Attainment Scotland Fund evaluation: interim report (years 1 and 2)

The evaluation aims to provide learning about the overall implementation of the Attainment Scotland Fund over its first two years.

1. Introduction

The Scottish Attainment Challenge

1.1. The Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched by the First Minister in February 2015. Backed by a commitment of £750 million over the course of this parliament it prioritises improvements in Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing of those children adversely affected by the poverty related attainment gap in Scotland's primary and secondary schools.

1.2. The Scottish Attainment Challenge builds on the range of initiatives and programmes already in place to raise attainment and reduce inequity for children across Scotland. It is underpinned by the National Improvement Framework ( NIF), Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE) and Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC).

1.3. The core aims of the programme are to support schools, local authorities and their partners to develop their own approaches reflecting own circumstances. With the help of online resources such as Education Scotland's National Improvement Hub, the Scottish Government is encouraging them to draw on evidence-based practice, sharing their results and successful interventions with each other to ultimately help close the poverty related attainment gap.

1.4. Currently, there are three main strands to the Scottish Attainment Challenge all of which are supported by the Attainment Scotland Fund. In addition to the three main strands there are national programmes funded by the Scottish Attainment Challenge including staffing supply and capacity, professional learning and school leadership.

1.5. Table 1.1 provides an overview of the three strands.

Table 1.1: Overview of Attainment Scotland Fund ( ASF)

Type of Support Award Total Timeframe Beneficiaries Overview
Strand 1: Challenge Authorities

Strand 2: Schools Programme
£45M From Year 1 (2015-16) 9 Challenge Authorities and 74 schools Targeted support to 9 local authorities and an additional 74 schools with the highest levels of deprivation. These Challenge Authorities and Schools deliver targeted and specific interventions focused on Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing to close the attainment gap
Strand 3: Pupil Equity Funding £120M From Year 3 (2017-18) 95% of Scottish schools Funding provided directly to schools for headteachers to use at their discretion for additional staffing or resources that they consider will help close the poverty related attainment gap. 95% of schools in Scotland have been allocated funding for pupils in P1-S3 based on those known to be eligible for free school meals. Schools will now have their plans in place for using their funding and will be implementing those plans.

1.6. The Attainment Scotland Fund has developed significantly over its lifetime thus far. A summary of yearly progress is provided below:

Figure 1.1: Attainment Scotland Fund Timeline
Figure 1.1: Attainment Scotland Fund Timeline

Year 1 (2015-16)

1.7. Seven local authorities with the greatest concentration of primary age children living in SIMD 1 and 2, were identified to receive support from the Attainment Scotland Fund.

1.8. The Challenge Authorities were: Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire. In addition, 57 primary schools out with the Challenge Authorities were selected to receive funding. These schools had over 70% of their pupils living in the most 20% deprived ( SIMD 1 & 2) areas of Scotland.

Year 2 (2016-17)

1.9. The Challenge Authority programme was expanded to include two new Challenge Authorities (East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire). The programme was extended to include secondary schools. These schools had at least 20% of their pupils living in SIMD 1 and 2.

Year 3 (2017-18)

1.10. Pupil Equity Funding ( PEF) extended the reach of the Scottish Attainment Challenge to every local authority with £120 million allocated to 95% of schools in Scotland. This funding was on top of the existing £50 million Attainment Scotland Fund finance. PEF allocations are based on the number of pupils from P1 to S3 known to be eligible for free school meals, with schools receiving £1,200 per pupil. This funding is provided directly to headteachers for them to use to close the attainment gap.

Year 4 (2018-19)

1.11. 2018-19 will see the continuation of Pupil Equity Funding, and allocated funding to both schools in the Challenge Authority and Schools Programme.

Evaluation Aims

1.12. Overall, the evaluation aims to provide learning about the overall implementation of the fund and the extent to which the aims of the fund have been met.

1.13. The final evaluation report will provide feedback to schools, local authorities, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland on what is, and is not, working well during the years of the fund, to enable them to improve initiatives and the working of the fund further.

1.14. Specifically, the overall evaluation objectives are to:

  • Assess the impact of the overall fund in improving attainment and Health and Wellbeing and reducing the difference between pupils from the most and least deprived areas.
  • Assess the extent to which the further aims of the fund have been met: promote capacity for data-based self-evaluation and improvement and, encourage collaboration between schools and local authorities.
  • Provide learning and increase the Scottish evidence base of what does and does not work to improve attainment and Health and Wellbeing, especially of pupils from the most deprived areas.
  • Provide learning on what did and did not work well in the process of implementing the fund across participating Challenge Authorities and schools and which factors helped and hindered the fund achieving its outcomes.

Evaluation Scope and Limitations

1.15. This section explains what we can and cannot determine from the data available, and describes more generally the limitations of the evaluation.

1.16. The evaluation strategy for the Attainment Scotland Fund follows the life of the programme and commenced in Year 1 (see Figure 1.2). It gathers data that can inform the implementation of fund in achieving the aims of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

Figure 1.2: Evaluation of Attainment Scotland Fund Timeline
Figure 1.2: Evaluation of Attainment Scotland Fund Timeline

1.17. This is the first evaluation report presenting evidence from Year 1 (2015/16) and Year 2 (2016/17) of the fund. It does not include an evaluation of Pupil Equity Funding, which commenced in Year 3.

1.18. A final evaluation report will be published at the end of Year 4. This will consider how the fund has evolved over time.

1.19. There exist limitations in the extent to which we can draw conclusions about the overall impact of the Attainment Scotland Fund. These include:

  • Longer-term impact of the fund will take time to determine. Changing attainment and Health and Wellbeing is a complex process that requires time. For the fund to have true impact we would ideally measure whether there is lasting change in the longer-term, beyond the years of the fund.
  • Lack of consistent data sources throughout the duration of the fund. Chapter 2 outlines the measures used to assess the attainment and achievement of pupils and is in line with those set out in the National Improvement Plan 2018. Whilst there is some data available at senior phase for school leavers, there does not exist a measure of attainment at the primary and secondary stages which collected data before the introduction of the fund and continued throughout the duration of the fund.
  • Inability to compare participating and non-participating schools. It remains difficult to identify an appropriate control group. Schools participating in the Challenge Authority or Schools Programme were selected because they have the highest concentrations of pupils living in deprivation. Non-participating schools do not have the same levels of deprivation and therefore are not an appropriate comparison group.

1.20. In addition, the introduction of PEF in Year 3, alongside other changes in educational policy present further challenges in identifying the impact of the Attainment Scotland Fund in isolation.

1.21. Overall, we are unable to conclude whether any observed changes have occurred as a result of other factors.


Learning Analysis:

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