Attainment Scotland Fund evaluation: school case studies

How the Attainment Scotland Fund has been used by schools, and qualitative feedback on schools' experience to date.

3. Methodology

Case study approach

3.1. Case studies were conducted as a follow-up to the recent 2018 survey of headteachers in receipt of ASF support.  The overall aim of the study was to build on learning from previous surveys to further improve operation of the ASF, and to maximise the impact of programmes supported by the Fund.  The specific objectives for the case study approach were to provide a more detailed understanding of how the ASF has been used by schools, and to gather qualitative feedback on schools’ experience to date. 

3.2. Case study schools were selected from survey respondents who had indicated a willingness to take part in further qualitative research; from a total of 109 respondents willing to take part, 12 schools were selected.  The selection of case studies was designed to ensure a cross-section of schools in terms of:

  • ASF funding stream (Challenge Authority, Schools Programme and/or PEF funding);
  • Level of PEF allocation, with schools divided into quartiles (separately for primary and secondary sector) based on their PEF allocation during 2017/18 to identify those with a low (quartile 1), mid-range (quartiles 2 and 3) or high (quartile 4) allocation;
  • Primary and secondary sector; and
  • Urban/rural location based on the Scottish Government 6-fold urban/rural classification: ‘urban’ schools in areas classified as ‘large urban’ or ‘other urban’, ‘small town’ in areas classified as ‘accessible small town’ or ‘remote small town’, and ‘rural’ in areas classified as ‘accessible rural areas’ or ‘remote rural areas.[1]

3.3. A long list of potential case study schools was drawn up and agreed with the Scottish Government.  The Scottish Government secured approval from local authority Directors of Education prior to approaches being made to selected schools.  The table below summarises the achieved sample of case study schools.

Case study sampling 

TOTAL Urban Small Town Rural Primary Secondary
Challenge Authority 2 1
1 1 1
Schools Programme 2 1
1 1 1
PEF only: lower allocation 3 1
2 1 2
PEF only: mid allocation 3 2 1
2 1
PEF only: upper allocation 2 2

1 1
TOTAL 12 7 1 4 6 6

3.4. Fieldwork involved a one-day visit by Craigforth researchers to each school, conducted during December 2018 and January 2019.  A programme was agreed in advance with each school, tailored to reflect the school’s approach to the ASF and to include a cross-section of senior management, teaching and other staff involved in ASF interventions.  Visits involved a mix of individual interviews and group discussions with staff to gather information on how funding has been used, and feedback on experience to date.  Assurances of confidentiality were given to all participants; the identity of those taking part has not been shared with the Scottish Government, and each case study summary disclosure checked to maintain anonymity.  This has included schools having sight of their summary to identify any concerns regarding disclosure or factual accuracy.

3.5. A case study topic guide was developed in collaboration with Scottish Government to ensure consistency of feedback, although the focus of each case study was tailored to reflect the school’s approach.  A copy of the topic guide is provided at Appendix 2.

3.6. Findings presented in this report are primarily based on qualitative feedback gathered through case study visits to schools, and should be considered in this context.  The report also takes account of additional information provided by some schools (e.g. on the profile of the school roll and any attainment impacts) and case study schools’ responses to the headteacher survey (e.g. in describing the range of funded interventions for each school).  Case study summaries draw on the following data sources:



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