Last Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Scottish Attainment Challenge

What is this?

​​Tackling inequity is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s agenda, in order that every child can succeed in school and gain the skills for life.​

The Scottish Attainment Challenge aims to raise the attainment of children and young people living in deprived areas, in order to close the equity gap.

It will drive forward improvements in educational outcomes to ensure that everyone is encouraged to be the best they can be.

Who is this for?

​Practitioners, headteachers, local authority staff, development and policy staff, and parents.

About the Scottish Attainment Challenge

The Scottish Attainment Challenge is about achieving equity in educational outcomes, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap. Equity can be achieved by ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed. The First Minister launched the Scottish Attainment Challenge in February 2015 to bring a greater sense of urgency and priority to this issue. It is underpinned by The National Improvement Framework, Curriculum for Excellence and Getting it Right for Every Child.

The Scottish Attainment Challenge provides focused and targeted improvement activity in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across Scotland. It also supports and complements a broad range of initiatives and programmes to ensure that all of Scotland’s children and young people reach their full potential.

NEW FOR 2022

In November 2021, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills announced plans for the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) for 2022/23 to 2025/26. This aims to support recovery from the pandemic and accelerate progress in closing the gap. Details of this refresh can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Cover for Scottish Attainment  Challenge: Recovery and Progress  Report on 2021-22Scottish Attainment Challenge: Recovery and Progress Report 2021-22

PDF file: Scottish Attainment Challenge: Recovery and Progress Report on 2021-22 (435 KB)

A report that provides an overview of progress during 2021-22 and the impact of next steps as outlined in the ‘Closing the poverty-related attainment gap: progress report 2016-21.

What is attainment?

The Scottish Government’s ambition is for Scotland to be the best place to grow up. To achieve that we need to raise attainment and reduce educational inequity for all of Scotland’s children and young people.

Attainment is the measurable progress which children and young people make as they advance through and beyond school, and the development of the range of skills, knowledge and attributes needed to succeed in learning, life and work.

The attainment gap

The Scottish education system works well for most children and young people, who make good progress in their learning. However, there is still a gap between the progress which is made between those living in Scotland’s least and most deprived areas.

Many children and young people living in our most deprived communities do significantly worse at all levels of the education system than those from our least deprived communities. This is often referred to as the 'attainment gap'.

The attainment gap in Scotland is unacceptable. Tackling the attainment gap requires challenging everyone involved in Scottish education to relentlessly focus efforts on reducing the impacts of deprivation on educational outcomes.

Attainment Scotland Fund

The Attainment Scotland Fund is a targeted initiative focused on closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children. The fund provides support for the Scottish Attainment Challenge which is split into the following areas:

Challenge Authorities: Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.

Schools Programme which supports primary and secondary schools outwith the Challenge Authorities. These schools have been identified on the basis of supporting a significant proportion of pupils and families from communities which are facing some of the greatest challenges across Scotland.

Pupil Equity Funding is additional funding allocated directly to schools. Funding is provided to over 97% of Scottish schools to support pupils from low income families in P1-S3. National Operational Guidance has been published on the Scottish Government website.

An Interventions for Equity framework has been developed to support the introduction of Pupil Equity Funding. This framework has been designed to support schools in making decisions about how to select interventions and approaches which can help to close the attainment gap between our most and least disadvantaged children.

An additional publication, Pupil Equity Funding: Looking inwards, outwards, forwards – sharing effective practice to maximise support for learners and practitioners has recently been published to provide further support in developing and refining approaches to PEF (March 2022).

Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund - this fund specifically targets improved attainment of care experienced children and young people within local authorities.

National Programmes - funding is allocated to a number of national programmers which support the Scottish Attainment Challenge including professional learning, teacher recruitment and the development of Regional Improvement Collaboratives.

Universal support

We have a firm foundation in our key policies: National Improvement Framework, Curriculum for ExcellenceGIRFECEarly Learning and Childcare and Developing the Young Workforce. These clearly set out what needs to be done to support every child/young person's successful learning journey from early years, through school and post-16 learning - including university and college - and on into positive destinations. 

All schools and local authorities across Scotland benefit from the universal support package offered through the Scottish Attainment Challenge. The universal offer includes: 

  • All local Authorities have direct access to a named Attainment Advisor who works collaboratively alongside local authority staff on agreed priorities which support the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
  • National Improvement Hub - a virtual centre of educational expertise that supports the Scottish Attainment Challenge. It incorporates a range of features to build collaborative learning and engage leaders and practitioners to support a self-improving education system.
  • The Interventions for Equity Toolkit is an initial framework to support the Scottish Attainment Challenge - Pupil Equity Funding (PEF). It is based on a range of interventions and approaches that are currently being used in schools across Scotland.
  • There is also a Scottish Attainment Challenge self-evaluation resource to assist stakeholders in bringing about further improvement.