Amid the sound and fury over the Scottish Government’s education reform plan, one thing can be said with the utmost certainty. John Swinney, who has been Education Secretary for just over a year, does not trust councils to close the attainment gap and is determined to move to an alternative delivery mechanism.

His plan is to create a new tier of education “collaboratives” above councils and give cash to headteachers, rather than to local authorities.

On this basis, the Government found £120m to pay for the Pupil Equity Fund, with heads given the task of tackling the standards gap between children from poor and more affluent backgrounds.

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However, for all the talk about headteachers being best placed to make decisions on their own schools, the drawbacks are obvious.

Heads are not sociologists, but they have been entrusted to spend huge sums of money on dealing with one of the trickiest problems in society.

There is no consensus for why an attainment gap exists - some people cite poverty and cuts, others believe teaching standards and discipline could be better - but the pressure is now on heads to deliver.

Our revelations today confirm sectoral concerns that some of the PEF money may simply be squandered.

If a headteacher downloads the “toolkit” on the Education Scotland website, they will find advice which states that canoeing and sailing lessons can have an impact in closing the gap.

Some of the ideas emanating from North Lanarkshire headteachers are also questionable. Will signing up to a Gaelic football programme really help tackle the poverty-related attainment gap? Can dodgeball improve literacy and numeracy?

Before he distributed £120m of public money to schools, Swinney should have ensured there was a greater understanding of what this new pot of money could be spent on.

A related fear, which was articulated by Glasgow schools chief Maureen McKenna, is that external consultants, or “snake oil salesmen” as she put it, could offer easy solutions in exchange for cash.

A better way of spending the money would to have a laser-like focus on literacy and numeracy initiatives for poorer children, as well as beefing up the number of classroom assistants.

As we also report today, to its credit - this time - North Lanarkshire council wanted to use PEF money to save over 100 classroom assistant posts, but the Scottish Government ruled it out. PEF money must not be frittered away on initiatives that do nothing to dent the attainment gap. At the very least, Audit Scotland should be involved in assessing whether the spending decisions of headteachers provide value for money.