What Support Works? Inquiry into the impact of poverty on the attainment and achievement of school aged children An Education and Skills Committee quick read

In April & May 2018 the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee was interested in finding out about the ways poverty impacts on children and the ways in which our schools and other services mitigate this impact.

How did the Committee gather views and opinions?

The Committee asked people to share their views

The Committee heard from a wide range of people in a number of different ways including young people, parents/carers, school staff (including teachers) and other professionals who work in our communities. This included visits to schools, a community meeting and small focus groups including with Community Learning and Development officers in Parliament. All views are published online.

You can watch all of the formal evidence sessions here – themes of sessions included primary school, secondary school and youth work.

Members of the Committee visited Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline and met with staff from St Serf’s Primary School, High Valleyfield. There was also an evening event at the Muirhouse Millennium Centre, Edinburgh attended by around 50 people including young people, parents, teachers, CLD professionals, academics and professionals from the third sector.

The Committee would like to send a huge thank you to everyone who shared their views and experiences to help inform this Inquiry

Recommendations from the Committee

We have produced lots of recommendations for change:

Measuring deprivation to decide where to target funding

Given the reliance on two indicators of deprivation (The Scottish index of Multiple Deprivation and the free school meal registration) as the basis of substantial amounts of targeted Scottish Government funding, both of which may under report Rural poverty, the Committee recommends that swift progress is made towards developing more sophisticated indicators.

There is also the recommendation that the Scottish Government assess the extent to which individuals and areas are disadvantaged by using SIMD and free school meal registration as indicators of deprivation.

Poverty-proofing policy

The Committee recommends that:

  • during standard review processes of their schools, education authorities should undertake impact assessments on existing policies and associated practices to assess the impact on low-income families.
  • education authorities ensure that school leaders are mindful of potential impacts of school practice on families with low incomes and are equipped to undertake equality impact assessments if necessary.

The value of youth work

We recommend that Education Scotland identifies how it will enhance knowledge of youth work approaches among school leaders.

The value of achievement

Education Scotland should publish a detailed plan on the work they are undertaking to ensure wider learning is accredited appropriately

Teaching practices

The Committee reiterates its view that “a continued emphasis on reducing teacher workload is vital”

The Committee recommends:

  • Education Scotland seeks to identify activities taking place for which there is strong or limited evidence of improving attainment or reducing the attainment gap.
  • that education authorities and schools should be given the time and space to adopt activities with more robust evidence of effectiveness.

Scottish attainment Challenge and Pupil Equity Funding

The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government:

  • assesses the extent to which PEF is used for additional purposes rather than for purposes that would be considered to be candidates to be covered form core funding;
  • assesses the impacts on the poverty-related attainment gap of programmes that are totally or primarily funded by:
  1. The Pupil Equity fund
  2. Other aspects of the Attainment Scotland Fund; or
  3. Schools’ core budgets.

Additional responsibilities on headteachers

The Committee recommendations include that:

  • Education Scotland ensures that there is universally available and high quality training for headteachers on how to identify need and commission services through PEF;
  • in advance of any additional responsibilities being placed on headteachers in the future, the Scottish Government must ensure that they are provided with the necessary training and resources to undertake their expanded role.

Barriers to participation

Charging for access to school education – how much is this happening?

The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government:

  • surveys all education authorities to establish which authorities sanction charging for in-school activities and the level of these charges; and
  • undertakes a review of which elements of the experience offered by schools may attract a charge.


The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government:

  • review its current policies for funding free food in schools, alongside work by schools and local authorities such as breakfast clubs and summer meal clubs to help holiday hunger; and
  • examine ways to improve the uptake of existing provision by families who are eligible.


The Committee welcomes the recent announcement that there should be a minimum clothing allowance of £100 a year and recommends that schools should ‘poverty-proof’ their uniform policies.

Education authorities should consider evidence received of children being sent home or chastised for issues with their uniform at school. The Committee hopes that this is a limited issue but considers that no pupil should be denied access to education due to the inability to afford school uniform.

Community based support and youth work in schools

The committee recommends that the national youth work strategy currently being developed has a strong focus on how youth work and school based education can complement and support each other. Further to this, Education Scotland should identify whether School Improvement Plans are being developed to complement community based services for children and young people in a consistent and meaningful way.

The Committee met with Community Learning and Development staff

Parental involvement

There are schools with excellent parental engagement but which do not have a parent council. The Committee would like the Scottish Government to examine the impact of not having a parent council on the funding available to schools and whether state funding takes account of this.

Evidence showed the notable impact of income maximisation for some of the families where schools have acted as an initial hub and directed families towards support. The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government looks at rolling out a system of using more schools as hubs.

Thanks again to everyone who shared their views and experiences. Keep up to date with more ways that you can get involved by following the Committee on Twitter.

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