Attainment Scotland Fund evaluation: third interim report - year 4

This report focuses on the Year 4 (2018/19) evaluation of ASF across Pupil Equity Funding (PEF), Challenge Authority and Schools Programme Funding streams.

Chapter 2 Inputs: Governance and Funding

2.1 This chapter focuses on how the ASF was organised and supported at both a national and a local level. It also outlines the financial inputs to the programme by funding stream.


2.2 The evaluation considers what did and did not work well in the governance of the ASF at national and local level and considers the part Attainment Advisors play in local governance. It reviews how national and local organisation and governance of the fund worked in Challenge Authorities, Schools Programme and PEF-only schools.

2.3 Evidence used to address this has been largely drawn from the Local Authority Survey and Challenge Authority progress reports. In terms of comments on national governance and the links between national and local governance arrangements, there was less evidence available in the submitted progress reports for Year 4. This is attributed to the current stage of the programme where governance arrangements associated with the Fund are largely embedded. Similarly, the Headteacher Survey 2019 questions were refocused in line with the revised evaluation approach and acknowledge that governance arrangements are now broadly established.

National Governance

2.4 National governance refers to the support provided by the Scottish Government and Education Scotland and the organisation and administrative requirements of the ASF. Local authority perspectives on what was working well and what could be improved in working with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland were broadly positive.

2.5 Looking back over Years 1 to 3 of ASF, there is a developing picture in relation to responses to Challenge Authorities being asked about Scottish Government governance arrangements. In Years 1 and 2, Challenge Authorities raised concerns about administrative requirements as well as challenging timescales. By Year 3, Challenge Authorities had reported that the reduction of reporting requirements and meetings was helpful. This theme continued in Year 4 with clear administration and established reporting procedures reflecting reduced bureaucracy; this could be attributed to an increasing refinement of the reporting procedures and commitment to resources in terms of Attainment Advisors.

2.6 In terms of what was working well in relation to Scottish Government governance, several themes emerged in local authority perspectives from the Local Authority Survey 2019. This included:

  • the opportunity to share practice via events and meetings;
  • the commitment to resources in terms of Attainment Advisors;
  • the 'national direction' and relationships established with face-to-face meetings;
  • school visits by Scottish Government officials were also noted as positives.

2.7 When asked about working with Education Scotland, local authorities responding to the 2019 survey were positive about their overall experience. The key highlights noted were the positive relationships between local authorities and Education Scotland and the advice, guidance and support received. Resources such as the National Improvement Hub and opportunities to attend national and local conferences and events were noted as positive. Strategic changes and restructuring of Education Scotland undertaken in 2018/19 were also highlighted. Changes introduced to ensure resources were more accessible outwith the central belt were viewed positively.

2.8 The Local Authority Survey 2019 also highlighted several areas of potential improvement to national support suggested by local authority respondents. This included:

  • clear guidance on timescales and key dates at the beginning of the year;
  • communication issues which were viewed as occasionally arising due to the number of individuals and departments involved (more strategic/streamlined communication from the organisation as a whole);
  • further opportunities for good practice sharing and networking.

2.9 As noted, the Headteacher Survey 2019 provided more limited evidence on governance in 2018/19 in comparison with previous survey waves. However there were comments related to the administrative burden associated with PEF. Written comments indicated that this most commonly related to the time commitment required for planning, implementing and evaluating approaches. It was also perceived that there was insufficient guidance available to support schools in budget management with a reference made to lack of clarity around staffing and other costs at the planning stage.

Local Governance

2.10 Challenge Authority and Schools Programme progress reports evidenced a range of embedded governance structures that provided support at the local level, such as SAC programme boards, leadership frameworks and leadership teams. Local governance structures were seen as positive in that they were vital for scrutiny and monitoring progress and impact with a visible line of accountability. The development of Principal Teacher roles was highlighted as important to lead and drive forward developments at the school level.

