A NEW project to tackle the attainment gap in Scotland through partnership with Scottish Government and Young Scot was launched last week in Paisley by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Working with six local authorities, including North Ayrshire, Transport Scotland and Improvement Services the Young Scot Attainment Challenge Partnership will utilise the smart-enabled Young Scot National Entitlement Card to deliver new targeted and bespoke local smart-entitlements and opportunities, focussed on travel, health and wellbeing, to tackle inequalities, improve attainment in education and challenge rural poverty.

The first stage will focus on pilot projects in North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and the Highlands where the Young Scot National Entitlement Card will be used to deliver entitlements including preloaded travel tickets in Renfrewshire, access breakfast in schools in North Ayrshire, and sportswear and equipment in Highlands.

The Young Scot Attainment Challenge Partnership draws from the ideas and outcomes of the Renfrewshire Youth Services Model, a project which explored the benefits of the Young Scot National Entitlement card for the young people of Renfrewshire with bespoke pilots for jobseekers and care leavers.

Young Scot and Transport Scotland are working together with Local Authorities to develop attainment pilots after the cost of public transport was highlighted as being a significant barrier to accessing education, employment and other amenities for younger people.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We know that educational inequality can have significant repercussions. It is totally unacceptable that some young people have their life chances narrowed by circumstances out of their control.

“That is why I am extremely pleased to launch the Attainment Challenge National Strategic partnership today, an exciting new project which offers a totally different approach to supporting improvement in attainment, challenging rural poverty and tackling inequalities in a non-stigmatising way.

“By using the Young Scot card, young people can access services and products that may otherwise be inaccessible to them – it is such a simple idea but could make the world of difference.

“The Scottish Government is committed to closing the attainment gap in our schools and addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality. This project will help to deliver on that ambition, address inequalities facing young people living in Scotland, close the attainment gap and empower young people to reach their full potential.”

North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane said, “While we are making strides here in North Ayrshire towards reducing inequalities and improving attainment, we know we can always do more. We’ve already led the way in tackling holiday hunger so this new initiative will build on the progress made so far by allowing more young people greater access to breakfast in schools.”