portfolio is responsible for transforming the lives of our children and young people, in and beyond educational settings; developing and championing the social care workforce; and producing a skilled workforce with opportunities for young people to move into sustained employment.
A significant challenge for this portfolio is the impact of poverty. The educational attainment gap between children from Scotland’s most and least deprived communities continues to exist. Disabled people and those from minority ethnic groups are more likely to experience poverty.  Therefore, some children and young people’s educational attainment may be affected by both deprivation and the additional barriers faced as a result of the protected characteristics they share.
The Education and Skills portfolio has a key role to play in ensuring that all children and young people, whatever their background or circumstances, are able to reach their full potential.
Key Strategic Priorities
The priorities of the Education and Skills portfolio are linked to the Scottish Government’s objective to ensure that all children and young people are equipped to succeed in life. Reducing inequality is key to ensuring this, alongside raising attainment and promoting health and wellbeing.
Our commitment to the significant expansion of early learning and childcare remains fundamental to the ambition of best start for every child, increasing access to high-quality early learning for the under-fives.
We will continue with our reform agenda and drive forward excellence and equity in our schools. A new Education Bill will empower parents, teachers and children to make key decisions about school education. Regional improvement collaboratives will give greater support to teachers. In addition, following a wider consultation on school funding, we will develop an approach to funding that better reflects schools’ needs, setting out firm proposals by summer 2018.
We will continue to invest resources through our Attainment Scotland Fund to close the attainment gap; targeting funding at schools and local authorities in need, including significant additional resource through the pupil equity funding programme. We will roll out national standardised assessments to all schools, providing robust, consistent evidence of children’s progress for teachers and parents.
Our college sector provides a modern, responsive and valued part of our education and training system. We will continue to maintain at least 116,000 full-time equivalent college places meeting the needs of both learners and the economy.
We will continue to protect free university tuition for all eligible undergraduate students. Our widening access programme will support 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.
Our youth employment strategy, ‘Developing the Young Workforce’ ( DYW), continues to contribute to the inclusive growth of the Scottish economy with vocational pathways helping to bridge the gap between education and employers, providing routes for young people that meet the skills needs of both the local and national economy.
Inclusive economic growth will also be supported through the development of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund which will provide employers with flexible workforce development training and opportunities through up-skilling or re-skilling existing employees.
Equality Implications Of The Draft Budget 2018-19
Children and Families
We will progress towards our ambitious goal of expanding funded early learning and childcare ( ELC) entitlement to 1,140 hours per year for all three and four year olds and those two year olds who will benefit most. To support the next phase of this expansion, we are providing local authorities with an addition £52.2 million in revenue and an additional £150 million in capital funding in 2018-19 to develop the additional capacity and capability required for 2020, both in the ELC workforce and in infrastructure.
Additional revenue funding will also enable the delivery of our commitment to have an additional graduate in nurseries serving our most deprived communities from August 2018.
We know that high quality ELC can have a positive effect on the educational, cognitive, behavioural and social outcomes for children in both the short and long term, including those who are most deprived in terms of household income. Indeed, some research has found that the benefits of ELC are even greater for children from more disadvantaged families, and so can contribute towards closing the attainment gap. For that reason, we have asked local authorities to phase in the expansion with reference to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) data so that we can ensure that those children who stand to benefit most from the expansion also benefit first.
Around a quarter of two year olds will benefit from the ELC expansion. The eligibility criteria is aimed at those who are likely to benefit most, and includes families on certain disability-related benefits, as well income-related benefits and support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. We know that minority ethnic households are much more likely to experience poverty which suggests that minority ethnic groups are more likely to be eligible for the expanded provision.
In 2018-19, we will be spending up to £0.1 million piloting a deposit guarantee scheme to remove some of the barriers that families face when accessing ELC. This will be aimed at families with younger children who are not yet eligible for funded provision. It is designed to help parents from lower-income households who are seeking to return to work after a period out of the labour market to look after their children. Such non-working carers are predominantly women, so the added provision will promote gender equality.
The 2018-19 budget also includes the first tranche of spending on our new ELC Inclusion Fund which will enable staff to support disabled children and children with additional support needs ( ASN). This will provide one-off funding for specialist training for ELC staff as well as funding for specialist equipment, including establishing equipment banks in local areas, making small-scale adaptations to existing environments and providing sensory areas or rooms.
We will continue to support schools and local authorities to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap by investing £179 million in 2018-19. This includes £120.5 million of Pupil Equity Funding allocated directly to schools on the basis of the number of children in P1 to S3 eligible for free school meals.
