Greens respond to overwhelming evidence received by Education Committee on need to tackle poverty

Over 50 organisations have submitted over 300 pages of evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee in response to an enquiry into the impact of poverty on attainment in education.

Among those who have supplied evidence are the teachers’ trade unions, COSLA and individual local councils, a range of children’s poverty charities, universities, and the Church of Scotland.

The themes of the evidence are clear. While there are many specific programmes that the Scottish Government could support to alleviate the impact of poverty, such as support for expanding free school meals, afterschool clubs, and help with school-related costs, the best way to address the poverty-based attainment gap is to use social security powers to directly reduce poverty and to ensure that education is properly funded by undoing austerity from previous years.

Ross Greer MSP said: 

“The message from those working in education and those who support children and families living in poverty is clear. We cannot close an education attainment gap caused by poverty unless we tackle the issues outside of the classroom which cause that poverty in the first place. The evidence submitted shows that using Scotland’s new social security powers to for example top-up child benefit or make sure benefits are increased in line with inflation are the actions we really need to take if we’re serious about giving every child an equal education.

“What came through just as clearly though, was the need to reverse a decade of cuts to schools and education services, which have seen thousands of teachers and support staff lost. The Pupil Equity Fund cannot be seen as ‘new money’ for our schools when it comes to the same or less than what has been carved out of their budgets in recent years as a result of decisions taken by SNP ministers.

“Using social security powers to alleviate poverty and ensuring that education is properly funded are two surefire ways to address the attainment gap. It is through these policies and not the unnecessary and unwanted governance reforms proposed by John Swinney that we can make Scottish education the best in the world once again.”

The Child Poverty Action Group's submission including the following comments:

“It is now vital that the Scottish Parliament ensures priority and resources across government are directed at increasing family incomes (through improved employment and enhanced social security) as well as reducing the costs that families face (including childcare and housing costs).”

EIS, which represents 80% of teachers in Scotland, said this in their submission:

“While the design intentions of the current policy and legislative frameworks are designed to support the realisation of more equitable outcomes from the education system for Scotland’s children and young people, the levels of investment in education since the onset of austerity politics, and arguably even before, have fallen far short of ensuring this.”