This strategy sets out the broad terms of Scottish Government's approach to evaluating the Attainment Scotland Fund during this parliamentary term. It has been designed following the refresh of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, launched in March 2022, with its new Mission:
'To use education to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty with a focus on tackling the poverty-related attainment gap to deliver on the Scottish Government's vision of equity and excellence in education'.
A detailed analytical plan outlining evaluation activity in support of the high level strategy will be published annually.
Scottish Attainment Challenge – what it is, what it seeks to achieve, why it is important
The Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched in February 2015 with the strategic aim of 'closing the poverty-related attainment gap between children and young people from the least and most disadvantaged communities'. The Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF), which supports the Scottish Attainment Challenge, prioritises improvements in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing of those children adversely affected by poverty in Scotland's schools. Achieving excellence and equity in education are the key aims.
The evaluation journey so far
A programme of evaluation of the ASF has been ongoing since the inception of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. The evaluation has aimed to provide learning about the overall implementation of the ASF and to assess progress towards the following long-term outcomes:
- Embedded and sustained practices related to addressing the impact of the poverty-related attainment gap.
- All children and young people are achieving the expected or excellent educational outcomes, regardless of their background.
- An education system which is aspirational, inclusive in practice and approaches for all including teachers, parents and carers, children and young people.
- Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people.
This has been supported to date by an evaluation strategy which was published in 2018 to cover Year 3 and 4 of the Fund. The evaluation strategy has been reviewed annually for Year 5 and 6 to ensure that the evaluation remains responsive to emerging developments both within the ASF and wider contextual factors. For example, the evaluation was adapted to take account of the impact of COVID-19 in Year 5 (2019-20) and Year 6 (2020-21).
To date the ASF Evaluation has reported on an annual, retrospective basis. An initial report on Year 1 and 2 (from 2015 - 2017) of the fund was published in 2017, with annual evaluation reports published from 2018 to 2022. In March 2021, Scottish Government and Education Scotland published the Closing the poverty-related attainment gap: progress report 2016 to 2021 five year impact report.
The most recent evaluation report, the ASF Year 6 Evaluation Report, published in June 2022, covered the school year 2020/21. As in previous years, multiple evidence sources were utilised in preparing the ASF Year 6 report. This included:
- ASF Headteacher Survey 2021 (published alongside the ASF Year 6 Evaluation Report)
- ASF Local Authority Survey 2021
- Administrative data (financial information)
- Challenge Authority and Schools Programme Progress Reports
- Quantitative data on attainment and wellbeing.
Refresh of Scottish Attainment Challenge
The refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched in March 2022, introducing a number of changes to the programme at national, regional and local level. This includes the introduction of Strategic Equity Funding (SEF), replacing Challenge Authority and Schools Programme Funding, and Local Stretch Aims through the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress.
As part of the launch of the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge, a refreshed programme Logic Model with revised inputs, activities and outcomes linked to the new Mission was developed through a collaborative process with a range of stakeholders. The high level Logic Model is included in Annex A.
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