Moray Council is committed to ensuring all those working in our schools have an understanding of the link between poverty and health and educational outcomes for children and young people. We strive to ensure that every child in Moray can benefit from their education and have an equitable experience in our schools, with the voices of children and families at the heart of how we achieve this.
Prioritising Cost of the School Day
In February 2019, building on equity work already happening in schools, the Fairer Moray Forum Action Group hosted a Cost of the School Day conference. Practitioners from education, children’s services and third sector organisations were invited to offer an overview of the barriers and challenges facing children, families and schools across Moray; share current impactful practice from across the authority, and discuss actions which delegates felt should be taken to further address the cost of the school day.
At the end of 2019, Moray Council in partnership with Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland began a three year Cost of the School Day project with dedicated practitioners working directly with 32 Moray schools. The aim of the Cost of the School Day Project was to work towards:
- Child poverty aware school staff throughout the authority with a clear understanding of financial barriers at school and the motivation and resources to tackle them
- Policy and practice at school and local authority level which reduce costs and poverty related stigma for children and families
- Families and children aware of and able to access support available in their schools
- Children from low income households able to fully participate in all parts of the school day
- Creating opportunities to share learning and good practice across all Moray schools
Pre-pandemic, every head teacher in Moray took part in a local authority led poverty awareness day and used this time to explore current successful approaches to mitigate costs for families. As the first period of lockdown learning began, our partnership with the Cost of the School Day Project enabled us to jointly gather the views and experiences of children and families during lockdown and to understand more about where cost barriers to remote learning existed. This helped to inform Covid recovery planning and planning for any future periods of remote learning. This included recognising that some families in receipt of the voucher alternative for Free School Meal provision highlighted issues with choice and options to access preferred and low cost supermarkets. The introduction of direct payments for FSM was a welcome one. We also continued to promote our scheme to support digitally excluded pupils and ensure all our pupils had access to resources at home for learning. School staff across Moray have been dynamic in considering families’ financial situations, coming up with solutions to challenges faced by families, and setting work that was achievable for all their pupils.
Progress so far
In Moray we have a Cost of the School Day Working Group consisting of school staff, parent voice and local authority representatives. This group reports not only on good practice, changes at school policy level and professional learning, but also feeds up into wider strategic groups tackling poverty across Moray to ensure that equity in education is a key component in wider anti-poverty work. Strong partnerships have been built across services which has improved the flow of information to children, young people and families so they can more easily access the support if and when required.
Despite the challenges schools faced over the last year we are delighted that, so far, 1,000 pupils across Moray have taken part in Cost of the School Day consultations either face to face or virtually. This has helped us understand how we can ensure that all pupils regardless of family income can fully participate and access the curriculum. We look forward to new insights from children and their families as more schools come on board.
The impact of Covid-19 has further sharpened our schools awareness and understanding of how poverty impacts children’s’ learning and the importance of embedding a Cost of the School Day approach both at school and local authority level is vital. Schools that have participated so far really welcome the research and information with much of it helping to inform future planning.
“We loved the Cost of the School Day report, it gave such detailed information so was very helpful for us as a school. We’re adding the priorities to next year’s School Improvement Plan and starting to communicate this to pupils, parents and staff so that we all know what we are going to be working on.”
(Morven Snodgrass, HT Seafield Primary)
We also greatly emphasise the whole school approach to tackling financial barriers and making sure Cost of the School Day links in with our wider work around children’s rights and a school’s values.
"Overall, we try to ensure everything fits within ‘Our Relational Approach’. At the heart of this is the importance of relationships and we aim to have empathetic school policies which reduce conflict and support young people to feel comfortable in school and able to access all experiences available. I recommend that all schools ensure that policies which incur a cost aim to be compassionate and mindful of the situations families are in. All decisions should fit with the school values as if they are not lived, they are meaningless."
(Liz Bain, DHT Keith Grammar School)
Ambitions for the future
We continue to work closely with the project and support avenues for staff training and opportunities to share good practice throughout the local authority. To see the impact of the partnership work between Cost of the School Day Practitioners and Moray schools is impressive, and it will be exciting to see this continue over coming months. Moray schools have embraced the opportunity to tackle the poverty agenda, and find creative ways to support all our children and families in Moray. By the end of this project, we hope every school in Moray will be poverty proofed in order to meet our ultimate aim of ensuring there is equity for every child to achieve their best regardless of their household income.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland's partnership with Moray Council is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and delivered with project partners Children North East.