Schools will receive a record £215m funding for efforts to close the poverty attainment gap this year, with the new education secretary saying such work is “more vital than ever” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shirley-Anne Somerville said the cash, the largest sum ever handed out in a single year to tackle the issue, will fund “targeted help” for the most disadvantaged students.
It will see head teachers across the country share £147m in Pupil Equity Funding in 2021-22, with the money going directly to schools for them to determine how best to use it.
In addition, the nine councils with the highest concentrations of deprivation in Scotland – known as Challenge Authorities – will share a further £43m.
Work to help improve the attainment of youngsters who have been in care, including through schemes such as mentoring programmes, will receive up to £12m.
A further £7m will be shared between 73 additional schools with the highest concentration of pupils from deprived areas, with the same amount going to national programmes, including those run by the third-sector, which work to raise attainment.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously pledged that tackling the attainment gap is a top priority, but her SNP Government has come under fire from opponents on its record in this area.
Somerville, who was appointed education secretary after May’s Holyrood election, stressed “closing the poverty-related attainment gap and ensuring every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential remains central to this Government’s work”.
She added: “Our ambition is a long-term one and we know that the challenges presented by the pandemic mean our efforts to deliver equity in education are more vital than ever.
“This first instalment of the expanded Attainment Scotland Fund, with record funding of more than £215 million, will allow headteachers, schools, councils and other partners to provide targeted help for some of our most disadvantaged pupils.
“We are providing investment across a number of diverse programmes which will benefit looked-after children, support pupils in our most deprived areas and empower headteachers to invest their funding on initiatives that are right for the children in their schools.”