Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today questioned the Education Secretary over the decision to exclude the poorest children in Orkney from the government’s £100m Attainment Scotland Fund.
Speaking during Education Portfolio questions, Mr McArthur asked the Scottish Government Education Secretary “how many schools and children in local authorities that do not receive Attainment Scotland Fund support meet the programme’s criteria.”
The Attainment Scotland Fund was launched last year by the Scottish Government to provide extra funding to local authorities and schools with the highest concentrations of primary-aged pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, Orkney Islands Council along with ten other local authorities in Scotland are excluded from this additional funding.
In answer to Mr McArthur’s question, the Education Secretary confirmed that 36% of Scotland’s most deprived children, around 30,000 children, are excluded from additional education funding.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
“Evidence shows that there are gaps in attainment between children from poorer backgrounds and their more affluent counterparts. It is also an uncomfortable fact that there are children living in poverty in all parts of the country, including Orkney.
“It is deeply disappointing, therefore, that the Scottish Government appears to take the attitude that some of these children are more deserving of support than others. An area-based approach invariably penalises those in rural communities. It is little surprise then that Orkney is one of 11 councils excluded from accessing the funds.
“The extra money available under the Attainment Scotland Fund is welcome but should be targeted on the individual needs of the individual child, wherever they happen to live. That includes right here in Orkney.
“With £500m of cuts being made to local Council budgets next year, it seems inevitable that education and wider children’s services are going to come under severe pressure. For Orkney then to be excluded from the Attainment Fund as well seems like a double-whammy.”