Fairer Scotland action plan: progress report 2019

Progress made on the Fairer Scotland action plan published in 2016.

Education and childcare

The early years are key for improving long-term outcomes and young people are at the heart of the Scottish Government’s vision for a fairer Scotland.  Ensuring children and young people grow up loved, safe and respected, and able to realise their full potential is one of our National Performance Framework outcomes. 

We want to give Scotland’s children and young people the best start in life.  We believe that all children and young people, whatever their background or circumstances, deserve access to the same opportunities to help them achieve everything they can.  From early learning and childcare provision to school, further and higher education, and community and adult learning and beyond, we are investing in developing and enhancing the skills of our current and future workforce to improve the life chances of young people both in and beyond education settings.

To help children to fulfil their potential we have committed to nearly doubling early learning and childcare (ELC) to increase access to high quality learning from an early age.  The ELC expansion will also increase opportunities for parents to be in work, training or to study, making it easier for them to earn more and increase family incomes.  The additional £4 million commitment through Programme for Government 2019-20 aims to strengthen alignment of the ELC expansion with local with parental employability support.

We are working to help close the attainment gap to level the playing field between those from the richest and poorest backgrounds.  We are also supporting further and higher education sectors, community learning and training in the roles they play to provide equal opportunities for participation to improve lives and contribute to inclusive economic growth.  We are also consulting on a draft framework as part of our consideration of our future out of school care policy. 

Early Learning and Childcare

FSAP 29. By 2020, entitlement to free early learning and childcare (ELC) will almost double for all 3 and 4 year olds, as well as those 2 year olds that stand to benefit most, to 1140 hours per year (from current levels of 600 hours per year)
FSAP 32. By 2018, we will ensure that every nursery in our most deprived areas has an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate
FSAP 33. We are committed to making real progress in closing the attainment gap during the lifetime of this Parliament and to eliminate it, as far as we can, over the next decade
FSAP 35. We will tackle poverty directly for some of our most vulnerable children by delivering parity of child allowances between kinship and foster carers
StC 3. Ensure childcare commitments focus on quality to improve outcomes, and consider providing a limited number of free hours of childcare for primary school aged children

We are doubling entitlement to funded early learning and childcare (ELC) to 1,140 hours by August 2020, and are investing an additional £2 billion in the expansion programme through our landmark funding deal with CoSLA.  This will benefit all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds.  Delivery progress data shows that, as of August 2019, one third of three and four year olds and eligible two year olds were already accessing more than the minimum 600 hours to which they are currently entitled.  Around 80,000 households stand to benefit from the expanded entitlement, which is worth £4,500 per year per child.

As of October 2019 local authorities have recruited 94% of the 435 new graduate level posts, now referred to as Equity and Excellence Leads, which we are funding as part of the ELC expansion.  The key aim of these new posts is to address the attainment gap, which will be achieved by the leads working directly with children to support their wellbeing and cognitive development, as well as supporting the upskilling of other practitioners.

Our consultation on a draft framework for out of school care, which runs from 30 August to 6 December 2019, will help inform ways in which to make childcare options for school-age children more affordable, flexible and accessible.  The framework details our £3 million Access to Childcare fund which will be delivered over a two year period starting in April 2020.  This fund will test the change required to remove the barriers of childcare costs and deliver after school and holiday childcare, consider appropriate delivery models to support this change and provide evidence-based solutions. 

The £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund aims to tackle the poverty related attainment gap, with over £180 million invested in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.  As announced in Programme for Government 2019-20, we will continue to fund the Scottish Attainment Challenge at current levels beyond the end of this Parliamentary term and into 2021-22 to continue work on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.  The interim evaluation of the Attainment Scotland Fund published in June 2019 demonstrates the positive impact of the fund: 88% of Head Teachers had seen improvements in closing the poverty-related attainment gap as a result of interventions supported by the Attainment Scotland Fund, and 95% expected to see improvements over the next five years.

