The primary purpose of the National Improvement Framework since January 2016 has been to bring together an enhanced range of information and data at all levels of the system, to drive improvement for children and young people in early learning and childcare settings, schools, and colleges across the whole of Scotland. The Scottish Attainment Challenge has also become a rich source of information about good practice in schools, and how high‑ quality teaching and learning delivers improvements in outcomes.
Education remains, by far, the most effective means we have to improve the life chances of all of our young people. There are many excellent teachers and schools and colleges in Scotland providing a high quality education to our children and young people, many of whom are thriving. It is important to recognise the great work being done in many of Scotland's schools. The latest Achievement of CfE Level data shows that more than 80% of children in P1 are achieving the expected level in numeracy, reading and listening and talking, with just under 80% achieving that level in writing. Similarly, around 80% of children in P4 and P7 achieved the expected level in reading and listening and talking, with over 70% achieving the level in writing and numeracy. The number of Higher passes fell slightly (-1.5%), but to a lesser extent than the S5 and S6 school roll (-2.4%), and there were over 50,000 skills-based qualifications, awards and certificates achieved in 2017-18.
There is also encouraging evidence that outcomes for children and young people are improving year-on-year, and that the proportion of young people in the most deprived areas getting one or more qualifications at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6 (National 4, National 5, Highers and vocational qualifications) is increasing faster than those in the least deprived areas. In addition, almost 88% of school leavers in the most deprived areas were in a positive follow up destination in March 2018, compared with 83% in 2014.
However, we also know that more needs to be done to continue to improve outcomes for all our children and young people, and that we need to continue to focus on improving attainment in the year ahead. We must all work together to raise the bar and close the gap for all.
At national level, this Improvement Plan summarises the key evidence and identifies new improvement activity that the Scottish Government will be taking forward or supporting. While it is a national plan, the activity it contains has been informed primarily by local and school-level priorities drawn from the regional improvement plans produced by the 6 new Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs), as well as the 32 local authority 2018/19 improvement plans, which in turn have all been informed by improvement planning at individual school level. The national plan is, therefore, a summation of what schools across Scotland have told us they want to focus on in order to improve, informed by local consultation and evidence. The Plan has also been informed by the data in the NIF Interactive Evidence Report, findings from the Scottish Attainment Challenge and the recommendations from the ICEA.
The regional and local authority plans, informed by the school improvement plans, identified a number of common themes, which are picked up later in this plan under the relevant drivers of improvement:
- High quality experiences for children in early learning and childcare settings (School Improvement).
- Recognising the importance of early intervention in supporting young children's learning journeys (Assessment of Children's Progress).
- Sharing good practice on how the Scottish Attainment Challenge and Pupil Equity Funding is being used effectively to close the poverty-related attainment gap (Assessment of Children's Progress).
- Improving the pace and challenge for learners through consistency in the professional judgement of teachers. This should be supported by continuous staff development, including strengthening assessment and moderation, and sharing good pedagogical strategies (School Leadership, and Teacher Professionalism).
- Collaboration between teachers and practitioners across local authorities to develop skills to support professional learning, and drive innovation and improvement in learning and teaching (Teacher Professionalism).
- Building leadership capacity within schools in order to improve the learner journey, particularly at key transition stages such as the transition from primary to secondary school (School Leadership).
- Strengthening family engagement, to enable successful prevention and early intervention (Parental Engagement).
- Improving outcomes for our most vulnerable children and those with the most significant needs (including care experienced young people, those on the child protection register and those with significant Additional Support Needs) (Assessment of Children's Progress).
- Improved provision of timely support for children and young people with mental health needs to reduce the escalation of need (Assessment of Children's Progress).
What is clear from analysing these plans and the wider evidence is the centrality of Curriculum for Excellence, and that its four capacities, its principles and its values provide the foundation for high quality learning, teaching, and assessment. The plans demonstrate that this effective pedagogy and career–long professional learning are key to ensuring positive outcomes for children and young people.
