This programme focuses upon understanding the relationship between poverty, attainment and children’s mental health as a means of addressing the attainment gap, articulating with the Scottish Attainment Challenge. The Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched by the First Minister in February 2015, and is underpinned by The National Improvement Framework, Curriculum for Excellence and Getting it Right for Every Child.


The programme focuses specifically on early adolescence, defined here as age 10-14 and representing a critical stage in children’s development. The gap in attainment between rich and poor is a global and complex problem that cannot be understood through a single lens, therefore it is imperative to bring an international perspective and a multi-disciplinary focus. The programme will together academics, policy makers and practitioners from a range of fields in a process of knowledge exchange.


The issue will be explored through three seminars addressing the following questions:

  • What do we currently know about the problem?
  • How can we extend our knowledge and understanding through exploring the aforementioned relationships?
  • How might this inform public policy and practice at an international and national level?


Lying at the intersection of poverty, attainment and children’s mental health is children’s sense of belonging to school. We will therefore engage in working with children in two Challenge authorities to explore their understandings of this phenomenon.



Programme Team

Dr Joan Mowat, Senior Lecturer, University of Strathclyde, Programme Co-Lead

Dr Gale Macleod, Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh, Programme Co-Lead

Alastair Wilson, Senior Research Fellow, University of Strathclyde 

Dr Anna Beck, Lecturer, University of Strathclyde, Steering Group 

Graham McPheat, Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Strathclyde

Professor Stephen McKinney, University of Glasgow, Steering Group

Dr Louise Marryat, Research Fellow, Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy 

Lee Knifton, University of Strathclyde, Co-Director of the Centre for Health Policy and Head of the Mental Health Foundation Scotland

Marian MacLeod, Policy Manager, Children in Scotland, Steering Group

Patricia Lyon, Cluster Manager, Place2Be

Paula Dudgeon, Senior Educational Psychologist, Glasgow Council, Steering Group

Professor John McKendrick, Co-Director of SPIRU, Glasgow Caledonian University, Steering Group

Aileen Wilson, Children’s Rights and Information Officer, Inverclyde Council

Dr Gilliean McCluskey, Institute for Education, Community and Society, Safe and Inclusive Schools Network, University of Edinburgh

Sara Spencer, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland Project Manager