Dumbarton constituency MSP Jackie Baillie, Education committee convener Cllr Clare Steel and  Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

By Lucy Ashton

Jackie Baillie has told of her anger that £3 million is being cut from funding to West Dunbartonshire aimed at closing the attainment gap for children from poorer backgrounds.

Figures obtained by Scottish Labour show that the huge figure is being stripped away from the local authority as funding is spread throughout Scotland rather than being focused on the poorest communities, such as Dumbarton and Vale of Leven.

By 2026, this will represent a funding cut of 58 percent compared to the current attainment challenge funding.

This comes as Cabinet Secretary for Education, Shirley-Anne Somerville revealed that the funding can be used to plug gaps in other areas in the local government budget which have been exacerbated by years of chronic under-funding to councils from the Scottish Government.

Jackie Baillie MSP said: “The poorest children and communities, including those in West Dunbartonshire, are being failed by this SNP Government who are taking money away from them at a time when it is needed most. Many are still trying to catch up following months of disruption to schooling during the pandemic.

“On top of that, the Cabinet Secretary for Education has admitted that this money can be used to plug gaps elsewhere which is shameful. This funding is imperative to give children from poorer backgrounds, including many across West Dunbartonshire, a level playing field.

“The SNP’s action to deliver their so-called ‘defining mission’ of closing the attainment gap has fallen woefully short, and their damaging plans to rob millions of pounds from the poorest schools in Scotland will only make things worse.

“I demand that this flawed system is revised to ensure this money is getting to where it needs to be.”

West Dunbartonshire Council’s newly-appointed education convener, Clare Steel, added: “It is blatantly apparent that the under-funding of councils by the SNP Government has had a massive impact on services on the ground and will continue to do so with these new, damning figures.  This funding cut is putting the futures of our children at risk.

“My Labour colleagues are determined to make sure this doesn’t impact on those who need support the most. I demand that the Scottish Government reconsiders this brutal cut immediately.”

LibDem education spokesperson Willie Rennie said: “Nicola Sturgeon said that education would be her overriding priority. Even before the pandemic Scotland had tumbled down the international rankings and now the attainment gap is wider than ever.

“No SNP minister has ever been able to say that closing the attainment was their defining mission with a straight face.

“Their education agenda is in tatters. What little progress has been made has been by dragging good schools down rather than lifting everyone up.

“Scottish education needs a fresh start with teachers at the helm and SNP ministers banished to the naughty corner.”

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