Planning, including with learners, for longer term learning outcomes as well as short-term goals needs to be embedded within effective design and development of the curriculum, taking account of the values and ethos of the school. Ensuring the availability of a range of learning experiences well matched to learners' needs and interests is essential, as is effective use of a variety of assessment approaches to track progress and plan learning. These aspects are more likely to have a positive impact and deliver improvements than simply importing programmes or interventions. While these programmes and interventions may have worked well elsewhere, the local context will vary from school to school. Local authorities and RICs play a key role in enhancing and supporting curriculum development and learning, teaching and assessment in schools.
As well as drawing on the regional and local improvement plans and other evidence in developing this Plan, we have been listening carefully to all those involved in the Scottish education system to ensure that we are working in partnership with them when developing improvement activity.
An empowered and collaborative system
International evidence has shown that successful education systems are those where decisions about children and young people's education are made as close to them as possible. That is why our approach is to empower headteachers, teachers, parents, learners, and the wider school community to make the key decisions which affect the educational outcomes of children and young people. This need for empowerment was a common theme running through the recommendations from the ICEA, as was the need to strengthen collaboration at all levels of the system.
A think piece published by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) "Towards a Learning System; a new approach to raising standards for all in Scottish schools" also emphasised the shared ambition for an empowered system:
"At the heart of this endeavour is our desire to have a confident, reflective, self-improving school system where the responsibility for improvement is increasingly set at school rather than local authority level"
Our 2017 Empowering Schools consultation demonstrated clear agreement that meaningful empowerment at every level of the system is needed to achieve the improvement we all want for our children and young people. Consultation respondents felt that the culture change could be better and more quickly achieved without legislation. This was also supported by the ICEA, which recommended that the Scottish Government consider whether educational improvement could be achieved by a collaborative approach, rather than bringing forward legislation.
Following focused work with our local government partners and Education Scotland, in June 2018 we published a Joint Agreement setting out a shared ambition of empowerment and collaboration to improve outcomes for children and young people.
Reflecting this joint commitment to collaborative system leadership, three new working groups have been established to take a partnership approach to empowerment. The groups bring together representatives from teaching unions, headteacher associations, local and central government, parents and carers, the General Teaching Council for Scotland and Education Scotland. Together we are developing new guidance and resources to support the empowerment of learning communities across Scotland. This is complemented by additional partnership work underway to strengthen statutory and good practice guidance on parental involvement and engagement.
Empowerment also means improving how schools and early learning and childcare settings support children and young people to participate in their own learning and in the life and work of their school. In recognition of this, and as a long-term legacy from Year of Young People 2018, pupil participation will form a key aspect in the empowering schools reforms. Scottish Government and Education Scotland will continue to improve the participation of young people in the development of national policies affecting education.
Our six new RICs are bringing together and enhancing local authority, Education Scotland and other expertise, to strengthen educational support to schools. We are providing around £5 million directly to the Collaboratives in this school year, together with additional and dedicated expertise from Education Scotland, to enhance their development and support regional improvement activity. This will further assist each Regional Improvement Collaborative in supporting schools across Scotland to collaborate on improvement, share best practice and improve outcomes for pupils.
During 2019 local authorities and learning communities will work together to further develop a culture of empowerment and collaboration in their area. The support and opportunities available for school leaders to develop their leadership skills and collaborate for improvement will continue to grow in 2019. Education Scotland will further enhance the leadership support package for aspiring and existing school leaders. Aspiring headteachers will be supported to develop their leadership potential by the local authority and through national development programmes such as Into Headship. There will be new opportunities for middle leaders to develop leadership skills through new Education Scotland leadership programmes.
The actions set out later in this plan under each of the drivers of improvement explore how a culture of empowerment and collaboration will help to achieve the ambitions of the NIF.
Excellence and Equity
An empowered and highly effective leadership is key to ensuring the highest possible standards and expectations are shared across schools to deliver excellence and equity for all. The £750m Attainment Scotland Fund is already delivering results by empowering the teaching profession. Teachers and headteachers are taking radical, focused and innovative approaches to improve outcomes – because Pupil Equity Funding puts them in the driving seat.