2.11 Staffing issues were highlighted in both the Challenge Authority and Schools Programme progress reports, and this was also apparent in the Local Authority Survey. This related to recruitment and retention of staff, with considerable geographic variation in the local authorities reporting this (with local authorities outwith the central belt being more likely to raise this). Resource availability emerged as a concern in the Local Authority Survey 2019. This was related to a perception of the development of a 'two-tier' system by a small number of authorities, in terms of the difference in resources for those local authorities receiving Challenge Authority funding in comparison with the non-Challenge Authorities.

2.12 The role of Attainment Advisors in respect of local governance was highlighted in the Local Authority Survey. Overall, local authority responses were broadly positive and the support provided by Attainment Advisors was welcomed in terms of Career Long Professional Learning (CLPL), data analysis, strategic planning, policy development support and direct work with schools and learning communities. Their support was variously referred to in positive terms such as 'excellent', 'strong and focused' and 'very proactive in seeking ways to support at both school and LA level'. One example noted that Attainment Advisors were perceived as a core part of senior leadership teams and that they had influenced policy and practice on a variety of levels.

2.13 The Attainment Advisor role was viewed as providing a national perspective with the ability to bring this to the local level. Examples of this included assisting in making links outwith the local authority and assisting with sharing practice between schools and across the local authority.

2.14 Areas for further improvement focused on the availability of the Attainment Advisor resource with periods without an Attainment Advisor reported by a small number of local authorities. Lack of clarity on the Attainment Advisor role was also indicated along with - at times - limited capacity, as mentioned by several non-Challenge Authorities in responses to the Local Authority Survey 2019. However, several local authority respondents did describe improvements emerging in terms of staffing availability and where having access to Attainment Advisor time was very much welcomed, such as provision of support in measuring the impact of PEF. The Headteacher Survey reported that nearly 3 in 4 (74%) schools felt there was sufficient support in place to develop and implement their school plan for PEF. This represented an 18 percentage point increase on the 2017 survey where 56% felt there was sufficient support (66% in 2018).


2.15 This section looks in detail at the funding received by local authorities and schools through the ASF to date. This section seeks to consider evidence gathered in respect of the following evaluation question:

How much funding did local authorities and schools receive, to what extent did they consider it adequate, supplement it with other funding sources, and use it in accordance with the Fund's requirements?

2.16 Evidence on funding is primarily drawn from Scottish Government administrative data. It also draws on the Local Authority Survey 2019, which explored local authorities' use of core education funding towards improving outcomes for pupils living in the most deprived communities. Challenge Authority and Schools Programme progress reports have also informed the analysis. For the Year 1 and 2 interim report, qualitative research undertaken in Year 2 provided specific evidence on a number of aspects of the above evaluation question. Without specific focused research undertaken in Year 4 which revisited these aspects, there is limited evidence on issues related to adequacy of funding, supplementation with other funding sources, and use in accordance with the Fund's requirements.

How much funding did local authorities and schools receive?

2.17 During the first two years of the ASF (2015/16 and 2016/17), approximately £52 million was distributed for the Challenge Authorities Programme and Schools Programme. In Year 3 (2017/18), following the introduction of PEF, around £165.3 million was distributed. PEF was allocated to schools on the basis of the number of children and young people from Primary 1 to Senior 3 who were eligible and registered for free school meals.

2.18 In Year 4 (2018/19), a total of £172.6 million was allocated. This included:

  • £43.2 million Challenge Authority Programme;
  • £7.1 million Schools Programme;
  • £122.3 million PEF. This includes grant maintained schools. For PEF, where schools are unable to spend their full allocation during the financial year, any underspend can be carried forward to the new financial year. Approximately £47.8 million was carried forward from PEF underspend in 2017/18. There was therefore approximately £170 million PEF available in 2018/19.

2.19 In 2018/19, a further funding strand was introduced. CECYP[4] provides funding to local authorities to support work related to improving the educational outcomes of care experienced children and young people. As CECYP is outwith the scope of this evaluation report, data on this is not included in the tables below.

