South Ayrshire Council has made “fantastic progress” in recent years to close the attainment gap and challenge every young person to reach their full potential, according to a new report.

As part of a ‘collaborative improvement’ visit earlier this year, the local authority was visited by a team from Education Scotland and the Association of Directors of Education Scotland.

The investigators spent two days with staff, parents and young people from a number of primary schools across South Ayrshire.

An array of strengths were identified following the visit, and a written report highlighted that the council’s staff are positive, enthusiastic and share its “clear and consistent” vision. 

The document also shone the spotlight on a range of the authority’s initiatives – including ‘making thinking visible’ – which have improved learning and teaching across the region, helping to close the attainment gap and inspire learners.

It was recognised that South Ayrshire schools’ deep understanding of the health and wellbeing needs of young people and their families made a significant difference in the face of disruption caused by the pandemic.

Additionally, it was found that the authority is leading the way when it comes to partnership working across the council area and with other agencies, such as speech and language therapy.

Locality working was also credited with making a strong contribution to supporting improvements in teaching and learning.

And the council’s focus on care experienced learners, led by its ‘virtual head school teacher’ (VHST) was found to be having a positive impact.

A VSHT is a senior member of education staff in a council who works at a strategic level, with their focus on improving the educational experiences and outcomes of all care experienced children and young people in their local authority area.

Councillor William Grant, South Ayrshire Council’s portfolio holder for children and young people said: “I’m thrilled that this report recognises some of the fantastic progress we are making to close the attainment gap in South Ayrshire.

“I see first-hand the fantastic work schools are doing every day, however, it’s wonderful to hear from an external team of experts that we are making a difference for children and young people across South Ayrshire.”

The paper also identified some areas for improvement, which the council have pledged to prioritise.

A South Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “We want to embed some of the work which is making a difference to young people into daily practice across all schools, and consider the sustainability of some of the interventions that improve learning.

“We’ll also make more consistent use of the data available to inform learning, teaching and assessment, and ensure the focus on literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing doesn’t reduce opportunities to close the attainment gap for our young people.”