Chapter 6 Education and Skills
The Education and Skills portfolio is responsible for government policy related to transforming the lives of our children and young people as well as developing and championing the social care workforce. This includes all aspects of early years provision; support for children and families; school education; further and higher education; university research, innovation and knowledge exchange; science; community and adult learning and development; and the promotion of Gaelic.
It also has strong connections to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work portfolio as this is concerned with producing a skilled workforce and maximising the opportunities for everyone that wants to work.
Key Strategic Priorities
Our priorities range across three particular areas. To ensure all our children and young people get the best possible start in life; to raise standards in our schools and close the educational attainment gap; and to create opportunities for all through widening access to higher, further and vocational education.
Our plans to provide a Baby Box to every baby born in Scotland is part of our early engagement with families. We will also continue to invest in early learning and childcare ( ELC) as we work towards delivering the increased entitlement of 1,140 hours a year by the end of this Parliament. Our vision is for this expansion to deliver high quality, flexible early learning and childcare which is affordable and accessible for all.
Reflecting our broadening ambitions to tackle disadvantage and make significant, lasting improvements to the life chances of our most vulnerable children and young people, we have committed to undertake a 'root and branch' review of the care system - ensuring those children and young people who need corporate parents for any length of time are able to feel secure and loved from the earliest point and into adulthood.
By investing resources through our Attainment Scotland Fund, we will target funding at schools and local authorities in need, including additional resource through the pupil equity funding programme. In addition, we are reviewing the 15-24 learner journey to ensure all young people are supported to make well-informed choices and can achieve the best qualifications and outcomes. This will sit alongside the Developing Scotland's Young Workforce Programme, which is taking forward our ambition to equip our young people with the skills, experiences and qualifications needed to secure positive destinations after they leave school.
Our college sector provides a modern, responsive and valued part of our education and training system. We will increase our investment in our college sector to ensure that it continues to add real value to our economy and offer opportunities to adults of all ages. We will continue to maintain at least 116,000 full-time equivalent college places.
We will continue to protect free university tuition for all eligible undergraduates. Our widening access programme will support our ambition that a child born today in one of our most deprived communities will have the same chance of attending university as those from our least deprived communities. We will protect the core teaching grant, research grant and funding available to support widening access in the Higher Education sector.
Equality Implications of the Draft Budget 2017-18
Children and Families
From Summer 2017, we will introduce a new and universal Baby Box, including essential items for a child's first weeks, to the families of all new-born babies in Scotland. This will be of particular benefit to parents who face additional financial pressures, such as those on low incomes, young parents and lone parents.
There is continued investment to deliver a high quality ELC sector, including starting to build the capacity required to double provision of fully-funded ELC to 1,140 hours by 2020. This provision will ensure that children who face the greatest disadvantages, including those with additional support needs, benefit most by spending more time with highly qualified practitioners. This should, in turn, help contribute to closing the attainment gap at school. In addition, enhanced provision of fully funded childcare will help parents from low income households who are seeking to return to work by removing the burden of upfront childcare costs, as well as promoting gender equality by providing greater opportunities for women to enter the labour market.
Investment in third sector organisations is being maintained in 2017-18 to deliver early intervention and prevention work to children, adults and families. This includes work in adult learning, youth work, parenting, early learning and childcare, child protection and children's rights. Funding includes support for organisations that work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and minority ethnic communities, as well as services supporting disabled people and their families, and people with care experience.
£750 million of funding will be allocated through the Attainment Scotland Fund during the course of this Parliament to support the delivery of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. This work focuses on targeted improvements in literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing to close the attainment gap between children and young people from the most and least deprived backgrounds. £50 million will be allocated in 2017-18 through our Scottish Attainment Challenge programme to provide targeted support for those authorities and schools supporting children and young people in greatest need.
In addition, we will allocate £120 million in 2017-18 directly to schools on the basis of the number of children in each primary school and in the first three years of each secondary school that meet the eligibility criteria for free school meals. This funding will contribute to closing the educational attainment gap between children and young people from the most and least deprived backgrounds.
Much of the budgetary provision for children with additional support needs is included in the local government settlement. However, we will provide national support for a range of projects across the curriculum, including funding to Grant Aided Special Schools, and learning activity for children with a range of additional support needs.
We will fund the introduction of national standardised assessments at Primaries 1, 4 and 7 and in the third year of secondary school. These assessments will be as inclusive as possible, accommodating children who require additional support through, for example, the use of technological aids and alternative communication methods. All pupils will be fairly assessed, no matter their background, experience, additional support needs or level of ability.
Advanced Learning and Science
The Scottish Government's commitment to delivering free access to higher education for Scottish or EU domiciled students will continue. We will provide a minimum income guarantee of £7,625 in maintenance support for students from households with an annual income of under £19,000, made up of a mixture of bursary and loans. Additional funding, which will offer a new enhanced support package for taught postgraduate students, will be introduced in academic year 2017-18.
In 2017-18, funding for colleges will increase. There will also be an overall increase in support for our universities. The Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) will consider how these changes in funding will be best implemented while protecting the interests of equality groups. In addition, the SFC will continue to implement its Gender Action Plan which sets out actions they will undertake in collaboration with key partners to address gender imbalances and significantly reduce gender under-representation in some college and undergraduate courses.
Youth Employment and Skills
We will continue to deliver our Youth Employment Strategy - Developing the Young Workforce ( DYW). This seven-year strategy underpins our ambition to reduce youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021. To date, we have established 17 of the planned 21 industry-led regional DYW groups and funding for those groups will continue next year.
We will continue the Education Maintenance Allowance ( EMA) programme, expanded in January 2016. This supports school pupils and college students from low-income households to overcome financial barriers in order to continue their studies and fulfil their potential. Over a third of EMA recipients in 2014-15 were living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas, demonstrating the role that EMA plays in supporting those who need the most financial help to remain in learning environments to continue their education.
In 2017-18, we will continue to ensure that apprenticeship opportunities are open to all. We will support Skills Development Scotland ( SDS) to deliver more opportunities for individuals to earn a wage and gain industry-recognised qualifications, while supporting employers to develop a skilled, diverse, inclusive workforce. However, we have long acknowledged that there are challenges with advancing equality in relation to the labour market, and this is reflected in the Modern Apprenticeship programme. That is why SDS is continuing to work with partners to take forward the measures set out in the Equality Action Plan ( EAP) for Modern Apprenticeships. The EAP sets out the scale of the challenge relating to occupational segregation and inequality in MAs, and the requirement for all partners to work in collaboration to tackle culturally ingrained challenges. It includes specific improvement targets for MA participation by disabled people, minority ethnic groups, care leavers, and aims to tackle apprenticeship areas where there are gender imbalances.
The Inspiring Scotland 14:19 Fund has supported investment to improve the lives of Scotland's most disadvantaged young people aged 14 to 19 to help them make successful transitions from school into employment, education or training. As the programme enters the penultimate year of a 10-year financial commitment, funding in 2017-18 will be tapered but remain significant, demonstrating our continued support for programmes aimed at helping vulnerable young people across Scotland towards and into employment.
We will establish a Flexible Workforce Development Fund in partnership with industry which will focus on up skilling and retraining existing workers. The principles upon which the new fund will be developed will include a focus on raising productivity through enhanced skill levels, and contributing to reductions of in-work poverty through providing individuals with the skills to progress. The equality implications of the new fund will be considered as it develops.
The Education and Skills portfolio is taking a range of actions to ensure children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed. These actions will also help to improve the life chances for children, young people and families at risk.
Email: Paul Tyrer