Table 2.1: Funding allocations to Challenge Authorities
Local Authority Year 1 (2015/16) Year 2 (2016/17) Year 3 (2017/18) Year 4 (2018/19)
Clackmannanshire £718,000 £1,253,999 £1,548,000 £1,569,376
Dundee £2,145,000 £4,041,682 £5,582,805 £6,224,790
East Ayrshire - £2,037,323 £2,760,659 £3,762,789
Glasgow £3,030,000 £9,107,262 £7,665,677 £8,049,992
Inverclyde £592,000 £2,103,269 £3,100,200 £3,505,999
North Ayrshire £1,965,000 £3,490,024 £4,874,620 £5,889,762
North Lanarkshire £2,241,000 £6,897,347 £7,274,968 £7,478,959
Renfrewshire - £1,711,919 £3,531,000 £4,658,000
West Dunbartonshire £1,024,000 £1,850,410 £2,013,108 £2,043,815
Total £11,715,000 £32,493,235 £38,351,037 £43,183,482

2.20 The Challenge Authority Programme was extended in Year 2 to include East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire Council. There have been no further additions to the Challenge Authority Programme since then. However, the overall funding allocation to Challenge Authorities continues to increase. Between Year 2 and Year 3, there was an increase of £5.8 million (18% increase). Similarly, the allocation to Challenge Authorities overall increased between Year 3 and Year 4 by £4.8 million (12% increase). Table 2.1 above provides a breakdown of Challenge Authority Programme allocations by year and by individual Challenge Authority.

2.21 Funding allocations to the Schools Programme at the local authority level are provided in Table 2.2 below. As shown, there were no further allocations to either East Ayrshire or Renfrewshire Council through the Schools Programme following their introduction to the Challenge Authority Programme in Year 2 (2016/17). The overall Schools Programme allocation increased from £6.85 million in Year 3 to £7.14 million in Year 4, an increase of approximately £290,000 (4%).

Table 2.2: Funding allocations – Schools Programme by Local Authority
Local Authority Year 1 (2015/16) Year 2 (2016/17) Year 3 (2017/18) Year 4 (2018/19)
Aberdeen City £157,500 £454,565 £597,938 £636,133
Argyll & Bute £20,000 £19,944 £25,002 £23,895
Dumfries & Galloway £45,000 £116,533 £139,494 £137,376
East Ayrshire £291,470 - - -
Edinburgh £304,645 £743,808 £800,742 £852,403
Falkirk £73,000 £169,463 £282,768 £272,768
Fife £416,112 £685,944 £965,687 £1,010,579
Highland £92,700 £594,209 £965,565 £1,200,755
Renfrewshire £231,120 - - -
Scottish Borders £66,650 £166,620 £218,167 £188,744
South Ayrshire £150,400 £299,580 £399,523 £399,523
South Lanarkshire £548,690 £1,619,271 £2,019,374 £1,980,294
Stirling £45,600 £166,581 £180,268 £181,816
West Lothian £26,197 £188,139 £256,505 £256,429
Total £2,469,084 £5,224,657 £6,851,032 £7,140,713

2.22 PEF is distributed to primary, secondary and special schools, as well as grant maintained schools. PEF allocations at both school level and local authority level are published online annually. Pupil Equity Funding is allocated to schools on the basis of the estimated number of children and young people in P1-S3 registered for free school meals under the national eligibility criteria.Whilst the funding is allocated on a per pupil basis headteachers can use their judgment to raise the attainment of their pupils in the schools as they see fit.

2.23 In the first year of PEF (2017/18), £120.2 million was distributed to schools (including grant maintained schools). The full details are available via the above link. Of the £122.3 million PEF allocated in 2018/19, alongside the £47.7 million carry over from 2017/18, £132.3 million was spent across Scotland (78% of available funding). This is an increase from £72.5 million spent in 2017/18 (60%). Cumulatively, over 2017/18 and 2018/19, £204.8 million has been invested of the £242.5 million (84%) allocated PEF across the two years with £37.7 million carried forward into 2019/20. The chart below provides a breakdown of total spend per pupil across 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Figure 2.1: Pupil Equity Fund – Total Spend to Date 2017/18 – 2018/19
Heat map of Scotland showing Pupil Equity Fund spend per pupil by local authority area across years 2017/18 – 2018/19

Was funding used according to requirements?