Work to close the poverty related attainment gap will have a positive impact on disabled children and young people, and those from White Gypsy/Traveller, Polish, Caribbean/Black, African and Arab groups who are over-represented in the most deprived areas.  The Attainment Challenge Fund further advances equality of opportunity by providing additional resources to support children with ASN. This will provide resource for speech and language development; additional support for speakers of English as an Additional Language; Educational Psychologists; and counsellors.
During 2018-19, £10 million of funding will be delivered to organisations supporting children and young people with complex ASN to help ensure they achieve positive outcomes. Children’s rights will be extended under the Additional Support for Learning Act giving children over the age of 12 the same rights as their parents, helping to ensure that age is not a barrier to having your voice heard.
Advanced Learning and Science
Consideration will be given this year to the findings of the independent review of student support to continue to ensure that all students, particularly those from the poorest backgrounds, get the support they need to stay in education and increase their employment prospects. To support that, we will invest over £5 million for initial anticipated pressures emerging from the review.
We will continue to ensure that care-experienced students in further education receive the optimum award available, taking into consideration their wider circumstances. We will also provide a non-income assessed bursary of £7,625 for care-experienced higher education students undertaking an eligible undergraduate course.
In line with our view that access to higher education should be based on the ability to learn not the ability to pay, Scottish domiciled undergraduate students and those from EU countries will continue to be exempt from paying tuition fees.
In 2018-19, the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) will intensify the university and college outcome agreement process to maximise the equality impact of this investment, including accelerated progress in securing gender balance in senior positions and on university and college Courts and Boards. The SFC will continue to implement its Gender Action Plan which sets out actions to address gender imbalances and significantly reduce gender under-representation in some college and undergraduate courses.
Youth Employment and Skills
As part of the Developing the Young Workforce programme, we have fulfilled our commitment to reduce youth unemployment by 40 per cent, four years ahead of schedule. We have, and will continue to, transform young people’s readiness for work. 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. All 21 industry-led DYW Regional Groups established across Scotland will receive Scottish Government support until 2021.
We will continue to build on both the successful expansion of our Modern Apprenticeship ( MA) programme, working towards our 2020 target of 30,000 MA starts, and Foundation Apprenticeship and Graduate Level Apprenticeships as pathways into work. Through the Flexible Workforce Development Fund we will continue to invest £10 million in the up-skilling and re-skilling of our existing workforce on an all-age basis.
In 2018-19, we will continue to ensure that apprenticeship opportunities are open to all by investing £192.8 million to support Skills Development Scotland ( SDS). SDS will continue to work with partners to take forward the measures set out in the Equality Action Plan ( EAP) for MAs 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 MAs, and the requirement for all partners to work in collaboration to tackle culturally ingrained challenges. It includes specific improvement targets for MA participation by disabled people, minority ethnic groups, care leavers, and aims to tackle apprenticeship areas where there are gender imbalances.
Every young person has to have real choices about their education and skills and be sure they are making the right decisions. In 2018-19, the outcome of the 15-24 Learner Journey review will inform the detailed consideration of policy propositions, with the aim of improving this stage of young people’s learning and ensuring that options are developed for those who need additional support at any point in their learner journey. The review complements other work focused on improving equity and excellence across the education system, including the work on Fair Access, the Student Support review, and the Enterprise and Skills review.
We will continue funding for the Education Maintenance Allowance ( EMA) programme. 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 Agreement. In 2015-16, the proportion of EMA recipients living in Scotland’s
20 per cent most deprived areas was 35 per cent.
The Inspiring Scotland 14:19 Fund has supported investment to improve the lives of Scotland’s most disadvantaged young people aged 14 to 19 to help them make successful transitions from school into employment, education or training. As the programme enters the penultimate year of a 10-year financial commitment, funding in 2018-19 will be tapered but remain significant, demonstrating our continued support for programmes aimed at helping vulnerable young people across Scotland towards and into employment.
The Scottish Government recognises the importance of investing in the development of the skills of our children and young people in order that they can achieve the most they can in life. The expansion of free, high quality early learning and childcare will give our children the best start in life. Work to close the attainment gap will ensure all children and young people, whatever their background or circumstances, have the same chance to reach their full potential. Resource to support our schools will enable children and young people to fulfil their ambitions and to gain the skills they need to enter the workforce and contribute to a successful and prosperous Scotland. Ongoing investment in our tertiary education system will provide opportunities for learners of all ages to up-skill and re-skill to take up job opportunities now and in the future.