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Serious concerns raised over Aberdeenshire Education's £2.6 million underspend on pupil equity funding


By David Porter

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A report which is set to go before councillors next week has highlighted the continuing issue of over-reliance on fixed term staffing contracts within the education service and the knock on effect in support for pupils in the north-east.

Members of the education and children’s services committee asked officers at a previous meeting for a full update on pupil equity funding (PEF) budgets.

With £2,604,505 allocated for session 21/22 along with a continuance of £1,236,480 from 20/21 there was at the time of the report's compilation a total of £3,840,985 of which only teh report states only £895,957 has been spent, meaning that £2,945,027 - only 23 per cent had actually been used.

In the report its is stated: "It is acknowledged that this underspend has been contributed to by challenges faced by schools when implementing their PEF plans.

"These challenges have been mainly around recruitment of both teaching and local government staff, finding staff who are willing to work in schools under the current and previous mitigations and also finding staff who want to accept fixed term positions or indeed if a fixed term’position is accepted, retaining these staff as many leave for permanent posts elsewhere.

"They have also been around schools ability to access desired resources due to the difficulties companies have had in staffing their workplaces; builders, depots, haulage companies and distributors."

Pupil equity funding is allocated directly to schools and targeted at closing the poverty related attainment gap and is to be spent at the discretion of the head-teacher working in partnership with their local authority, with PEF national operational guidance designed to help support those plans.

Officers carried out a questionnaire of all of Aberdeenshire's heads which raised several issues to be addressed including providing officer and head teacher training on pupil equity funding

guidance.

It also raised the points of provide head teachers with specific training around the data their school and their community is generating and how this will influence their decision making.

Quality improvement officers and managers will continue to ensure regular contact with all schools and PEF scrutiny will appear as part of formal officer/school engagement.


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