£120m fund to raise school standards used to recruit extra police

A flagship £120 million Scottish Government initiative aimed at raising standards in schools is being used to employ campus police officers, MSPs have been told.

Tavish Scott has hit out at the move.

There are now concerns that the cash - which goes directly to headteachers - is not being used “appropriately” after claims it had initially earmarked for raising classroom standards.

Opposition leaders questioned if boosting police numbers is the best use of the cash after Holyrood’s education committee was told yesterday that some North Ayrshire schools spent the cash this way.

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The Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) is a central plank of Nicola Sturgeon’s drive to close the “attainment gap” between schools in affluent and less well off parts of the country. Local council have defended their use of the cash.

But Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott said his party had “pressed the Scottish Government for six years to introduce pupil equity funding, which was intended to narrow the attainment gap by tackling poverty and deprivation.”

He added: “I am not convinced that diverting funds to increase the numbers of police officers in schools is the best way of achieving this.”
Labour MSP Mary Fee said: “I do genuinely struggle to see how having officers in a school can raise attainment.”

Martin Canavan, policy and participation officer at Aberlour Child Care Trust, told MSPs yesterday there is “a real inconsistency” around how the understanding of pupil equity funding in different schools.

He told the committee: “Where there is a need to support teachers, to support schools, to recognise what’s happening, then PEF doesn’t necessarily present or provide the best model because it could result in money being spent on things that maybe don’t work, aren’t evidenced to work, and what is essentially a very valuable resource could be otherwise not used as best it could be.”

He said the example of campus police officers was one where there was concern.

The decision was defended by John Butcher, executive director of education and youth employment at North Ayrshire Council, who acknowledged that some schools in the local authority had chosen to spend part of their PEF funding to purchase some campus officers.

He said the initiative was “breaking down some of the barriers” between Police Scotland and local authorities and children and young people.