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.

4. Funding

4.1. This chapter looks in detail at the level of funding received by local authorities and schools.

4.2. Specifically, it looks in more detail at:

  • Funding Allocation. The level of funding local authorities received as part of the Challenge Authorities and the Schools Programme.
  • Perceived adequacy of the fund. It explores how the fund was perceived by authorities and schools.
  • Funding requirements and practicalities. The chapter explores in more detail whether the fund was used according to the key requirements / criteria and looks at any issues raised around the process of application and implementation
  • Supplementing funding. Finally, this chapter assesses whether authorities and schools supplemented the fund with other sources.

Chapter Highlights – Funding

  • Funding levels increased gradually since the programme started. Overall, during the first two years of the Challenge Authorities and Schools Programme, around £52 million has been distributed in total.
  • The fund was perceived as adequate, reasonable and fair by local authorities and schools.
  • Overall, funding appeared to be used according to its requirements.
  • Timescales for spending the funding were perceived to be tight, with the time taken to agree plans with Scottish Government, and implement plans in line with local authority procedures impacting on the time available to deliver interventions and spend resources.
  • Challenges around recruitment of staff were prominent across most Challenge Authorities and some schools part of the Schools Programme. This resulted in a considerable number of change requests and underspend.

How much funding did Local Authorities and schools receive?

4.3. During the first two years, around £52 million was distributed in total for the Challenge Authorities and School Programme.

4.4. Table 4.1 below shows funding allocation for the first two years of the Challenge Authority programme.

Table 4.1: Funding allocations to Challenge Authorities

Local Authority Year 1 (2015-16) Year 2 (2016-17)
Clackmannanshire £718,000 £1,253,999
Dundee £2,145,000 £4,041,682
East Ayrshire - £2,037,323
Glasgow £3,030,000 £9,107,262
Inverclyde £592,000 £2,103,269
North Ayrshire £1,965,000 £3,490,024
North Lanarkshire £2,241,000 £6,897,347
Renfrewshire - £1,711,919
West Dunbartonshire £1,024,000 £1,850,410
Total £11,715,000 £32,493,235

4.5. Table 4.2 shows the total received by schools in any given authority. To provide further detail, Table 4.3 displays the number of schools part of the Schools Programme in each authority.

Table 4.2: Funding allocations to challenge schools by authority

Local Authority Year 1 (2015-16) Year 2 (2016-17)
Aberdeen City £157,500 £454,565
Argyll & Bute £20,000 £19,944
Dumfries & Galloway £45,000 £116,533
East Ayrshire £294,470 -
Edinburgh £304,645 £743,808
Falkirk £73,000 £169,463
Fife £416,112 £685,944
Highland £92,700 £594,209
Renfrewshire £231,120 -
Scottish Borders £66,650 £166,620
South Ayrshire £150,400 £299,580
South Lanarkshire £548,690 £1,619,271
Stirling £45,600 £166,581
West Lothian £26,197 £188,139
Total £2,472,084 £5,224,657

Table 4.3: Number of schools part of the Schools Programme by authority

Local Authority Year 1 (2015-16) Year 2 (2016-17)
Aberdeen City 4 7
Argyll & Bute 1 1
Dumfries & Galloway 1 2
East Ayrshire 6 *
Edinburgh 8 12
Falkirk 1 2
Fife 6 9
Highland 5 9
Renfrewshire 5 *
Scottish Borders 2 3
South Ayrshire 3 4
South Lanarkshire 12 20
Stirling 1 2
West Lothian 2 3
Total number of schools 57 74

*Note: East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire were introduced in the Challenge Authority Programme in Year 2.

Was the fund perceived as adequate?

4.6. This part of the evaluation seeks to understand to what extent local authorities and schools considered the funding received adequate to meet their goals. Evidence was collected mainly through the qualitative research, although it was supplemented with information submitted in the progress reports.

4.7. Overall, most Challenge Authorities and teachers who took part in the qualitative research welcomed the resources provided through the Attainment Scotland Fund, and found funding levels reasonable, fair and appropriate.

4.8. Some teachers involved in the qualitative research indicated that they were unable to comment on the adequacy of funding received, as this had been managed centrally by the local authority. These schools had been allocated additional staffing entitlement, resources or access to training and support – rather than cash.

4.9. There were issues, however, around recruitment, timescales and limited guidance on applications for funding.

  • Schools Programme authorities involved in the qualitative research felt that the fund was a lot of money, with some finding it particularly hard to spend the funding due to challenges in recruiting staff and tight timescales of delivery.
  • Overall, local authorities and teachers would have welcomed more guidance at the beginning, specifically on how much was reasonable to apply for. A few teachers indicated that they would have liked more direction in terms of how to use the additional funding.

4.10. Recognising that there may be a need for some Challenge Authorities and schools to adapt aspects of their plans throughout the year, a Change Request process was established to provide some flexibility for Challenge Authorities and schools. Fund recipients were asked to inform Scottish Government of changes to the original plans. They had to provide a rationale for changing the approach and a revised proposal for spend.

4.11. During Year 2 there were a total of 67 change requests made by Challenge Authorities and schools that were part of the school programme. The main reasons quoted for changing original plans related to recruitment issues and staffing / personnel changes. The allocated budget for recruitment was for the most part redirected to the purchase of new Literacy or Numeracy resources and outdoor learning.

4.12. In some cases, difficulties in recruiting staff to posts resulted in underspends for Challenge Authorities and schools. Out of the total £52 million allocation, around £37.3 million was spent during the first two years of the fund.

4.13. During the first year, the Schools programme spent 94% of the allocated budget and Challenge Authorities 50%. In the second year, both Challenge Authorities and the Schools programme spent over three quarters of the allocated budget. Further detail is provided in the table below.

