14. Unintended Consequences
14.1. This chapter explores the extent to which the Attainment Scotland Fund brought about any positive or negative unintended consequences.
14.2. Both sections draw on data from the local authority mini survey at the end of Year 1 and the annual online headteacher survey. Interviews with teachers and local authorities as part of the qualitative research also inform the findings in this chapter.
Chapter Highlights – Unintended Consequences
- The most common unintended positive consequences of the Attainment Scotland Fund reported by teachers and local authorities were increased staff morale, skill development and collaboration.
- The most common unintended negative consequences of the Attainment Scotland Fund reported by teachers and local authorities were the impact on staff resources and workload, and a potential divide between those benefitting and those not benefitting from the fund.
Did the fund have any unintended positive consequences?
14.3. Overall, teachers and local authorities reported that there had been a variety of unintended positive consequences brought about as a result of the fund. It should be noted, that these were unintended for the respondents themselves. Some of the positive consequences noted below, were indeed part of the intended outcomes of the fund.
14.4. Specifically, common themes centred around:
- Increased staff morale
- More opportunities for professional development and increased skill set – particularly around leadership and the use of data / evidence
- Improved collaboration
- Parental engagement
14.5. In Year 1 of the headteacher survey, 35% of respondents reported positive consequences as a result of the fund. This was maintained in Year 2, with 39% of headteachers reporting that participation in the fund had led to unintended positive consequences.
14.6. Both local authorities and teachers interviewed in the qualitative research felt there had been a positive impact on staff morale and overall positivity. For teachers, this was the most frequently mentioned positive consequence, reporting that the Attainment Scotland Fund had increased their enthusiasm and confidence in trying new approaches.
14.7. Headteachers responding to the online survey at the end of Year 2 also reported that the fund had made a positive impact on staff satisfaction, confidence and motivation. 15% of headteachers spontaneously mentioned improved teacher morale when asked about positive unintended consequences of the fund.
14.8. Another positive impact recorded by local authorities and teachers was around the increased number of opportunities to develop their skills, and two particular skills that were mentioned frequently were leadership skills and use of data.
14.9. When asked about unintended positive impact of the fund, 11% of headteachers mentioned staff being more willing to consider leadership roles and being better equipped to take them on.
14.10. The evidence suggested that teachers and local authorities felt there had been an increase in the use of data as a result of the fund.
- Teachers: Headteachers responding to the online survey commented that there had been an improvement in the use of data and tracking of pupils. As reported in Chapter 12, 68% of headteachers in Year 2 reported that their skills and knowledge with regard to using data had significantly improved. Furthermore, 9% of headteachers (Year 2) spontaneously referred to improved use of data and data skills when asked about positive unintended consequences of the fund.
- Local Authorities: The qualitative research revealed that local authorities felt there had be an increased focus on the use of data.
14.11. A further recurring theme was that the fund had improved collaboration. Teachers interviewed in the qualitative research and those responding to the headteacher surveys felt that there was more sharing of ideas amongst staff. Overall, 22% of headteachers (Year 2) spontaneously mentioned collaboration when asked about positive unintended consequences of the fund. It was the most commonly discussed factor amongst all those mentioned in response to this question.
14.12. There was also evidence that the fund had improved collaboration more widely. Online survey responses from headteachers and local authorities suggested there was increased partnership with the wider community, including other professionals.
14.13. Parental engagement also featured strongly as an unintended consequence. Just over one in ten of headteachers (13% in Year 2) mentioned increased and better parental engagement. This has been the third most often discussed 'unintended' consequence of the fund. Headteachers referred to the success of initiatives aiming to engage families and saw improvements in the relationship between the school and the parents.
14.14. Other unintended positive consequences reported less frequently by respondents included:
- An increased awareness of or focus on the issues relating to the influence of poverty on attainment, from responses to the headteacher survey.
- Benefitting from national recognition of the work taking place in one Challenge Authority.
- An increased enthusiasm for learning amongst pupils; and
- A general improvement of teaching quality and ethos at the school which goes beyond the areas of focus and aims of the fund.
Did the fund have any unintended negative consequences?
14.15. During the first two years, a small number of teachers and local authorities did report some negative unintended consequences of the fund, including:
- The impact on staff resources and workload
- A divide between those benefitting and those not benefitting from the Attainment Scotland Fund
14.16. The majority of respondents to the headteacher survey did not think the fund had brought about negative consequences. However, 18% in Year 1 and 23% in Year 2 did report that participation had led to unintended negative consequences.
14.17. Local authorities and teachers interviewed in the qualitative research did report some negative consequences. However, some teachers stressed that these were largely outweighed by the positive impacts.
14.18. One commonly mentioned negative consequence was the impact of the Attainment Scotland Fund on staff resources.
14.19. At the end of Year 1, headteachers responding to the online survey reported that within the context of recruitment difficulties, it had been difficult to backfill or manage new posts.
14.20. Similarly, at the end of Year 2, headteachers continued to report difficulties in staff shortages and ability to fill gaps caused by staff changes. 27% of headteachers listed staffing issues as the biggest negative unintended consequence of the fund in Year 2.
14.21. Local authorities in both the online survey and qualitative research also agreed that appointing staff to attainment challenge work created a gap which was difficult to fill.
14.22. Furthermore, teachers in the qualitative research indicated that when there were staffing gaps this created extra pressure and impacted negatively on teacher morale.
14.23. Relatedly, a second common negative unintended consequence was the increase in workloads. Headteachers responding to survey in Years 1 and 2 and those interviewed in the qualitative research mentioned that the fund had created additional workload and a lot of associated pressure to deliver on expectations. The majority of responses to the question about negative unintended consequences of the fund referred to increased and overwhelming workload, with 52% of headteachers naming it as the main negative factor in Year 2.
14.24. Local authorities in the qualitative research also noted that there were additional time pressures due to the increased administration work.
14.25. A final common theme mentioned by both teachers and local authorities was that the fund had caused a potential division between those benefitting from additional resources and those not. This was also mentioned by a minority of respondents to the headteacher survey. They discussed the fund as responsible for highlighting inequality and building resentment.
14.26. Local authorities and teachers interviewed in the qualitative research reported that there was a feeling of divide between challenge and non-challenge areas and challenge and non-challenge schools.
14.27. When headteachers responding to the online survey in Year 1 were asked to describe negative consequences, some suggested that the fund may have led to a division between staff who were participating and those not participating in the fund.
14.28. In addition, there were a small number of less frequently mentioned negative unintended consequences.
14.29. A small number of teachers in the qualitative research identified wider unintended negative consequences:
- the increasing focus on Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing may mean that children miss out on the wider broad general education;
- there was some concern that pupils in the middle, who would also benefit from support, were being excluded; and
- parents did not want to be stigmatised as poor, so targeting had to be handled very sensitively.
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