I am calling on Dundee City Council to use all the resources available to it to bridge the attainment gap in the city. A paper at Dundee City Council's Children and Families Services Committee showed that in March 2020 nearly 27 planned posts to deal with the attainment gap were unfilled and £733,000 of the budget was unspent representing 11.5% of the total budget. Such underspends are letting young people in Dundee down.
The aim of the Attainment Challenge is to close the attainment gap and improve the educational outcomes for children and young people living in Dundee's most deprived communities. I was appalled to see that the budgets were being underspent and that there were 27 posts not filled compared to what was planned. Dundee City Council has been given money to deal with this important issue and has left 11.5% of the Budget unspent. This is not good enough.
At the Committee meeting I was told that this was due to 'slippage' in filling posts. Unfortunately, deprived young people do not have the luxury of slippage. Deprived young people in Dundee have one chance in education. I am concerned that young people's life chances are jeopardised by 'slippage' in council budgets.
It is a disgrace that poverty is still impacting on the educational prospects of children and young people in Dundee in 2020. The council has been given resources, and I would argue should be given more, it is just wrong that Dundee City Council has not used all the resources available to it to try and bridge the attainment gap.
I am also very concerned that the Covid-19 lockdown will have impacted more on the educational prospects of the poorest children in Dundee. There is a good chance that this problem has got worse during the lockdown where there is emerging evidence that poorer young people engaged less with the on-line education that was available. More will need to be done to address this.
I think that Dundee City Council should be looking for more resources to help every child in Dundee reach their potential. No child's life chances should be impacted by where they were born, who their parents are or the socio-economic group into which they were born. A budget that is 11.5% underspent does not give the impression of being a priority. The report card for Dundee City Council on bridging the attainment gap surely says 'Must do better.'
The report which went to the Children and Families Services Committee can be found here http://dundeecity.gov.uk/reports/agendas/c&f070920.pdf The report is from page 5 onwards. Appendix 1 on page 15 shows that it was planned to have 135.8 Full Time Equivalent staff but that in March 2020 only 108.9 Full Time Equivalent staff were employed. The overall budget for 2019/20 was £6,323,910 but the spend was only £5,590,897 a shortfall of £733,013 representing 11.5% of the budget.