Table 4.4: Funding allocation and spend – Years 1 and 2

Allocation £ (Million) Actual spend £ (Million)
Year 1 (2015/16)
Challenge Authorities £11.7 £5.9
Schools Programme £2.5 £2.3
Year 2 (2016/17)
Challenge Authorities £32.5 £25
Schools Programme £5.2 £4.0

Was the fund used according to requirements?

4.14. Flexibility to adapt to local needs was paramount to the programme. Challenge Authorities were invited to develop a strategy and submit improvement plans based on their particular circumstances and needs.

4.15. The overriding principle was to focus on improving Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing of pupils adversely affected by poverty. Additionally, there was a set of criteria that needed to be in place in order for support and investment to be provided to local authorities. This criteria was broadly set around: strategies, targeting, evidence based approaches and additionality.

4.16. The criteria which all authorities were asked to have in place was:

  • Must be targeted at children from deprived communities
  • Cannot be simply to bolster resources generally
  • Must be based on demonstration of evidence that the proposal will lead to improved outcomes for the target group
  • Must be based on evidence of what works
  • Must have clear aims/goals and a way of collecting data on progress and outcomes
  • Must set out a clear and realistic implementation strategy
  • Must have been developed in partnership with learning communities (Community Planning Partnerships and other stakeholders including parents)
  • Leadership commitment must be apparent
  • Commitment to embedding what works for the longer term
  • Will include but not be limited to additional teachers to deliver interventions

4.17. From the progress reports submitted to Scottish Government over the first two years, funding appeared to be mainly used to support recruitment and staffing issues, provide training and development, and to acquire additional resources needed. Particularly during the first year, a strong focus was placed on having appropriate resources in place and training and developing the workforce.

4.18. Different authorities and schools took different approaches, based on their own local needs and circumstances. It should be noted that the information provided in the progress reports did not evidence whether the approaches taken where indeed suitable and applicable to local needs; neither was this intended to be evaluated.

4.19. Overall, the evidence suggested that the fund was used according to its requirements. More detail is provided in the appropriate chapters that follow, however below is a brief overview of the key requirements:

  • Strategies and implementation plans. All Challenge Authorities submitted their intended strategies and plans. The level of detail provided varied across authorities and so did the actual strategies implemented.
  • Targeting. Both local authorities and schools prioritised the careful targeting of interventions. The approach taken varied by local authority and school to reflect local circumstances. However, on the whole efforts were made to ensure that pupils adversely affected by poverty benefitted from the fund.
  • Evidence based approaches. Generally, teachers and local authority officers felt that their approach to gathering, understanding and using data was improving, with positive attitudes, increased confidence and greater skills around the use of data.
  • Additionality. Findings from the qualitative research showed that local authorities and most teachers did not use the fund to mitigate other funding pressures. The fund was used for additional work.

Funding practicalities

4.20. The qualitative research explored in detail what stakeholders thought about the practicalities of the funding process. The key issues raised by local authorities and teachers were:

  • Timescales. The timescales for spending the funding were perceived to be tight, with the time taken to agree plans with Scottish Government, and implement plans in line with local authority procedures impacting on the time available to deliver interventions and spend resources.
  • Financial vs academic year. Some local authorities said that the timescales and financial arrangements meant that the bulk of the activity had to be condensed into October to April. Teachers highlighted that the focus on financial year reporting was not helpful within a school setting.
  • Resource constraints. Some local requirements, for example around recruitment processes and human resources, delayed activity and impacted on spend.
  • Reporting requirements. A few teachers indicated that reporting systems were bureaucratic, onerous and time consuming.
  • Guidance. Some Challenge Authorities stated that it would have been useful to have a guide amount, as they were unsure how much would be reasonable to apply for.

Was the fund supplemented?

4.21. The evidence collected on this regard is based on progress reports submitted by Challenge Authorities and the qualitative interviews undertaken with local authorities and teachers.

4.22. From the progress reports submitted, only one Challenge Authority specifically stated that they were receiving funding from other sources. They appeared to have a holistic strategy to raising attainment and closing the gap drawing from different funding streams.

4.23. While not explicitly stated, other Challenge Authorities referred to projects that were funded through other ways ( e.g. Food for Thought fund) in their progress reports.

4.24. Local authorities that took part in the qualitative research indicated that, for interventions aiming to raise attainment and close the poverty related attainment gap, they were largely not supplementing the Attainment Scotland Fund with other sources of funding. However, some authorities interviewed said they used core education budgets and core services to support the approach – for example using human resources and procurement services.

4.25. Most teachers interviewed also indicated that their schools were not supplementing the fund with other sources. However, a few indicated that they:

  • Used the school budget to either fund teaching resources to support interventions, or to roll out successful approaches to the whole school where appropriate.
  • Supplemented from other sources including Awards for All, Tesco Bag funding, local business sponsorship or contributions, or other funding sources such as ESOL funding (English as a Second or Other Language).
  • Used volunteers to deliver Attainment Scotland Fund approaches, including teachers giving their own personal time for free to supplement an approach or particular intervention.

4.26. Participants of the qualitative research were asked about the additionality of the fund. Specifically, local authorities and schools were asked whether any Attainment Scotland Fund activities were previously funded through a different source or funding stream. They were also asked whether the fund was being used to mitigate funding pressures.

4.27. Local authorities and most teachers said that the fund was not being used to mitigate other funding pressures. Attainment Scotland Fund activity was additional work.

4.28. A few teachers indicated that they were losing funding through budget cuts at the same time as gaining funding, so it was difficult to determine whether funding had been used to maintain some previous staff or activities.


Learning Analysis:

Back to top