15.1. This final chapter presents high level findings across all themes explored in the evaluation. It explores the positive highlights arising as a result of the Attainment Scotland Fund; and summarises the key issues to consider for the future working and improvement of the fund.
15.2. Overall, within the first two years of the fund, significant progress was achieved in building strong and solid foundations. Progress and experiences across the range of stakeholders were for the most part positive. Key notes to highlight are:
- Widespread support and clarity of aims. Since the launch of the fund, there was widespread support across all stakeholder groups and an improved understanding of the need to tackle the poverty related attainment gap.
- Fund as a driver of change and cohesion. Through the fund, a shared commitment to raise attainment and close the poverty related attainment gap was evident across stakeholder groups.
- Professional skills. Through the fund, there was an increase in professional learning opportunities. Furthermore, there was a belief that that the fund had improved teaching skills and provided leadership opportunities. It had provided access to training, encouraged reflection on skills, increased professional dialogue, improved collaboration and provided opportunities to mentor, network and lead on new approaches.
- Evidence based approaches. Data usage appeared well embedded within fund activities. Data played a significant role in selecting, monitoring and targeting interventions. Stakeholders reported increases in their usage and understanding of data as a result of the fund.
- Collaboration. The level and nature of collaboration appeared to increase over the life of the fund, particularly within school collaboration and collaboration with external partners. There remained a need for more collaboration at a local authority level.
- Attainment Advisors. The support provided by Attainment Advisors was seen by schools as pivotal to the successful implementation of the fund. In particular, Attainment Advisors played a key role in increasing collaboration across schools and across local authorities; improving understanding and the use of data amongst schools; and providing evidence-based approaches to choosing interventions and defining targeting strategies.
- Improving attainment. Initial indications of progress at a small scale are positive and hint towards a shift in the right direction. Strong foundations appeared to be built with respect to the administration and delivery of the fund.
Areas for improvement
15.3. The evaluation uncovered a range of consistent issues to consider for future improvement of the fund. These are summarised below:
- In some areas, the level of bureaucracy and challenging timescales was seen as an area that could be improved. Stakeholders reported that the level and nature of reporting requirements and tight timescales acted as a barrier.
- A significant challenge for authorities and schools was around the recruitment of staff. This put extra pressure on schools and impacted negatively on the success of planned interventions, leading to frustration and underspend.
- There is scope for greater collaboration at a local authority level. Firstly, within each Challenge Authority, greater collaboration at a strategic level between the primary and secondary programme could be in place. Secondly, there is scope for further supporting the sharing and learning of practices across authorities.
- Poverty as a wider issue. A wide range of stakeholders stressed that it was important to recognise that a number of factors, other than poverty, were likely to affect attainment. Stakeholders emphasised that education could not bring about sustainable change on its own, and that wider partnership across a range of other services was essential.
- There were some concerns around measures of poverty and deprivation and how to appropriately identify children that need extra support. Concentrating on SIMD data appeared too limiting, with some concerns around stigmatisation.
- There were some challenges around the support provided by Attainment Advisors. While on the whole their support was highly valued by schools, local authorities were critical of the variety of roles across Attainment Advisors, and the rationale behind their support. Attainment Advisors themselves also felt there were issues around clarifying their own role.
- Stakeholders had mixed views about the success of parental engagement, and schools reported that they continued to find this challenging.
15.4. While significant progress has been achieved over the first two years of the fund, the poverty related attainment gap continues to exist. There are a range of issues to be considered in future planning and implementation of the fund in order to drive further sustainable improvements in attainment.