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Guidance for Schools (Resources to Raise Attainment)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd November 2016.

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Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

12. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will issue guidance to schools regarding how the money that is raised through its council tax reforms can be spent to raise attainment levels. (S5O-00376)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Next month, we will launch a framework of fully evidenced and proven educational interventions and strategies to help to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap. The framework will inform the decisions that schools make to spend the additional funds, and we will monitor the impact on improving children’s progress.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I thank the cabinet secretary for that response, and I welcome the production of the framework. Regardless of the reasons why councils find themselves in very difficult financial circumstances at the moment, the fact is that they do. The cabinet secretary will be aware that cuts are being made to service-level agreements and additional support across Scotland. That is having an impact on the workload of teachers and their ability to innovate, in particular around literacy and numeracy. Will the cabinet secretary ensure that schools are able to spend funds on whatever is appropriate for driving attainment? That could involve filling gaps in SLAs, additional support for learning or behavioural support.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I acknowledge the relationship between teacher workload and the ability to deliver learning and teaching that closes the poverty-related attainment gap: I accept that there is a connection between the two things. That is why I have spent so much time in the past few months trying to reduce what I would describe as unnecessary teacher workload. The purpose of that work is to create space to enable the concentration on learning and teaching that Mark Ruskell highlighted in his question

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Many of the techniques and interventions to which Mark Ruskell referred will undoubtedly be part of the framework that we will bring forward. We will look to individual schools to implement that framework to make a profound impact on the educational attainment of young people. I accept Mark Ruskell’s argument about the importance of schools being able to make those judgments, so the framework that we will put in place will assist schools in doing that.

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

What specific steps have been taken to reduce teacher and pupil workload? What role will the new benchmarks play in that respect?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The purpose of the new benchmarks is to ensure that we address the uncertainty that exists in the teaching profession about the levels of achievement and attainment that young people should reach at different stages in their education journey.

The feedback that I have had from members of the teaching profession suggests that the benchmarks that have been published so far have significantly enhanced teachers’ ability to do exactly that. The benchmarks provide clarity that can remove some of the workload that is created when the teaching profession tries to search for those answers, and they open up opportunities for a greater concentration on learning and teaching, which is exactly the point that I made to Mr Ruskell.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

Can the cabinet secretary confirm whether some of the money that is raised for the attainment fund in one council area could be spent in another council area?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I would have thought that Liz Smith would be aware that all council tax money that is raised in a local authority area is retained in that area. The Government has set out its position, and we are engaging in discussion with local authorities about how we implement the policy commitment more widely. I reiterate that all council tax money that is raised in an area will be retained in that area.