No reasonable person would argue against trying to tackle the attainment gap in Scotland’s schools. It is a mark of shame that children from the poorest backgrounds, those who need most help, get the least out of going to school. So the Scottish Government is to be commended for committing to tackle this problem.
And the announcement yesterday that headteachers will be given extra cash from the government’s Pupil Equity Funding programme, targeted at those schools in the poorest areas, is to be welcomed.
But there must be a number of caveats. The first is that, as councils are at the moment faced with making significant cuts, some of them from education budgets, the clear temptation will be to use this extra cash to simply carry on doing what they are doing without making the cuts they were going to, and thus the extra funding will have no impact whatsoever. Councils should not be allowed to do this.
The second is that, even though extra cash will go to things like taking on more teachers, buying in more IT equipment and even securing extra tuition for some pupils, this will be limited in its effect – it amounts to roughly £7 per child per school day.
The teachers union, the EIS, says that “the greatest factor impacting on pupil attainment has been the level of family income”. This move will do little to affect family incomes; that needs a far broader plan. To obviate both of these potential problems there is one obvious solution. Do the sensible thing and place education and its funding directly under central government control and remove council involvement.