The Scottish Government have turned down a request from Glasgow City Council to fund targeted support for Secondary pupils to help them attain the results which they are capable of, but don’t always realise. The £300,000 funding would have been allocated from the Scottish Attainment Fund, which was publicised as being set up specifically to help ensure that pupils from more deprived backgrounds achieve their potential.
Glasgow has been allocated some money from the Fund, but with the constraint that this can only be spent in Primary Schools. However, best practice from elsewhere and pilot work in our own schools shows that providing a programme of supported study in Secondary Schools can have a huge impact on the performance of a young person and their subsequent life chances.
As Chair of our local Area Partnership, which looks at local priorities in our community, I was happy to see the Partnership approve funding for a package of attainment support for Drumchapel High. The grant approved was larger than most allocations from a relatively small pot, but what could be more important than the best possible future for our young people?
This year, the number of young people gaining 3 or more Highers at Drumchapel High rose by 50%, while the number of young people securing 5 or more Highers at the school tripled. I would be the first to acknowledge that this is in the context of small numbers and the potential of our young people does not stop there. This is just an early step on the road to further significant improvements in attainment at the school, but all journeys have to start with a single step. Drumchapel High - teachers, pupils and parents – should be congratulated for the way they are lifting their sights and their aspirations. The package put in place through our Area Partnership, at the request of the school, helped those young people to realise their goals.
So we can see that structured supports designed to maximise attainment do work, and we want to bring those to every school across the city, but the Education Department’s budget is as stretched as the rest of the Council’s and before we fund the ‘extras’ we have to fund the statutory, the strictly, legally necessary. Applying to the Scottish Attainment Fund seemed like the obvious thing to do. We know this works, we know it makes a difference to our young people, we know it would help deliver exactly what the Scottish Government say they set up the fund to achieve. Yet the Scottish Government said no. We can have some money, but we can only spend it in our Primary Schools.
At the end of the day, attainment is measured by the number and level of qualifications which a young person secures. These qualifications are taken at Secondary level. At this crucial stage in their lives, it is madness to deny our young people access to support which we know works.
Glasgow City Council will try to find another way to fund this support for our young people, but when a fund exists for this very purpose, the Scottish Government must be held to account for this failure to support Glasgow’s young people.