2.24 Evidence provided in Challenge Authority and Schools Programme progress reports suggests that funding was being used according to requirements, with clear workstreams and plans in place. Challenge Authorities reported that they were able to spend a greater proportion of their allocated funding in Year 4 than in the previous year, following reports from Challenge Authorities that a greater proportion of allocation had been spent in Year 3 than in Year 2.

2.25 Table 2.3 compares spend versus allocation across the four years by funding stream. This indicates that Challenge Authorities spent 94% of their allocated budget in 2018/19 overall, although there was some variation at the local authority level. Similarly, 94% of Schools Programme funding was spent in Year 4. As Table 2.3 below highlights, overall Challenge Authority and Schools Programme spend as a proportion of allocation had both increased between Year 3 (2017/18) and Year 4 (2018/19). There was a two percentage point increase for Challenge Authority spend as a proportion of allocation and a four percentage point increase for Schools Programme spend as a proportion of allocation.

Table 2.3: Funding allocation and spend Years 1 to 4
Year Funding Stream Allocation £ (Million) Actual Spend £ (Million) Spend vs Allocation (%)
Year 1 (2015/16) Challenge Authorities 11.7 5.9 50%
Schools Programme 2.5 2.3 92%
PEF - - -
Total 14.2 8.2 58%
Year 2 (2016/17) Challenge Authorities 32.5 25 77%
Schools Programme 5.2 4 77%
PEF - - -
Total 37.7 29 77%
Year 3 (2017/18) Challenge Authorities 38.4 35.1 92%
Schools Programme 6.9 6.1 90%
PEF 120.1 72.2 60%
Total 165.3 113.5 69%
Year 4 (2018/19) Challenge Authorities 43.2 40.5 94%
Schools Programme 7.1 6.9 97%
PEF* 170 ^ 132.3 78%
Total 220.3 179.7 82%

^ Figure represents total distributed for PEF, including £47.8 million carry forward from 2017/18.

2.26 In terms of overall underspend for Year 4 (2018/19), this was considerably less than Year 3 (2017/18) due to an increase in PEF spend as a proportion of allocation in Year 4. In 2018/19, 78% of allocated PEF was spent, a substantial increase on the 60% allocated PEF spent in Year 3. Given PEF was introduced part way through the school year in 2017/18, it was understandable that schools took time to effectively plan their spend, not least where PEF was used to recruit additional teaching staff, which can take time.

2.27 In terms of evidence regarding the extent to which the Fund was supplemented by other sources, in the Year 3 report it was noted that one Challenge Authority received funding from other sources, as had been the case in Years 1 and 2. As stated in the section introduction, there was limited relevant evidence to draw on for this aspect of funding.

Use of core funding towards equitable outcomes

2.28 There continues to be some evidence that local authorities have changed the way they use core funding as a result of the ASF.

2.29 In 2018, over half of local authority respondents to the Local Authority Survey had changed the way they used core resources, including core education funding, to improve outcomes for pupils experiencing poverty-related disadvantage. In 2019, local authorities were invited to indicate what changes, if any, had been introduced as a result of the ASF in terms of how resources (including core education funding) were being used to improve outcomes for pupils from the most deprived backgrounds. Of 23 respondents, four local authorities indicated there had been no change in terms of how resources were used as a result of the Fund. Other local authorities referenced continuation of an existing focus or priority on equity in terms of use of core funding, whilst a number noted a shift in use of core funding towards a greater focus on deprivation, as well as a more collaborative focus.

2.30 However, some concerns were also apparent in local authority responses to the survey question on use of core funding, relating to both reduction in central resource, and to a potential for emerging differentials between schools in terms of available resources.



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