Progress made in reducing poverty-related attainment gap in South Lanarkshire schools

Councilors welcomed the progress made to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap in South Lanarkshire schools.

Members of the education resources committee meeting this week praised a report highlighting efforts of schools across the area to reduce the gap.

Poverty has a significant impact on school attainment and schools across South Lanarkshire have acted to close the gap, with an indication of progress highlighted in the report.

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The most recent figure from the Campaign to End Child Poverty/ End Child Poverty Coalition (ECPC) indicates that just under 13,000 children in South Lanarkshire live in relative poverty once housing costs have been taken into account.

In Scotland, the relative poverty of an area is measured using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) which looks at different factors when considering whether an area is deprived or not.

The factors include: income, employment, education, health, access to services, crime and housing and it is generally measured on a 1-10 scale with 1 indicating high levels of deprivation and 10 showing low levels.

In South Lanarkshire Council Schools, 21 percent of learners live in SIMD1 or SIMD 2 areas.

The poverty-related attainment gap is measured in South Lanarkshire schools using the percentage of SIMD 1 and 2 schools against SIMD 3 to 10 schools.

Most recent results from measuring the gap show improvements in literacy, however the gap for numeracy still remains.

For SIMD 1 and 2 schools, in 2018-2019 the percentage of pupils achieving Curriculum for Excellence in literacy was 59.39 per cent, which increased to 66.47 per cent in 2020-2021.

In SIMD 3 to 10 schools, the percentage for 2018-2019 was 77.4 percent, which decreased to 71.99 per cent in 2020-2021.

This highlights that there is only a 5.52 per cent gap in pupils achieving literacy levels between schools.

However, there is an 18.38 per cent gap in pupils achieving curriculum for excellence levels in numeracy.

For SIMD 1 and 2 schools, in 2018-2019 the percentage of pupils achieving numeracy was 69.47 per cent and in 2020-2021 it was reported at 65..64 per cent.

Whereas, SIMD 3-10 schools reported that 83.82 percent of pupils achieved numeracy levels in 2018-2019 which increased to 84.02 per cent in 2020-2021.

There are two areas of the Scottish attainment challenge – the Schools’ program (SAC) and the Pupil Equity Fund which are aimed at tackling the gap in the most disadvantaged schools.

The Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) is allocated to 146 of 148 schools in South Lanarkshire and is based on a Scottish Government criteria, it is given to schools who have a certain number of pupils entitled to free school meals.

Schools have direct control over how PEF is spent and take into consideration their individual circumstances to secure maximum impact for pupils and families in need.

The SAC program is benefited by 20 schools in the area and up until now, schools must bid to the Scottish Government for a share of funding, and a total of £1.8m has been allocated to the 20 schools.

Councillor Julia Marrs welcomed the report, saying: “It’s a really important report and one that can’t even encompass the amount of work and incredible amount of effort that schools are going to on an individual basis to support young people and their families.”

Meanwhile, Councilor Mary Donnelly praised the report and the work done to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap.

She said: “I think that was an excellent detailed report, its quite sad that we have to have a detailed report like this and deal with the attainment gap in our area but nonetheless we have to and I can take my hat off to a lot of the in-depth work that South Lanarkshire schools have done.

“The PEF money shows how schools have got really eagerly involved in that.

“Also I think with the breakfast clubs, all the work that we are doing is definitely so necessary within the communities going forward and it just shows you how that makes a difference in the communities for the kids because they’re there ready to take in the learning process the schools provide for them.

“So the breakfast clubs, the PEF money is all helping to narrow that gap that we are facing within the communities and unfortunately it is there.”

The SAC program that has funded 20 schools across South Lanarkshire will no longer exist as of April this year and a new funding program will be introduced.

This will be more evenly distributed across all council areas in Scotland and South Lanarkshire Council will receive £1.47m for 2022 to 2023.

The schools receiving funding from SAC will lose this direct source of income, but will continue to be supported through the new central allocation until June this year to ensure exit plans can be prepared.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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