The interim evaluation of the Attainment Scotland Fund showed that 78% of headteachers had already seen an improvement in attainment and wellbeing as a result of the funding, and nearly all headteachers (97%) expected to see further improvements in the coming five years.
The interim evaluation also suggests that the equity agenda has become embedded in schools' practice and ethos. The funding provided to schools via the Attainment Scotland Fund is considered by local authorities to be vital to closing the poverty-related attainment gap, whilst also driving practice in core activities that target the closure of the attainment gap. By the end of 2018, all nine local authorities receiving additional funding via the Attainment Scotland Fund will have been inspected by Education Scotland. To date, five of the inspection reports have been published. Of these, all have been evaluated as making good, or very good, progress in improving learning, raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
The evidence from the Attainment Scotland Fund is showing that high quality teaching practice and effective pedagogy are crucial to securing better outcomes for children and young people. This ties in with another of the ICEA's recommendations that the Scottish Government should focus on pedagogy at the centre of schools. The ICEA was concerned that there was a risk of becoming too focused on evidence-based interventions aimed at reducing the poverty-related attainment gap, without also consistently making sure that learning and teaching are at the forefront of everything that is being done to ensure excellence and equity in Scottish education.
As a result, Education Scotland is evolving to deliver direct advice, support, and guidance to schools in partnership with local authorities and RICs. Education Scotland is currently making the transition to a regional delivery model, with a collective and collaborative approach at national, regional and local levels. Education Scotland will evolve its approach to enhance how its education staff work alongside leaders and other frontline practitioners, motivating change and providing specialist support.
The themes of excellence and equity are also intrinsic to the report of the 15-24 Learner Journey Reviewwhich was published inMay 2018. We must make sure that every individual young person in Scotland can fulfil their potential. To maximise their talent, every young person needs the system to provide high-quality guidance, advice and support so that they can be sure they are making the right decisions about their education and skills in line with their aspirations and abilities. Equally, in order to ensure all young people have access to the choices that are right for them, we need the right balance and blend of learning options in our post-15 education and skills system – with parity of esteem between vocational and academic learning/pathways across the system as a whole. The report contains 17 recommendations to support this, building on and reinforcing the aims of Curriculum for Excellence and Developing the Young Workforce.
Health and Wellbeing
The ICEA also recommended that we do more to support inclusion in education. The Scottish approach to inclusion is already world-leading; our legislative and policy commitments are amongst the most extensive in the world. An inclusive approach affords all children and young people the opportunity to be a part of a community, boosting their mental health, emotional wellbeing and aiding the development of social skills. Scotland's inclusive approach celebrates diversity and allows all children and young people to develop an understanding and recognition of differences, contributing to the development of an increasingly inclusive, empathetic and more just society.
We want all children and young people to get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential, however, we are aware that we must improve the educational experience for all pupils. We have listened to the experiences of children and families about getting the support they need and will be taking action to secure more positive experiences for those receiving support.
This will include: improving consistency of support across Scotland, through improved guidance; building further capacity to deliver effective additional support; and improving career pathways and professional development, including new free training resources for school staff on inclusive practices. These strategic actions seek to support: improved consistency in the delivery of additional support for pupils and the implementation of mainstreaming; further capacity for schools and education authorities to deliver support; improved career paths for those working in additional support for learning; and support for continued professional development. These will be supported by a national summit early in 2019 which will bring together key stakeholders to reinvigorate the approach of implementation of additional support for learning.
We know that children's educational outcomes directly affect their opportunities in life, work and society. Support provided to enhance learning outcomes will ensure young people reach their future potential. Supporting children with complex additional support needs in learning also supports their ability to remain within their own communities in the longer term.
