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Head to Head

Pupil Equity Funding

The Scottish Government has pressed ahead with the implementation of its plans to devolve funding direct to Head Teachers.  You should have heard all about it by now and many of you will have been able to attend the Education Scotland training. In case you haven’t seen the information…

What is Pupil Equity Funding (PEF)?  

It is additional funding allocated to specific schools based on Free Meal Entitlement and targeted at closing the poverty related attainment gap.  The Scottish Government has committed to this funding as part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge programme from 2017-18.  It is clear from the Government’s wider plans and commitments that they expect this funding stream to continue for some time but, due to the way Government funding works, they seem to be unable to make a cast-iron commitment for anything beyond this first year.

The current allocation is £1200 per pupil in P1-S3 falling under the Free Meals measure being used.  The measure is a hybrid of current and historic data.  It is recognised to be imperfect and will be adapted over time.

Who will get funding?
Using the link at the bottom of this article you can access a spreadsheet which shows how much individual schools have been allocated.  This is an unusual step in the current climate where ring fenced funding is extremely rare.  The money will be passed to schools via local authorities and should be passed to schools in its entirety.  

Please note: If, for any reason, schools do not get the amounts listed in the spreadsheet, AHDS would like to hear about it.

What can it be used for?
The focus is very much on activities and interventions that will lead to improvements in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.

A crucial point from the Government perspective is that the funds must be used to provide additionality.  By making this stipulation they are seeking to avoid the situation where local authorities might be tempted to allocate this additional resource to existing budgets and contribute less than they had planned.  The Government’s guidance (see link at the end of this article) states that the funding is to be used for “interventions or resources which are clearly additional to those which were already planned.”  What is not clear is whether the funds can be used to replace things which have been cut recently (and this leaves very big question marks about what might happen in year two!)  

The guidance encourages Head Teachers to work in partnership with one another – and with their local authority – to plan the use of the funding.  This makes very clear that the Local Authority has a key role to play and this is reinforced by clarity about reporting arrangements.  These are to be via existing mechanisms within your local authority rather than any new or additional system.  As an Association we argues for and welcome both these features as we felt initial announcements ran the risk of leading to considerable additional bureaucracy and confusion as schools sought to be responsible to and report to two different masters – their employers and the Government.

•    Funding must provide targeted support for children and young people affected by poverty to achieve their full potential.
•    Although the Pupil Equity Funding is allocated on the basis of free school meal eligibility, Headteachers can use their professional judgement to bring additional children in to the targeted interventions.
•    Headteachers must base their use of the funding on a clear contextual analysis which identifies the poverty related attainment gap in their schools and plans must be grounded in evidence of what is known to be effective at raising attainment for children affected by poverty.

What about planning, reporting and accountability?
The expectations around this are clear.  Schools are expected to engage with their pupils, parents and local authority in planning how this resource will be used.  If staffing, resources or ICT investment is planned then this will need to be done in conjunction with your local authority to ensure that it is all done within local policy parameters.  It will be reasonable for local authorities to recoup costs where the arise – e.g. the costs of recruiting staff in addition to the salaries to be paid.  

The expectation is that schools will have plans in place at the outset to evaluate the impact of the funding. Schools will be accountable for the use of funds via their local authority through normal mechanisms.  The guidance states that “schools will be expected to incorporate details of their Pupil Equity Funding plans into existing reporting processes to their Parent Council and Forum, including in their School Improvement Plans and Standards and Quality Reports.”  There Government does not want additional, separate, planning/reporting/accountability arrangements.

Note:  If your local authority plans to introduce additional requirements in this area AHDS would like to hear about it.

What about underspends and carry-forwards?
This is important so here is the full quote from the guidance: “Where schools are unable to spend their full allocation during the financial year, any underspent grant may be carried forward to the next financial year though it would be expected that it would normally be spent within the school year.  Schools will need to liaise closely with their local authority to agree arrangements for carrying forward Pupil Equity Funding, which should be considered separately from other funding within the devolved school management budget.”  In short, if you cannot spend the grant in the current year or if you have a plan for a larger spend in year 2 then, provided you can justify it, it is possible to do so – and this should not be affected by clawbacks as would normally be the case with DSM budgets.

For more information:
Visit this website access the draft Pupil Equity Funding guidance from the Scottish Government and the spreadsheet showing the allocations to individual schools:http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Edu...

As a ‘starter for ten’, which is not designed to constrain what schools choose to do, Education Scotland has published ‘Interventions for Equity’.  It is designed to help schools identify and plan the use of interventions to close the poverty related attainment gap.  You can find it here: https://education.gov.scot/imp...