Mearns families are to benefit from an increase to the school clothing grant.
Aberdeenshire Council is set to double the school clothing grant in an attempt to help close the attainment gap in education.
The current £50 allowance is to be doubled to £100 for all applications for the start of the next school term. While all local authorities currently offer a clothing grant, the level it is set at varies across the country – from £110 in West Lothian to just £40 in North Ayrshire.
A recent proposal will see the minimum threshold set at £100 nationally – a fifty per cent increase in Aberdeenshire.
The increase is the result of a partnership between COSLA, the national association of Scottish councils, and the Scottish Government.
It is proposed that the Scottish Government will cover half the cost of the initiative while local authorities will fund the remainder, with a total of £150,000 being set aside for Aberdeenshire. Overall annual costs for across Scotland are expected to reach £12 million, benefiting an estimated 120,000 families.
The grant will be reviewed every two years to ensure that the amount available remains in line with cost of living.
Mearns councillor Leigh Wilson welcomed the impact the funding would have in his ward, saying: “I was elected on a manifesto which pledged to close the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest and this step will go a long way in helping to achieve that.
“School uniforms can be expensive and no parent should send their child to school with the worry that they can’t afford the proper clothing. Parents have contacted me in the Mearns, telling me that although they work hard and try to provide for their families, there often just isn’t enough money at the of the week.
“Having to fund a full school uniform can add to these anxieties and so families across the Mearns will be safe in the knowledge that help is there for them should they need it.”
Since 2015 there has been an increased focus on outcomes in Scottish education, particularly with regards to the disparities in results achieved by those from the most affluent backgrounds compared to those from the least.
The Attainment Scotland Fund saw schools directly given a cash injection, known as the Pupil Equity Fund, which is targeted towards those most in need of additional resources. Aberdeenshire schools will receive almost £3 million for the new academic year with £150,000 of that being allocated to schools in the Mearns.
Councillor Wilson added: “We are fortunate to see this funding being directed to schools in the Mearns. Not only is there the issue of the attainment gap, but there is an increasing number of children with additional support needs and we have to ensure sufficient resources are there to provide a quality learning environment for everyone.”
Joy Johnston, Gourdon community councillor and local parent, also welcomed the initiative: “The decision to double the annual school clothing grant in Aberdeenshire is to be welcomed. This will make such a difference to families living in Aberdeenshire, easing the pressure and financial burden associated with purchasing school uniforms, and helping to ensure pupils from less well-off families do not feel any different to their peers.”