John asks what ScotGov will do to tackle attainment gap

01 Jun 2016


  • 11. John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP):

    To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that its policy on children’s attainment takes account of the impact of poverty. (S4O-05666)

  • The Minister for Children and Young People (Aileen Campbell):

    The Scottish Government’s policy on raising attainment will continue to take account of children, families and communities that are affected by poverty.

    In the Scottish attainment challenge, we have used the Scottish index of multiple deprivation—a long-established set of indicators that show levels of deprivation in communities across Scotland—to identify the seven authorities with the greatest concentration of children of primary school age living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland. Using the SIMD, we identified an additional 57 primary schools outside the seven challenge authority areas that are serving the most deprived communities, and they have been allocated moneys through the attainment Scotland fund.

    An additional £100 million a year will be invested in schools across Scotland as a result of a package of reforms to council tax that the First Minister outlined earlier this month. Further, the Education (Scotland) Bill, which Parliament passed unanimously last month, places legal duties on the Scottish ministers and education authorities to reduce inequalities of outcome that are caused by socioeconomic disadvantage.

    The national improvement framework focuses on raising attainment and closing the gap—on delivering both excellence and equity. It will provide the evidence to make substantial progress in eliminating the attainment gap within a decade.

  • John Mason:

    Can the minister say anything specifically about what the Government is doing on the impact of poverty in children’s learning in the early years, which also has a significant bearing on their attainment in key basic skills?

  • Aileen Campbell:

    We have already set out ambitions to further expand early learning and childcare provision to 1,140 hours per year. That is building on the previous expansion to 600 hours for three and four-year-olds and the 27 per cent of two-year-olds who benefit the most. In the previous session of Parliament, we delivered free school meals for those in primaries 1 to 3, which benefits 135,000 children and saves families £380 a year for each child.

    If we are re-elected, we will expand early learning and childcare to fully include day provision and will ensure that our youngest children get access to a healthy and nutritious meal that improves their capacity to learn without the stigma of means testing. We will also replace the sure start maternity grant with a new and expanded maternity and early years allowance for those on lower incomes—40 to 50 per cent of families might qualify. The payment on the birth of a first child will increase from £500 to £600 and we will restore payments of £300 for second and subsequent children. We will also make payments of £250 to help to meet additional costs that low-income parents face at two further stages in a child’s life: when they start nursery and again when they start school.

    We have a comprehensive range of measures, because we understand completely that, to allow children to flourish, we have to act early and effectively to address the attainment gap in the earliest years of children’s lives. The Government is completely and utterly focused on that comprehensive package.

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John asks about strengthening Community Councils

23 Mar 2016


  • 9. John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP):

    To ask the Scottish Government what consideration it has given to strengthening community councils. (S4O-05704)

  • The Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment (Marco Biagi):

    Although local authorities have statutory oversight of community councils, the Government has been working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Improvement Service and Edinburgh Napier University to further enhance their role.

  • John Mason:

    Does the minister share my concern that, although we want to push power down to local communities below the city council level, it is difficult when many community councils are not active, or are kept going only by a very small band of people?

  • Marco Biagi:

    I share that concern. Community councils that do not feel listened to will not attract people and will struggle to recruit. Our work includes a website to support community councils; digital engagement workshops to support them in recruiting new people; and a fairer Scotland community council event that we are hosting, to which all community councils are invited.

    Last year, I met the national body for English parish and town councils to learn more about their system. I would describe myself as actively interested, but any further work would be for the next Administration, of which I will clearly not be a part, to take forward.

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John asks about Economic Impact of Clydesdale Bank sale

19 Feb 2016

John Mason: To ask the Scottish Government what analysis it has made of the potential economic impact on Scotland of the Clydesdale Bank being floated on the stock market.

Answered by John Swinney (11/02/2016):Clydesdale Bank has an established presence in Scotland, as a bank servicing personal and business customers and as a substantial employer. While no specific economic analysis has been undertaken, we would expect the Clydesdale Bank to continue to have a similar presence in Scotland following the flotation of shares on the stock market.

John seeks clarity on Unpaid Internships

19 Feb 2016

John Mason: To ask the Scottish Government what its policy is on unpaid internships that last longer than one month.

Answered by Roseanna Cunningham (03/02/2016):We believe that fair work is crucial to delivering inclusive growth. The Scottish Government only offers support to external graduate placement programmes that offer good quality, paid internships. All interns on these programmes are paid at least the Scottish living wage for the work they do and these programmes are currently operating on a conversion rate of between 75 and 80 per cent of placements leading to permanent employment.