Learning in health and wellbeing is designed to ensure that children and young people develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes which they need for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing. We are bringing forward a wide range of actions to support children and young people's health and wellbeing. As part of our commitments on improving children and young people's mental health as part of the mental health strategy 2017-2027, we have undertaken a review of personal and social education. The review considers a range of issues including pastoral care, counselling services and the delivery of health and wellbeing in the context of personal and social education. The review has three phases and will conclude in December 2018, with a range of recommendations being made to Ministers on how to improve personal and social education. Work to deliver a suite of recommendations will commence in 2019.
As part of a range of actions taken across the Scottish Government to improve services for children and young people's mental health and wellbeing, we are committed to introducing counsellors in all secondary schools across Scotland. We have also committed to recruiting an additional 250 school nurses by 2022. The refocused school nursing role has a focus on prevention, early intervention and support for the most vulnerable children who are of school age. This commitment will be supported by training and support for those working in schools and education authorities to understand and respond effectively to children and young people's needs for support with their mental health and wellbeing.
We have also committed to implement a range of recommendations to support LGBTI inclusive education across Scotland. These include recommendations to improve practice and guidance for education staff and to increase awareness of LGBTI issues. They will ensure that all children and young people feel included, that their voice matters, and that they are an important part of a school's ethos and culture.
No child or young person should feel excluded and isolated because of who they are. No child or young person should be bullied for being who they are. That is why we have also strengthened the national approach to anti-bullying, to provide schools with more tools to identify and act on incidents of bullying. A new approach to recording and monitoring incidents of bullying will allow schools to develop interventions and preventions of particular instances of bullying, enabling schools to work with those pupils experiencing bullying and those exhibiting bullying behaviour. We have a greater understanding about the short and long term impact of bullying on children and young people's confidence, resilience, participation and attainment. We will continue to work with our key partners to address the impact of bullying, by further strengthening guidance and resources for everyone who works with children and young people, providing them with the tools to act quickly and efficiently. We will also continue to support the excellent work that our national anti-bullying service, respectme, provides to young people, teachers, parents and carers.
We are also moving forward with plans to introduce a brand new Health and Wellbeing Census, covering children from late primary through to secondary schools, starting in the 2019/20 academic year. This Census will cover all aspects of Health and Wellbeing for children and young people, which is defined in Scotland by the wellbeing indicators (Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included) that are an integral part of getting it right for every child (GIRFEC). GIRFEC is the national approach in Scotland to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of our children and young people by offering the right help at the right time from the right people. It supports them and their parent(s), and/or carers, to work in partnership with the services that can help them.
Early Learning and Childcare
We also need to harness the contribution that the enhanced early learning and childcare (ELC) offer can make to closing the attainment gap before children start school. The expansion of funded ELC from 600 to 1140 hours for all children from August 2020 and the earlier ELC offer for eligible two-year-olds has the potential to transform outcomes for children in the early years.
We know that the socio-economic gap in cognitive development opens up well before children start primary school. Narrowing this gap in the years before school must be part of the strategy to promote equity. Our aim is therefore to see ELC fully integrated with wider policy on improving attainment and closing the gap. ELC should therefore ensure a high quality experience for all children, which complements other early years and education policy to close the attainment gap.
Several studies have shown that high quality ELC can have a positive effect on the educational, cognitive, behavioural and social outcomes for children in both the short and long term, including those who are most deprived in terms of household income. Indeed, some research has found that the benefits of ELC are even greater for children from more disadvantaged families.
The quality of funded ELC is already good. Recently published data from the Care Inspectorate show that 91% of funded ELC providers achieve good or better evaluations on all four quality themes. To further embed and strengthen quality, we are currently implementing the actions set out in the ELC Quality Action Plan, which was published in October 2017. These actions include a strong focus on supporting the professional development of our early years educators. We have also developed a national standard for funded ELC providers, at the centre of which is a clear set of quality criteria that all settings delivering the funded hours will be required to meet from August 2020.
While we aim to do the best for every child, this does not mean doing the same for all children. Children experience ELC as good quality when it is responsive to their individual and varying circumstances. Not all children and families are in need of the same kind of professional support. Our ELC strategy for achieving greater equity in child outcomes is to ensure that the children who need it the most benefit from an enhanced ELC offer. This will involve an earlier offer for eligible two-year-old children and, from August 2018, access to support from an additional graduate-level practitioner for children attending nurseries serving the most disadvantaged areas.
