South Scotland

First Minister makes schools attainment pledge during Hawick visit

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Scottish Borders Council

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised a continued focus on improving attainment in education during a visit to the Scottish Borders.

She met with pupils and staff at Burnfoot Community School in Hawick on the first day of their new term.

It is one of two primaries in the region benefiting from the Scottish Attainment Challenge programme.

The latest allocation of £2.8m is being distributed to 46 primaries across 12 local authorities.

It is part of the £750m that the Scottish government said it intended to invest in the Attainment Scotland Fund over the course of this parliament.

"As a new school year begins today, pupils and parents here at Burnfoot Community School are looking ahead to an exciting and stimulating year of learning," said Ms Sturgeon.

"I am determined that every child must have the same opportunities and an equal chance to succeed.

"That's why our top priority is raising attainment overall and closing the gap in achievement between young people in our most and least deprived areas."

Image copyright Scottish Borders Council

She said that in areas of deprivation across the country, teachers were already developing innovative approaches to improving literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing.

"At Burnfoot, for example, there has been a significant focus on family support, family learning programmes and links with the wider community," she added.

Scottish Borders Council's executive member for education, councillor Sandy Aitchison, said Burnfoot was an "excellent example" of schools working to "close the attainment gap".

"The school has initiated a range of interventions aimed at closing the gap and since joining the Scottish Attainment Challenge this work has intensified," he said.

"This has had a tremendous impact on children and their families including improved attainment in reading, writing and numeracy, as well as improved attendance of pupils."

Radical reform

Liz Smith of the Scottish Conservatives said everyone agreed tackling the attainment gap should be the "first priority" for schools.

"The ambition should be about ensuring young people have good quality early years provision, and that they get access to top class local schools, teachers and support staff with a wide range of subject choice and extra-curricular activities," she said.

"None of these things can happen with the SNP's current approach.

"We need radical reform in our schools which allows headteachers to have more control and which allows parents both more involvement in and more choice over their child's schooling."

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said his party had outlined a "series of positive policies" to cut the gap between "the richest and the rest".

"We would scrap unfair charges for exam appeals, which favour private school pupils over those educated in state schools, and we would introduce a Scottish Graduation Certificate to replace the failing baccalaureate," he said.

"Whilst the First Minister poses for photo ops in the Borders, her government is only delivering attainment funding to two schools out of 63 in the area.

"If the SNP were serious about cutting the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms they would deliver more investment by stopping the cuts to education and backing Labour's plan for a 50p top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 per year to invest in our schools."

The full list of primary schools to benefit from the Attainment Scotland Fund in 2016/17 is:

  • Aberdeen City (Riverbank School, Manor Park School, Tullos School, Bramble Brae School)
  • Argyll & Bute (Rosneath Primary)
  • Dumfries & Galloway (Kelloholm School)
  • Edinburgh (Sighthill Primary, St Catherine's RC Primary, Clovenstone Primary, St Francis' RC Primary, Craigroyston Primary, Niddrie Mill Primary, Canal View Primary, Castleview Primary)
  • Falkirk (Langlees Primary)
  • Fife (St Serf's RC Primary, Inzievar Primary, St Kenneth's RC Primary, Southwood Primary, Warout Primary & Community School, Pathhead Primary)
  • Highland (Milton Primary, Coulhill Primary, Bishop Eden Primary, South Primary (Wick), Merkinch Primary)
  • Scottish Borders (Burnfoot Community School, St Margaret's RC Primary (Hawick))
  • South Ayrshire (Dalmilling Primary, Newton Primary, Braehead Primary)
  • South Lanarkshire (St Mark's Primary (Rutherglen), James Aiton Primary, Beckford Primary, Carstairs Junction Primary, Burgh Primary, St Paul's Primary, Auchinraith Primary, Cathkin Primary, Loch Primary, Robert Smillie Memorial Primary, Hareleeshill Primary, Rigside Primary)
  • Stirling (Raploch Primary)
  • West Lothian (Bridgend Primary, St Thomas' Primary)

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