13th July 2017
PARENTS are not being routinely consulted about the use of a multi million fund to tackle school inequalities against official guidance.
A poll of parent teacher councils across Scotland found some headteachers were not asking for their views on how to spend the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF).
One typical respondent to the survey said: “Our parent council have been told about it, but no consultation so far on how it’s to be spent.”
However, other parent councils said headteachers had asked for their views.
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), which conducted the survey, has called for all schools to engage fully with families.
The £120 million PEF was launched last year to help address the poverty-related school attainment gap which leaves poorer pupils lagging behind.
Allocations are based on the number of pupils eligible for free school meals with schools receiving around £1,200 per pupil.
While the money is to be spent at the discretion of headteachers the Scottish Government issued official guidance which stipulates that parents and pupil should be involved in the planning process.
Eileen Prior, executive director of the SPTC, said that was not currently happening.
She said: “The guidance to schools and headteachers specified that the decisions on use of the fund should be made in consultation with a number of groups, including parents.
“While this has been done in some cases, we know this part of the guidance has been ignored in others, although it’s difficult to identify the scale of the problem.
“We have argued that the families and young people this fund is designed to help must be involved in reaching decisions about how the money is to be spent.”
The SPTC also warned schools faced significant challenges meeting another element of the guidance which calls for plans to be grounded in evidence of what is known to be effective.
The guidance says schools should have plans in place at the outset to evaluate the impact of the funding.
Mrs Prior said: “We are aware that plans have been laid down in some schools for periods of three to four years, but it seems evaluation is likely to be missing in these situations as schools cannot reasonably predict a positive outcome in advance of a new project starting.
“The fund guidance also specifies that money should be spent on things which are not currently in the school improvement plan which is a bit of an anomaly since any school leader worth their salt will already be focussing energy and resources on addressing the attainment gap.”
The Scottish Government said it was clear parents should always be consulted.
A spokeswoman said: “The national operational guidance makes clear our expectation for parents to be involved in the decision making on how PEF is spent.
“This guidance was discussed and agreed with headteacher representatives from School Leaders Scotland, the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland and key local authority representatives.
“We are currently reviewing school governance to ensure decisions on learning are made as close to the child as possible.”
She added: “This approach is built on strong international evidence that shows empowered schools and engaged parents lead to better educational outcomes.”
The PEF scheme is part of a wider commitment to provide £750m during the course of the current parliament through the Scottish Attainment Challenge to tackle the attainment gap.