2019 National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan

The framework sets out activity the Scottish Government and partners will take to drive improvement for children and young people.

Introduction, vision and key priorities


The 2019 National Improvement Framework (NIF) and Improvement Plan replaces last year's NIF and Improvement Plan. Together with the new National Improvement Framework Interactive Evidence Report, the NIF has improved the availability, quality and consistency of data, and extended understanding of what works to drive improvements for children and young people across all parts of the Scottish education system.

It sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education that have been agreed across the system, and the national improvement activity that needs to be undertaken to help deliver those key priorities. This complements the ongoing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), and Developing the Young Workforce (DYW), which are the three supporting pillars of the Scottish education system.

Scottish Ministers have a statutory duty, introduced by the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, to review the NIF and publish a plan on an annual basis. As part of the review, we provide education authorities, teachers, young people, and parents with the opportunity to express their views, and to have regard to any such views. Following the review process in autumn 2018, there was a clear consensus to retain and build upon the consistency and certainty provided by the NIF. Consultees felt that the NIF priorities and six drivers of improvement were very relevant, and that continuity and consistency would support improvement planning and help achieve our aims.

However, a significant number of consultees did comment that there should be an increased focus in the NIF on areas such as early learning and childcare, as this would help to emphasise the coherent and continuous nature of the Scottish education system from 3 to 18. Many consultees also felt that there should be a greater emphasis on the importance of health and wellbeing, particularly adolescent mental health, in the NIF. They were also concerned that, in the drive to deliver improvements in attainment, there had not been enough focus in the NIF on all the skills required for learning, life, and work that form part of the four capacities of CfE:

  • Successful learners
  • Confident individuals
  • Responsible citizens
  • Effective contributors

That is why many of the improvement activities outlined in the 2019 NIF and Improvement Plan are aimed at building a self-improving education system, where a culture of collaboration and empowerment is evident throughout. This is critical to ensuring the potential of CfE is achieved, and that we improve outcomes for children and young people.

This need to retain the vision and holistic approach of CfE, alongside the drive to deliver the specific measures set out in the NIF to secure improvement in Scottish education, was also emphasised by the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) as part of the 19 recommendations to the Scottish Government in its first formal report which was published in June 2018 International Council of Education Advisers: Report 2016-2018. We have used these recommendations to inform the 2019 Improvement Plan.

Our vision for education in Scotland

  • Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring that every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, set out within Curriculum for Excellence levels, and the right range of skills, qualifications and achievements to allow them to succeed; and
  • Achieving equity: ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

We need Scottish education to deliver both excellence in terms of ensuring children and young people acquire a broad range of skills and capacities at the highest levels, whilst also delivering equity so that every child and young person should thrive and have the best opportunity to succeed, regardless of their social circumstances or additional needs.

We want to develop with our partners an empowered and collaborative system, where everyone's contribution is heard and valued and improving children and young people's outcomes is at the heart of everything we do.

Key priorities of the National Improvement Framework

  • Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
  • Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people
  • Improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing
  • Improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school-leaver destinations for all young people


Email: Elaine Kelley

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