Published 01 May 2018

West Dunbartonshire Council’s efforts to raise attainment and improve learning for young people have been recognised by Education Scotland

The Council is the first in the country to undergo an inspection by Education Scotland specifically to assess the impact of projects to close the poverty-related attainment gap.

 Over the last five years, the Council has received £6.8million from the Scottish Government ‘s Attainment Challenge Fund and £17m from the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) to support young people from deprived backgrounds and the pilot inspection sought to assess the impact of the initiatives introduced through the funding. Projects have included a family learning hub providing information and assistance, nurture classes to provide targeted support in literacy and numeracy and introducing Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) hubs across primary schools.

Inspectors stated the Council had made “very good progress” in raising attainment among the 12,180 school age pupils educated in the area and highlighted the successful approach being taken to promoting improvement and change.

Other key strengths highlighted by the inspection team included:

 

  • The highly-effective leadership of the education service

 

  • Effective partnership between staff and stakeholders to support young people and families

 

  • The strong desire of young people and families to positively engage in new projects and different ways of learning.

 

  • Commitment to career-long professional learning with a focus on collaboration, critical reflection and skills development.

 

  • Robust Self-evaluation and a commitment to continuous improvement

 

The team found that overall the attainment of children and young people in West Dunbartonshire Council is improving, with a significant increase in the attainment of young people living in SIMD areas 1 and 2. The report highlights that at S4 and by S5 and S6 young people in West Dunbartonshire schools are, overall, attaining better than young people with similar characteristics being educated in other areas of Scotland.

Inspectors concluded: “Education Scotland is confident that the evidence and evaluation to date indicates that West Dunbartonshire Council is making very good progress in improving learning, raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap. We are confident that the local authority’s self-evaluation processes are robust and leading to improvements.”

Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Educational Services, said: “Our focus is very much on raising the attainment of all of our young people and ensuring that they are not defined by their postcode or circumstances. With the vision of our Educational Services team and support of Scottish Government funding we have been able to introduce projects which address challenges at a local level. The difference these approaches are making are evident in our schools and centres and it’s fantastic that Education Scotland’s inspection team have also recognised the work of our staff.”

Depute Convener of Educational Services, Councillor Caroline McAllister, added: “It’s testament to the leadership, collaboration and innovation which exists within education in our area that West Dunbartonshire was selected for this pilot inspection. As a Council, we are committed to closing the attainment gap and reducing poverty and inequality and the projects funded through the Attainment Challenge Fund and PEF are not only improving results and helping our young people to achieve but also have a wider impact through supporting families.” 

Inspectors  identified four areas for development, continuing to embed self-evaluation to support learning; further strengthen the information provided to the Educational Services Committee to enhance scrutiny; building on the current good practice to improve planning with parents, carers and children and young people; monitoring the workload and impact on headteachers and central staff, including human resources, procurement and finance, of their work related to the Scottish Attainment Challenge and Pupil Equity Fund.

Chief Education Officer Laura Mason said: “This is an extremely positive report for West Dunbartonshire and it is a validation of the hard work, effort and dedication of everyone across educational services. I want to thank all of our schools staff, partners and Education Scotland for their time and expertise. We are now looking to consolidate the work that has taken place to date and build on our success with future projects.”