Scottish head teachers spend £132m to help close attainment gap

Head teachers spent more than £132 million last year to close the attainment gap, according to new statistics.

Pupil equity funding (PEF)is paid directly to school heads from the Scottish Government to help boost learning among disadvantaged pupils.

During the 2018-19 academic year, teachers spent 78 per cent of the total available, with the remaining cash being carried forward into next year.

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Head teachers will now have more than £37m extra to spend in the next academic year, 22 per cent of the total allocation.

Teachers are spending more to close the gap.

In comparison, Scottish Government analysis shows 60 per cent of the funding available in 2017-18 was spent by head teachers.

Education secretary John Swinney welcomed the news, saying “every child deserves to grow up knowing there are no limits to what they can achieve”.

Mr Swinney also claimed the increase in spending of the available money shows it is working.

He added: “Empowered teachers, given the right resources and appropriate support, are making a massive difference in our classrooms and are transforming lives.

“Closing the attainment gap will take time but we also know that what we are doing is having a tangible effect.

“The increase in pupil equity funding investment by head teachers shows that our measures to empower teachers are working.

“Too often we hear the accusation that Scottish education lacks creativity and innovation. PEF proves that argument entirely wrong.”

PEF was brought in for the first time in the 2017-18 academic year, with the Scottish Government investing more than £242m so far.

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said more of the money should have been spent in the past year.

He said: “This is not a new programme, yet even after two years it is not working as effectively as it should, with over a fifth of funds available not being spent.

“The SNP government management of the scheme must be clearer and more transparent.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart said PEF should not be used to “patch up gaps in the core teaching budget”, adding that certainty around its future would help in future planning.