Strategic Equity Fund: national operational guidance 2022

Guidance to support local authorities plan how they will most effectively spend their Strategic Equity funding.


Strategic Equity Funding allocations have been confirmed until March 2026. Opportunities to implement longer term strategic aims can be planned for with the support of these confirmed allocations. Consideration should be given to longer term plans which support the mission to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty, with a focus on tackling the poverty-related attainment gap.

Local authorities should consider the totality of Attainment Scotland Funding (Strategic Equity Funding (SEF), Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) & Care Experienced Children and Young People (CECYP) funding), working collaboratively with headteachers, senior leaders and other partners to identify how the funding is best utilised to enhance local plans to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap and contribute to the mission of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. As set out in the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress, there should be alignment between aims set by schools to improve the outcomes for children and young people affected by poverty and the stretch aims of the local authority.

Utilising a longer term approach by planning the use of Strategic Equity Funding over multiple years provides opportunities for more effective planning of spending, recruitment and development.

Planning can be supported by the logic model (which can be found as a supporting document to the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress), which shows how a programme produces change. The SAC logic model can help bring detail to programme goals, aid planning, evaluation, implementation and communication. It incorporates outcomes reflecting the mission, which encompasses child poverty, broader achievement and an increased focus on health and wellbeing and family and community support.

As set out in the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress local authority plans and stretch aims for the Scottish Attainment Challenge should be embedded within existing local authority education service improvement plans. Local authorities should ensure there is collaboration with stakeholders, e.g. children, young people, families and third sector partners in the planning process.

Plans should read across to related local authority service improvement plans, such as Community Learning and Development, social work, housing etc., which may also contribute to efforts to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap. They should also have clear links to the local authority tackling child poverty action plans and children's services plans.

In line with the agreement on multiyear funding, it would be beneficial to prepare a 4 year strategic plan. A year 1 plan should be established with outcomes and stretch aims identified. The plan should be evaluated and adapted on an annual basis.

The planning cycle will follow the academic year, aligning with the annual Education Service Improvement Planning cycle. Therefore, stretch aims as described and exemplified in the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress should be agreed annually by the end of September at the latest, if not before.

General principles for planning for Strategic Equity Funding within the Scottish Attainment Challenge

Collaborative: Actively engage children, young people, families, communities, staff and partners in planning process.

Evidence informed: Plans are based on data and a clear understanding of the context of communities they will be implemented. This data should include: local & national data and reference to research including SAC Theory of Change and Logic Model.

Setting ambitious and SMART aims: Aims should be smart, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. They also need to be ambitious enough to achieve long term goals of closing povertyrelated attainment gaps.

Measuring progress: SMART measures and baseline data are needed to be able to show progress towards aims. Regular tracking and monitoring will support staff respond timeously to interventions which are not having the desired impact and make adaptations.

Evaluative: All plans should have aims and measures which allow leaders to clearly state whether aims have been achieved.

Quality assurance processes embedded to support the development and implementation of SAC plans. This can be both internal or external, involve peers or senior leaders.

An 'Interventions for Equity' resource has been developed to support the planning and implementing of approaches to meet the needs of children and young people affected by poverty in order to close the attainment gap. The examples cited act as a stimulus for wider reflection of what would suit your local context and are by no means the only approaches that should be considered.

Stretch Aims

Specific requirements for setting local stretch aims are set out in the Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress.

In summary, local stretch aims should be both ambitious and achievable within local contexts. The process of setting local stretch aims should be done in collaboration with stakeholders, taking account of their school and service plans to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap. There should be two-way engagement between local authorities and schools when planning for and setting stretch aims.

In order to ensure some national consistency a "core plus" model has been developed. The "core" is for aims measurable by a sub-set of the National Improvement Framework (NIF) key measures and an aim for improvement in pupils' health and wellbeing. These form a minimum expectation for all local authorities to set out aims for raising attainment for all and for improving health and wellbeing and tackling the poverty-related attainment gap.

At a minimum these should include (core) stretch aims for both overall progress and for reducing the poverty-related gaps in:

a) achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels (literacy combined and numeracy combined);

b) the proportion of school leavers attaining 1 or more pass at SCQF level 5 based on the "Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations" publication;

c) the proportion of school leavers attaining 1 or more pass at SCQF level 6 based on the "Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations" publication;

d) the proportion of 16-19 olds participating in education, employment or training based on the Annual Participation Measure produced by Skills Development Scotland; and

e) a locally identified aim for health and wellbeing, to be measured using local datasets.

The "plus" enables local authorities to identify further aims, measurable by either local or national data, in particular considering wider achievement, readiness to learn, or the cost of the school day. Underpinning these should be locally identified indicators of progress.

Each identified stretch aim should clearly articulate overall aims for raising attainment and improving health and wellbeing, and for tackling the poverty-related attainment gap in 2022/23. The Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress includes exemplification of such local stretch aims.

The setting and ambition of these aims should be achieved by local authorities as a result of robust evidence-informed self-evaluation, supported and challenged through professional dialogue with Education Scotland.

These plans and stretch aims should be developed in line with the existing academic planning cycle and be agreed by the end of September each year, if not before.

Financial Planning

Local authorities should submit a high level financial planning template for SEF which sets out how funding will be invested over the course of the financial year. This should be submitted to Scottish Government by the end of September, alongside the confirmation of the agreement of local stretch aims each year.

In recognition that plans may change in-year, a notification of change process will be in place, to allow for any changes to funding to be highlighted and agreed. Scottish Government should be notified of any changes to plans by the end of February each year.

Funds will be drawn down twice in each financial year, once at the midpoint of the financial year (September) and once at the end of the financial year (March).



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