When I visit schools across Scotland, I consistently see creative and inspiring young people and dedicated and hard-working staff who support them. We should take great heart that these young people epitomise the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence – they are successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. They represent a great future for our nation.
I have also been greatly encouraged by the way that the National Improvement Framework has become embedded in schools. It is widely used as a focus for delivery of excellence and equity in Scottish education.
The NIF includes four priorities – raising attainment for all, closing the attainment gap, improving young people's health and wellbeing, and improving employability skills and positive, sustained destinations which underpin everything that is done in our schools. In the annual review of NIF, there was consistent support for these priorities and they will remain the same in 2019. There was, however, also a clear call for the NIF to have a greater focus on health and wellbeing, and a number of actions in the 2019 Improvement Plan reflect that, for example the commitment to introduce counsellors in all secondary schools across Scotland. We have also sought to give the NIF a stronger focus on the early years and the learner journey.
We are now seeing tangible progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap, such as the reduction in the gap for each of the three national qualification measures, and the school leavers' participation measure. These improved outcomes are very welcome, but it is clear that more and continued efforts are required to ensure that all children and young people experience better outcomes. This is why we need to maintain the consistent direction explained in the National Improvement Framework.
The 2019 NIF and Improvement Plan provides a national framework – but the success of our approach is dependent on the continued growth of empowered schools and a truly collaborative culture. I am confident that, as we work jointly with local government colleagues to empower our schools, we will create the right environment for that to happen.
John Swinney MSP
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
Email: Elaine Kelley