Following the announcement in 2015 of additional funding to ensure local parity (i.e. within their local authority area) of allowances between kinship and foster carers, the Scottish Government is now working with CoSLA to agree how to best take forward the recommendations of the 2018 National Review of Foster, Kinship and Adoption Care Allowances.  The implementation of action in response to these recommendations, expected from April 2020, will improve consistency and transparency for looked after children, their families and their carers across Scotland.

Making school fairer

FSAP 30. We will take action to reduce the costs of school for low income parents
FSAP 34. We will do more to address bullying in schools – including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying

To help reduce the costs of the school day and to enable the full participation of children from low income families in school life, we continue to support the minimum School Clothing Grant of £100 with resource of £6 million each year, benefitting around 120,000 children.  The cost of the school day toolkit[22] produced by the Child Poverty Action Group in 2018 also supports schools and local authorities to address the financial barriers to learning that many families face.

Since 2015 we have made free school meals available to all children in P1-3 and to all children in families in receipt of qualifying benefits from P4 onwards, saving eligible families an average of £400 per child, per year.  Young people in the upper years of secondary school are also eligible for free school meals if they receive any of the qualifying benefits in their own right.

In recognition of the stress and pressure families can face in feeding their children over the school holidays, we have increased funding to £2 million in 2019-20 to develop practical support that aims to reduce food insecurity during these periods.

In August 2019 we increased the qualifying threshold for families in receipt of both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit to ensure families did not lose their entitlement due to increases in the National Living Wage. 

Our national approach to anti-bullying, Respect for All[23], provides the overarching framework to address bullying behaviour, with a focus on prevention and early intervention.  A consistent and uniform approach to recording and monitoring incidents of bullying in schools has now been developed, with an expectation that all schools will use the new approach from August 2019.  Aligned to Respect for All, respectme, Scotland’s anti-bullying service supported by almost £300,000 of Scottish Government funding in 2019-20, continues to provide direct support to local authorities, youth groups and all those working with children and young people to build confidence and capacity to address all types of bullying effectively.

Recommendations on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusive education across the curriculum are being delivered by the LGBT Inclusive Education Implementation Group through their action plan[24].   The Scottish Government is also committed to publishing revised transgender guidance for schools on supporting transgender young people.

Widening access to Further and Higher Education

FSAP 38. We will take action to widen access to university: our ambition is that any child born today should have an equal chance of entering university, no matter what their socio-economic background is

Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency published in January 2019 show that 15.6% of Scottish full time first degree entrants to Scottish universities were from the 20% most deprived areas.  We are now only 0.4 percentage points away from the Commission on Widening Access’ interim target for 2021 of 16%.  The Scottish Funding Council’s third ‘Report on Widening Access’ was published in May 2019, improving the data available on widening access.

Minimum entry requirements for students living in areas of deprivation have now been set by all Scottish universities and were published for the first time in this year’s prospectuses for 2020-21 entrants.  Following the introduction of the Care Experienced Bursary in 2017, all of Scotland’s higher education institutions have committed to guaranteeing an offer of an undergraduate place at university to care-experienced applicants who meet minimum entry requirements, which will be in place for learners entering university in autumn 2020.

In May 2019 the Commissioner for Fair Access launched Scotland’s Framework for Fair Access[25].  It comprises an online toolkit to support those working on access and the establishment of Scotland’s Community of Access and Participation Practitioners.  The Commissioner also published a discussion paper[26] on disabled students at university in February 2019, as well as his second annual report, Building on Progress towards Fair Access[27], in June 2019 in which he stated that Scotland was leading the way in the UK on widening access.

From 2019-20 students with the lowest incomes receive increased bursary support, and access to bursaries are increased through improvements to the HE bursary threshold and the introduction of the FE ‘bursary guarantee’.

We are working to make it easier for care-experienced young people to take forward their education.  In response to the recommendations made by the independent review of student support, we have increased funding for care-experienced bursaries to £8,100 per year in Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE).  We are introducing a further package of commitments to help level the playing field for care-experienced young people ahead of the longer-term changes that are likely to be recommended by the Independent Care Review in its report due next year.  This includes a removal of the age cap of 26 for access to the care-experienced bursary from the start of 2020-21 academic year. 


Email: sjsu@gov.scot

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