Research conducted by the University of Glasgow has highlighted several methods schools can implement to tackle poverty-related inequality and inform school planning, especially following February’s release of key attainment data.

Educators can access a Scottish Attainment Challenge community on Glow where they can share practice exemplar materials and engage in online discussions.


As Scotland’s education system develops, we must reimagine long-term solutions to close the poverty-related attainment gap. This requires reconsideration of policy and funding decisions as well as creating innovative governance approaches based on research into educational regions’ effectiveness at improving outcomes for children and young people.

As part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, the PS750 million Accelerating Progress Fund will support and accelerate improvement in local authorities whose pupils fall below national average, particularly poverty-related attainment gaps. This support may include intensive, targeted or universal support as necessary to facilitate recovery, progress or stretch goal achievement; working closely with schools to create plans suited specifically to children and families in these local authorities will also play an integral part.

Local authorities play an invaluable role in supporting educators, school leaders and teachers within their communities to achieve improved results for all pupils through collaborative working. This means working across local authority services to create conditions for impactful collaboration – for instance through regional improvement collaboratives (RICs). RICs work in conjunction with HMIE’s Regional Improvement Programme which offers educators support by reviewing their professional learning and leadership, offering subject-specific advice from Education Scotland experts as well as accessing subject-specific support through regional improvement collaboratives (RICs).

Health and Wellbeing

Schools’ efforts to enhance student health and wellbeing is a central aspect of school improvement planning. Senior leaders and staff recognize the significance of maintaining strong and positive relationships with families for this objective, with lockdown periods providing parents an invaluable opportunity to engage with the school community more freely and feel more at home there.

Schools remain active in encouraging healthy lifestyles among children and their wider families through school lunch programs or new facilities for physical activity – an effort often linked with increased attainment levels.

Research by the University of Glasgow indicates that combatting poverty-related educational inequality requires both policy changes and changes to school practice. An emphasis on home learning may help lower barriers to achievement for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Education Scotland will create an offer in 2023 to support teachers and Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) practitioners’ leadership and empowerment, including offering professional learning activities focused on key themes from both the Additional Support for Learning Review (ASL Review) and The Promise 2020. Co-construction between teachers/practitioners will take place, with delivery through Regional Improvement Collaboratives where applicable.


Local authorities need a holistic approach to school improvement if they wish to address national priorities such as improving attainment in literacy and numeracy, and closing gaps between most and least disadvantaged children. Regional Improvement Councils (RICs) play a vital role in supporting these goals by offering expertise on leadership, engagement with schools, planning processes, use of data analytics as well as supporting for disadvantaged pupils.

Responding to an OECD report, the Scottish Government stated its goal as building an education system which empowered teachers and school leaders in raising standards (Education Scotland 2021). Closing the attainment gap – defined as lower pass rates and grades among pupils from more deprived communities than in more affluent ones – is also a priority of several local authority area plans.

In their report on Scottish education, the OECD review team highlighted its ability to balance equity and excellence compared to other OECD nations, by creating institutional support structures which aligned academic goals – including universal early childhood education, consistent and adequate funding across regions, leadership programs that ensured head teachers had relevant knowledge prior to taking up their roles, exceptional support for inclusive practices and strong teacher education programmes.


The Scottish Government’s Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) strategy sets national priorities for careers education and employability education, seeking to broaden learners’ choices and opportunities. Schools are encouraged to incorporate career relevant learning through various approaches such as workplace visits, careers events, mock interviews and real life business tasks into school curricula.

Employability is another area for improvement within our school system, with particular attention paid to helping more disabled pupils gain employment. This work was further expanded in 2018 when the Disability Action Plan was published aiming to close this disability employment gap by half by 2038.

Shetland is working hard to improve the employability of its pupils by emphasizing development of Five Cs: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curiosity and Creativity. These five skills were identified during consultation between local businesses and pupils. Teachers are also encouraged to highlight the intersections between these skills and employment in real world situations. The Shetland Islands Consortium, under the guidance of Barnardo’s, the Prince’s Trust and Action for Children, runs a Discover Your Potential Employability programme which offers support to young care leavers on their journey into education, training or employment. This involves practical construction-based assignments, industry standard qualifications and work placement opportunities leading to full time employment; plus intensive support services dedicated to these vulnerable youth.