From Education Business yesterday:
‘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, new research has shown. An evaluation has been published on the first two years of the Attainment Scotland Fund, when £52 million was targeted at schools in the most deprived areas.’
The survey also found that 78% of head teachers have already observed improvements in the first year of the extra funding for schools while 97% expect to see further improvements in the next five years.
It’s worth noting that attainment gaps were already smaller in Scotland than in rUK after the first 10 years of SNP government:
Educational attainment gaps much smaller in Scotland than in England after 10 years of SNP government: JRF Poverty Report Extract 6
SNP Government increases teacher numbers to create far superior pupil/teacher ratios and much smaller attainment gaps than in England
Sorry for going off-topic, but interesting article here: http://www.thenational.scot/news/16093346.Scots_spend_20__of_their_disposable_income_on_mortgages__study_finds/
Another benefit of living in Scotland?
Thanks, saw that. Interesting.
It is good to read such an optimistic evaluation. I hope that there is some data to support the claim that the first year of the project has produced some advantages. Often, in the early stages of initiatives there are initial gains as well as enthusiasm and morale increases in teachers, but frequently these are not sustained in the longer run. Sometimes they are, but, when the initiatives become ‘routinised’ some momentum can be lost. In addition, there is often the demand from directorates and others for more written evidence, which becomes excessively bureaucratic, there can be the insistence that the ‘new’ becomes something in addition to what had already been done, rather than a replacement and, so teachers, rightly, begin to complain about ‘workload’. It is to be hoped that because this funding is devolved directly to schools and that the initiatives are devised collaboratively by the staffs that the malign influence of the bureaucratic jobsworths will be lessened.
Often, effective initiatives are funded for a limited period – five years in this case – and at the end of this time often the funding is withdrawn, reduced or transferred to another initiative. The justification usually given was that the funding was to ‘get the thing established and bedded in’ and can now be part of the basic financing of schools. It is a spurious justification. In dealing with things like closing the attainment gap or making schools more inclusive for children with disabilities, there have to be continuing additions to staffing and resourcing, i.e. the changes have to become permanent. I can recall an initiative known as ‘the fresh fruit initiative’ to encourage changes in diet and eating habits. This entailed making available a wider range of fruit and vegetables than had previously been the case under normal budgeting for home economics. The programme had an impact, but the funding ended after a year because, the directorate explained ‘we have DONE the fresh fruit initiative, so now it should have been incorporated into your previously existing budget.’ The initiative was effective BECAUSE the funding enabled more things to be bought , and some of these things were relatively expensive. In addition, the funding had only been for one age cohort, and the directorate expected that cohort to continue to have a similar experience AND for subsequent cohorts to have the same experience.
Unless such funding is made permanent then, while there will have been adaptations to pre-existing practices, the impact will lessen in subsequent years.
The attainment gap is mainly due to the effects of poverty and, unless, significant and lasting changes – redistributively equitable ones – are made in society, then schools will be faced with similar problems with every annual intake. So, without the permanence of the funding, the provenly effective changes will be substantially lost.
With 2 years of nursery education and 7 years of primary school, funding should be for a minimum of 9 years so that an entire cohort can be supported. However, this is probably an underestimate, because each cohort, as it advances through school will require to take resources with it and some additional resources allocated to succeeding cohorts. So, the funding should rise each year. However, there will be a time when an equilibrium is reached, due to groups passing on and other rationalisations based on growing experience.
Some will treat this with Mrs May’s ‘there is no magic money tree’ dismissal. But, of course we know there is, as we saw, for example when Messrs Brown and Darling bailed out the banks or when Crossrail was built in London and HS2 is to come, etc.
In the scale of the economy this kind of expenditure is not huge. It is a matter of priorities. Do we value our children or do we want Trident? Do we want to create a more equitable and healthy society or do we want tax breaks for the already hugely wealthy? Or tax breaks for private schools so that the already affluent can WIDEN the attainment gap?
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