Education secretary marks five years of attainment challenge

John Swinney will praise the work done in the nine 'challenge authorities' across the country.

Scotland’s education secretary has welcomed the five-year anniversary of an initiative aimed at closing the attainment gap in schools.

In a speech to head teachers and educators on Monday, John Swinney will praise the work done in the nine “challenge authorities” across the country to improve literacy, numeracy and wellbeing in pupils.

Initially set up in 2015 and targeting primary schools, the Scottish Government identified local authorities most in need, pinpointing Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, Dundee, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.

A number of funds were launched to help reduce the gap between the richest and poorest in schools, including the Pupil Equity Fund – which pledged £750m to head teachers.

The education secretary has repeatedly come under attack in recent months over Scotland’s schooling, with opponents pointing to falling exam pass rates.

This week, Swinney defended the exam results – which were published at 8pm on Thursday evening – saying the entire return should be looked at instead of just in particular subjects.

The release of the data also angered journalists and politicians, who accused the Deputy First Minister of attempting to “sneak out bad news”.

Ahead of his speech on Monday, he said: “As we mark the fifth year of the Scottish Attainment Challenge we must reflect on our journey and look ahead to what we hope to achieve in the coming years.

“Our measures are making a tangible impact and I am proud of the work undertaken by headteachers and others to break down barriers to learning and raise the attainment of children in our schools.

“We have seen 88% of headteachers report improvements in closing the attainment gap directly as a result of our investment and we are seeing increased cohesion and collaboration across local authorities and schools.

“Pupil Equity Funding is also empowering our headteachers to make the decisions that directly improve the life chances of our young people.

“We are also seeing steady, incremental gains in attainment across the broad general education. This is in line with the sustainable progress we would expect to see at this stage, according to international experts.

“As the International Council of Education Advisers have set out – Scotland is heading in the right direction but achieving equity and excellence is a long-term task.

“We now need a period of consolidation and sustainability to ensure that our reforms have the chance to become properly embedded in our education system.”

A briefing to journalists on Thursday by the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA), told the Scottish Government to “stay the course” with its education policies, saying “incremental growth bodes well” for Scotland

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