It is incredible to me that it has now been five years since the Scottish Attainment Challenge launched. Those five years may have passed quickly but in that time, I have seen so much excellent work taking place across the country with the aim of closing the attainment gap.
The Challenge proactively aims to ensure that every child has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of their background and circumstances – and many schools have taken a really inventive approach in helping to make this important vision a reality.
I am very impressed by the variety of actions being undertaken by schools across the country to help increase attainment. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling this as sometimes what works for the many will not make a difference for our most vulnerable children.
Many schools are focusing on increasing attainment by considering what happens outside of the school gates by involving parents, developing home-school links, and increasing community support through outreach projects. For example, I was delighted to learn about the work being undertaken at Wallace High School through the Scottish Attainment Challenge to recruit Family Link Workers which support young people and their family, and help them to overcome barriers preventing them from attending school.
Whilst it is fantastic to see this kind of work coming forward, the 5th anniversary provides a useful opportunity to reflect on progress made but also what we need to do next.
We want to accelerate progress, evaluate what has worked well and how we can best drive forward further improvements to narrow the poverty related attainment gap. We want to see even more success stories across the country.
I would like to say a huge thank you to the Attainment Advisors from Education Scotland who have been working in schools across Scotland to support the delivery of the Scottish Attainment Challenge since its launch five years ago. They play a strong role in linking the work of Education Scotland, Scottish Government and Local Authorities to improve educational attainment and to reduce the attainment gap between children from the least and most socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
Reducing the attainment gap is not possible without the many hardworking and dedicated teachers and classroom assistants across Scotland, and I also want to acknowledge and thank them for their efforts in helping to tackle this. I was very interested to learn about the partnership work being undertaken in Renfrewshire through the Challenge to devise and deliver a comprehensive professional learning programme for classroom assistants. This is incredible work and underlines the significant contribution our classroom assistants make to increasing attainment.
We now need to continue to focus on pedagogy, engagement and on developing an irresistible curriculum for our children. There are many children who are not yet where they need to be in terms of attainment but through taking a targeted approach to their lessons, and considering where the gaps in their learning are, teachers are helping these children to become more confident and ensuring they maximise their potential.
Change doesn’t happen overnight and research suggests that educational change can be a marathon rather than a sprint, but I am very encouraged by the strong steps forward which have been made since the launch of the Scottish Attainment Challenge five years ago. With the continued commitment and focus of all key players in the educational system I believe that together we can achieve equity for every child.