At the heart of the issues around the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) is a very simple problem. It's incredibly difficult to find out where a lot of the money is going.

In each of the last two years I have submitted freedom of information requests to councils across Scotland in an attempt to map PEF spending. Even for someone well-used to the vagaries of transparency requirements in Scottish public life it has been an incredibly frustrating affair.

In most cases, councils either store only broad summaries of spending broken down into categories such as staffing or ICT or record nothing at all.

Some say that, if one wants such information, they will have to trawl through the school improvement plan for every primary and secondary in the local authority area - although even then it still wouldn't be possible to extract full details of spending.

Read more: Will PEF funding close the attainment gap

Responses from a handful of more diligent councils offer a scattering of details – some positive, others intriguing, a few concerning.

There are home-school link workers, breakfast clubs, counsellors and family learning programmes being paid for using the anti-poverty money.

Large proportions of PEF have been spent on staffing. One school allocated £8,000 to "maintain staffing" - despite the fact this appears to run counter to the guidance on PEF spending - while another spent nearly £60,000 creating a new deputy headteacher's position.

Several used the new money to buy in standardised testing systems in defiance of the government’s wish for its own national assessment system to replace the different approaches at council level.

It is clear some publicly-funded bodies and private companies are benefitting from the money. Strathclyde University has brought in more than £100,000 from four projects in Glasgow. In Argyll & Bute, a consultant was paid £1,000 a day and £3,000 for travel and accommodation for twenty-three days of work across four schools.

To make matters worse, the quality of record keeping has actually declined over the last two years, meaning there seems to be even less information for year two of the scheme than there was for year one. One council admitted they had stopped gathering such in-depth information.

In addition, the Scottish Government’s published figures for school-level spending show a significant underspend, but provide no details on the spending itself.

So what is the end result? What happens when neither central government or local authorities keep proper track of this type of spending?

At best, we can’t possibly be making best use of available information to measure the impact of the PEF scheme. At worst we don't really know what millions of pounds of public money is being spent on."