Scotland politics

Labour proposes 'deprived pupil' fund

school pupils (generic)

Head teachers would be given £1,000 for every pupil from a deprived background and the discretion over how to spend it under new Scottish Labour proposals.

The party said head teachers were the best people to make decisions about the education needs of deprived pupils.

It will lodge its plans for a "fair start fund" as an amendment to the Education Bill.

The Scottish government said it would listen to any suggestions to ensure the bill is "as robust as it can be".

The Education Bill, which is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament, is largely aimed at closing the gap in performance between pupils from the country's wealthiest and most deprived areas.

Under the measures already included in the bill, education authorities and government ministers would need to "have due regard to the desirability" of acting in a way that reduces "inequalities of outcome" experienced by pupils "which result from socio-economic disadvantage".

Devolve power

But Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the best people to make decisions about deprived children's educational needs were not government ministers or councillors but head teachers.

She said the fair start fund was designed to devolve power beyond Holyrood and town halls directly into schools.

And she said the scheme could be paid for through a 50p top rate of income tax when the power is devolved to Holyrood.

Ms Dugdale said: "Our fair start fund will mean £1,000 of extra investment in children from Scotland's poorest families so we can cut the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms.

"We want to give the spending powers to head teachers. Challenges in classrooms are different across the country, in fact they are different across the same city. That's why these decisions should be taken by head teachers rather than by an SNP minister in Edinburgh."

Best chance

Labour's amendment would need the backing of SNP MSPs in the Holyrood chamber in order to be passed.

Ms Dugdale said: "The first minister has said that closing the attainment gap is her number one priority. If that is the case, the SNP should back our amendments."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said it was committed to ensuring that every child in Scotland was given the best chance to succeed.

She added: "Our education bill already proposes a range of measures that aim to improve our education system, building the next phase of Curriculum for Excellence with raising attainment a key priority.

"We are also working to close the attainment gap through measures such as our £100m Attainment Scotland Fund and appointing attainment advisers in local authorities across the country.

"We have actively listened to suggestions made through the parliamentary process on how the bill can be strengthened and will continue to do so to ensure the bill is as robust and effective as it can be."