THE Scottish Government should consider ring-fencing funding for pupils with additional support needs, MSPs have said.

Members of Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee have also called for details of the timeline ministers are following to close the gap between children from deprived areas and their more affluent peers to be made public.

Closing the attainment gap is a key Scottish Government pledge and the draft 2018/19 Budget allocates £120 million to pupil equity funding (PEF) to help tackle the problem.

The committee noted that draft Budget contains £10m which “could be allocated to charities that support young people with additional support needs”.

MSPs welcomed the extra additional support for learning (ASL) funding following evidence in 2017 about the need for additional cash but said Education Secretary John Swinney has left the committee unclear about the specific purpose of the £10m and how it will be allocated.

In a letter to Swinney, committee convener and fellow SNP MSP James Dornan states: “Given the Government has increased the total amount of ring-fenced funding for local authorities in this draft Budget, the committee believes that ring-fencing should be considered for ASL.

Regarding the attainment gap, it adds: “Evidence suggests that there is a mixed pattern across the country in relation to PEF allocation.

“The committee considers its inability to scrutinise this matter due to the absence of detailed statistics on the allocation of PEF funding in the 2018-19 highlights the limitations of this budget process.

“The committee is in a position where it cannot identify the extent to which PEF funding could be being used to replace previous funding.”

MSPs also criticised the “inadequate” amount of time in the parliamentary timetable to scrutinise the draft budget.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local government funding to schools has been very fair and is increasing, despite the cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government.

“We want far more decisions on school funding to be in the hands of those with the expertise and insight to target resources at the greatest need — the schools themselves.

“That’s why we consulted on fairer funding for schools, as set out in programme for government, and we are committed to producing firm proposals by summer 2018.”