An initiative to raise school attainment which involved the University of Strathclyde has seen Renfrewshire Council become the first local authority in Scotland to be rated as making ‘excellent’ progress.
An Education Scotland inspection has hailed the progress in improving literacy, numeracy and work to close the poverty-related attainment gap between those living in Scotland’s least and most deprived areas.
It found significant year-on-year improvements in listening, talking, reading, writing and numeracy, with the attainment gap closing across all measures in Renfrewshire, one of nine ‘challenge authorities’ in the Scottish Government funded Scottish Attainment Challenge.
The report praises the “very successful” evidence-based, universal approach which sees support extended across all 62 primary, secondary and Additional Support Needs schools in Renfrewshire, a region where 27% of pupils live in Scotland’s most deprived areas.
Citing ‘highly effective leadership’, ‘excellent governance’ and a ‘shared vision’, it praises the culture where all staff are empowered to improve outcomes for pupils, their families and communities.
The different initiatives were delivered and evaluated in partnership with experts, including at the University of Strathclyde, to co-ordinate work that delivers the maximum impact.
This included the pioneering Renfrewshire Literacy Approach, a teacher and leadership training programme designed to enhance knowledge and skills in the teaching of reading.
Professor Sue Ellis, from the University of Strathclyde’s School of Education, who led the project at the university said: “The Renfrewshire Literacy Approach is evidence of the successful partnership between the University of Strathclyde and Renfrewshire Council and has addressed real-life, complex problems of practice and led to improvements year on year.
It has made a real difference to the children of Renfrewshire by raising attainment, improving learning and narrowing the poverty-related attainment gap.
Everyone from academics, head teachers and teachers, local authority staff and classroom assistants, worked on introducing a diverse range of children's literature, as well as learning and teaching activities that engaged children on all levels.
“That valuable work has generated knowledge about effective literacy teaching and project implementation, as well as assessment and leadership, that can now inform policy and practice across the whole of Scotland.”
Renfrewshire Council Depute Leader Jim Paterson, Convener of Renfrewshire’s Education and Children’s Services Policy Board, said that the success was due to the ‘collective approach’ of the project.
He said: “Children and young people have gained belief in themselves and I want to thank them and their parents and carers for their effort and commitment to learning. Our Children’s Services team has, through outstanding governance and leadership, also provided the right support and created the space to allow schools to deliver high quality learning and teaching.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney congratulated the Council and added: “It is clear that the close collaboration between their dedicated and empowered workforce and their wider school communities is having a significant and positive impact.
“These results are extremely encouraging and I look forward to seeing how the local authority builds on this momentum to truly ensure that every child in Renfrewshire is given the best possible start in life, no matter their background.”
As a Challenge Authority, Renfrewshire has received £10.4million in Scottish Government attainment challenge funding since June 2016 and has achieved an 11 percentage point increase in expected levels of literacy and a 5 percentage point increase in expected levels of numeracy from 2015-2018. Over the same period, the poverty-related attainment gap has reduced by 6 percentage points in literacy and 4 percentage points in numeracy.
The report highlights Renfrewshire’s ‘outstanding approach’ in using data to inform improvements, with data mentors in every primary school and principal teachers for raising attainment in each secondary school, helping build staff expertise in data analysis.
Gayle Gorman, Chief Inspector of Education for Scotland, said: “Closing the attainment gap is vital for a modern, successful Scotland and that is why, since late 2017, Education Scotland’s Inspectors have been working in partnership with Audit Scotland with the goal of reporting on the progress made by local authorities in improving learning, raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap. “