Wednesday, 18 April 2018 05:48

REDUCING ‘COST OF SCHOOL DAY’ WORKING TO TACKLE ATTAINMENT GAP

Schools across Scotland are improving attainment and children’s well-being by tackling the ‘cost of the school day’, the Child Poverty Action Group has told Holyrood’s Education Committee.

In written evidence to the committee, CPAG’s Director John Dickie said that while “preventing the attainment gap by ending child poverty must be the primary goal… there are significant actions that can be taken at school to reduce barriers to learning, relieve pressure on family budgets and help relieve the attainment gap.”

The CPAG’s evidence highlighted a range of successful work in schools, including providing PE kits, bus passes and breakfast clubs.

Three-quarters of school heads believe the attainment gap has started to close and almost all expect progress in the next five years as a result of national attainment funding, with the Scottish Government investing £750 million over the lifetime of this parliament.

Commenting, SNP MSP Gillian Martin said:

“The SNP are determined to drive up standards in schools and tackle the gap in attainment between pupils from low-income and well-off families. 

“The Scottish Government are taking a range of actions to support family incomes – including free school meals for all P1-3s and doubling the availability of free childcare.

“And the Scottish Government has committed to introducing an income supplement for low-income families to tackle child poverty at its root.

“Different schools will face different challenges, which is why it’s so important that head teachers are given the freedom to make these decisions for themselves.”

Extracts from the submission by CPAG:

The 2017 Child Poverty (Scotland) Act is extremely welcome in setting statutory targets toward the eradication of child poverty, and creating a planning and accountability framework that requires national and local government to set out and report on the actions taken toward meeting those targets. It is now vital that the Scottish Parliament ensures priority and resources across government are directed at increasing family incomes (through improved employment and enhanced social security) as well as reducing the costs that families face (including childcare and housing costs.) Preventing the attainment gap by ending child poverty must be the primary goal. However, there are significant actions that can be taken at school to reduce barriers to learning, relieve pressure on family budgets and help reduce the attainment gap.

Ensuring participation and access to learning

  •          A Falkirk Primary School spent PEF money on a supply of clothes which led to “improved self-esteem and engagement in learning. One pupil is now taking a full part in PE due to having an appropriate and fitting gym kit.”
  •          A Dumfries and Galloway Secondary ensures access to the curriculum by offsetting Home Economics, Technical, Art, and PE costs: “Pupils do not avoid subjects as a result of curriculum costs. They are able to participate in all subjects without fear of extra costs.”
  •          One Glasgow Secondary school in Glasgow says that the provision of resources to access the curriculum has led to “improved attainment and attendance for some vulnerable children.”
  •          A Moray Primary agrees that resource provision means “more children can take part and respond in class without stigma of having to say they didn't have a necessary resource that the others would take for granted.”
  •          In a Glasgow Secondary, providing bus passes and lunch money led to increased attendance at an Easter revision programme by young people previously unlikely to attend.
  •          Breakfast club and free snacks in an Edinburgh Primary mean that “Children are able to concentrate better once they have eaten breakfast and their snack, thus having a positive impact on their attainment.”
  •          ‘Donation’ only trips in a North Lanarkshire Primary mean that “children turn up on the trip rather than being kept off due to parental embarrassment at inability to pay for a trip.”

Enhancing wellbeing

  •          One Primary School in the Scottish Borders discretely gives out uniform and gym kit where necessary. “Children who have been given clothing immediately look happier and more settled. One child had been lying about why he was not wearing his uniform. He was embarrassed and his behaviour was disruptive. When given a change of clothing and items to take home his mood immediately improved. He was smiling and his confidence and self-esteem improved.”
  •          A North Lanarkshire primary makes sure that fun events are free – as a result there is “an inclusive ethos where pupils feel valued.”
  •          A West Dunbartonshire Primary’s preloved clothing bank “reduces any potential bullying… we have encouraged a 'no shame' approach and many parents and children access these clothes.”
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