Ross-shire MSP insists pupil equity funding must be dedicated to bridging poverty gap in Highland schools
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FUNDING ring-fenced for tackling poverty-related attainment gap in Highland schools must be devoted to that cause regardless of other financial pressures, an MSP has insisted.
Gail Ross, who represents Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, has raised her concerns over the distribution of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The question came as a result of concerns raised that “relaxation of ring-fencing” would mean that local authorities, such as Highland Council, could use PEF to address spending in other budgets and that children and families could suffer as a result.
However Holyrood's education and skills committee, Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, made clear to Ms Ross that PEF funding must be used to address the poverty attainment gap and for no other purposes.
He noted that whilst the guidance had been somewhat relaxed to take into account the different challenges that schools will now face as a result of Covid-19, the funding was still to be used for its intended purpose.
Mr Swinney also emphasised the point that it is for schools ,and schools only, to decide how PEF is spent to address the poverty related attainment gap.
Reacting to the comments, Ms Ross said: “I’ve received worrying concerns from elected members and constituents alike that Highland Council are considering using PEF to fund their operations and the responsibility of the management of the budget by schools is being eroded by diktat from Inverness.
“The assurances that the Scottish Government have given me and the committee today are clear – this money is for schools to decide how to spend to address the poverty related attainment gap and should certainly not be controlled by anyone other than them.”
“PEF funding is absolutely vital, particularly during these difficult times, to ensure that schools, pupils and parents and carers have the access they need to resources and equipment that meet their specific needs. I sincerely hope that all schools in Caithness, Sutherland or Ross are able to utilise their funding effectively, free from external pressure, to support teaching and learning for our most vulnerable pupils.”
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