A co-ordinated, detailed and strategic approach to tackling the educational attainment gap is needed, according to a report issued today (10 September) by the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee.
The Stage 1 report on the Education (Scotland) Bill follows the Committee's consideration of the Education (Scotland) Bill. Measures within the Bill aim to help raise attainment for all children. However, the Committee is looking for the Bill to deliver real change, to be clear on the definitions used and ensure reporting is transparent, meaningful and effective.
The Committee states that for the Bill to make a difference, good and bad practice must be reported. Reporting on progress should also state the positive outcomes which are being delivered across the country for all pupils.
Committee Convener, Stewart Maxwell MSP said,
"That the attainment gap in Scotland persists in Scotland is a source of concern for us all. Over the past 50 years there has been a great deal of work focussed on narrowing this gap and improving the opportunities for some of the most deprived children in our society. While the Committee supports the general principles of the Bill, we believe a more radical approach may be required and this Bill needs to be part of that.
"This Bill, together with other measures announced by the Scottish Government, seeks to make a difference. This means there has to be a clear understanding of exactly what would be required to deliver improvement. We also believe the Scottish Government and local authorities should consult widely, to ensure their reports on tackling the attainment gap are as useful as possible. It is in no-one’s interests for reports simply to list actions taken. What is needed is an understanding of what works so that positive outcomes can be repeated throughout the country.”
The report notes the Scottish Government’s £100 million Attainment Scotland Fund and calls for a fully costed plan, detailing all the resources needed to eliminate the link between disadvantage and educational attainment.
The Bill also deals with Gaelic medium education. While not creating an entitlement, it establishes a new process for local authorities to assess the need for Gaelic medium primary education. The Committee's report agrees that a defined process for monitoring parental demand must be put in place.
In addition the Bill extends rights to children to seek additional support needs while introducing new eligibility tests for all applicants.
Introduced in March 2015, the Education (Scotland) Bill seeks to make Scotland the “best place to grow up and go to school” and where each child enjoys an education “that encourages them to be the most successful they can be and reach their potential.”
The Committee’s report also explores the other measures in the Bill. These include the registration of teachers working in independent schools with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, improving the process for dealing with complaints about councils and schools, and the creation of a chief education officer post in local authorities.
The Committee’s consideration of the Bill takes place during its wider exploration of the educational attainment gap. This has included looking at factors affecting attainment, such as the role private and third sectors and how parents can work with schools to improve attainment.