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Identifying meaningful measures to address the attainment gap

A project to explore how to make better use of data to assess the poverty-related attainment gap across eight local authorities has begun.

The research is being led by the Northern Alliance – a collaboration of Scottish councils – and the Data for Children Collaborative, and international partnership of universities and government.

The partnership also includes researchers from University of Strathclyde Fraser of Allander Institute, the CivicDataLab, and additional support from Glasgow Caledonian University and East Neuk Analytics. Children in a classroom

Addressing the poverty-related attainment gap is a huge challenge for schools and services across Scotland and globally. It is appreciated there are many factors with the school day which impact on this. All local authorities hold information that paints a picture of the challenges families face and the numbers of children and young people living in poverty.

The project team has been working closely with education practitioners to understand what data currently exists, how these datasets may link with one another and, crucially, how this may help inform issues associated with poverty and deprivation.

They have also completed an in-depth analysis of the tools currently available to teachers, to understand what is needed to enable practitioners to make better decisions with the data that is available to them. The work provided an overview of existing features, their capabilities and limitations, and provided insight into potential alternative solutions.

The Data for Children Collaborative is a unique partnership between UNICEF, The Scottish Government and the University of Edinburgh, hosted by Edinburgh Futures Institute. Their goal is to leverage expertise from partner organisations in order to address existing problems for children using innovative data science techniques.

Northern Alliance Research Assistant Grant Murray explained: “We are very pleased to be working in partnership with the Data for Children Collaborative. It’s a great example of how working together across council areas means we can look to address shared challenges.

“This work is allowing us to conduct in-depth analysis at a regional level, alongside local insight and challenges on the ground, drawing on potential new data sources and techniques.”

Jo Kirby, Northern Alliance Lead Officer for Raising Attainment and Closing the Gap, said: “More relevant data in a local context will serve to improve the system so that those working in schools can better understand and facilitate equity and progression in the classroom for all our learners, regardless of the barriers they may face.”

Alex Hutchison, Director of the Data for Children Collaborative added: “This project highlights the power of academia, private sector and public sector working together, and how each of those areas brings different strengths to look at a problem in a new way.”

Laurence Findlay, Regional Improvement Lead for the Northern Alliance and Director of Education and Children’s Services for Aberdeenshire Council thinks the analysis of data will help to inform approaches at a local level.

He said: “This important work will help practitioners to think about the trends identified within their local context. This isn’t just about schools but all services that support children and families understanding how best they can work together to make a difference. Understanding the factors that present barriers to families and young people will help us to better support families to access the help they need to thrive.”

The outcomes of the first phase of work are now available on the project summary webpage.

The Northern Alliance is currently reviewing proposals for the second phase of works, which will aim to take a deeper look at the data identified, and build meaningful measures for education practitioners to use.

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