Measuring the attainment gap
In the 2018 NIF and Improvement Plan, we set out our approach to measuring the poverty-related attainment gap between children and young people from the least and most disadvantaged communities. We identified 11 key measures to assess progress, and a further 15 sub-measures that reflect the key stages of the learner journey and the breadth of issues that can impact on attainment.
Ministers are committed to making demonstrable progress in closing the gap during the lifetime of this Parliament, and to substantially eliminate it in the next decade. In looking to achieve this, we need to see a significant difference within a short timeframe for each of the key measures, and so milestones need to provide a clear sense of what it is we are trying to accomplish, as well as the level of improvement that we want to see and by when. That is why we are also using stretch aims for each of the 11 key measures to assist the Scottish Government, local authorities and schools to develop and implement the most appropriate improvement activities to secure educational improvement for all children and young people in Scotland. We will be reporting on the stretch aims in the 2020 NIF.
At the moment, the evidence is demonstrating that the improvement activities being undertaken under each of the NIF drivers of improvement are helping to deliver a narrowing of the attainment gap across the key measures which have been assessed since the 2018 NIF and Improvement Plan was published. Of the 11 key measures, 9 are showing a narrowing of the gap; albeit due to a mixed underlying picture and to varying extents. For the other 2 key measures, one will not have any new data to compare until 2019, and the other cannot be compared directly as there has been a change in the data that has been collected. More detail on what the data is telling us is provided below under each measure.
27-30 month review (children showing no concerns across all domains)
In 2016/17, there was a change to the domains assessed by health visitors at a child's 27-30 month review.
Between April 2013 and March 2017, health visitors assessed children across nine domains at their review (speech, language and communication; attention; fine motor; gross motor; social; emotional; behavioural; vision; and hearing). Since April 2017, these nine domains became eight new domains (Speech, language and communication; Gross motor; Fine motor; Personal/social; Emotional/behavioural; Vision; Hearing; and Problem Solving).
As a result, this means that we cannot directly compare the figures in 2016/17 with previous years. It is not yet clear whether this change in the domains assessed at these reviews will have an impact on the 2017/18 results when they are published next year. Therefore, it is not yet clear whether the 2016/17 figures will be our new 'baseline', or whether this will in fact be the 2017/18 results.
HWB:Children total difficulties score (age 4-12)
The gap between children in the most deprived and least deprived areas has narrowed from 16 percentage points to 12 percentage points. However the reduction is due to an increase in the proportion of children from the least deprived areas with borderline or abnormal total difficulties score.
HWB:Children total difficulties score (age 13&15)
The data for this measure is taken from the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) which is carried out every two or three years. The data for SALSUS 2018 will be available next year.
Primary - Literacy (P1, P4, P7 combined)
Secondary - Literacy (S3, 3rd level or better)
Primary - Numeracy (P1, P4, P7 combined)
Secondary - Numeracy (S3, 3rd level or better)
The 2017/18 data (which are being published as Experimental Statistics) shows that children and young people from the least deprived areas performed better than those from the most deprived areas at all stages. The data also shows that the proportion of primary children assessed as achieving the expected level in both literacy and numeracy is slightly higher than was the case in 2016/17. This is particularly noticeable in P7. In S3, while achievement of Third Level was largely static, the proportion of S3 pupils assessed as achieving Fourth Level was slightly higher than in 2016/17. There was a slight narrowing of the gap between the least and most deprived areas across all four measures.
SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6 (1 or more on leaving school)
The current narrowing of the gap, based on school leaver attainment since 2015/16 is a mixed picture with reductions in the gap due partly to increasing attainment amongst some leavers, but also some decreases in attainment in leavers from the least deprived areas.
The gap at SCQF Level 4 (including National 4) has reduced due to a decrease in attainment of leavers from least deprived areas; the gap at SCQF Level 5 (including National 5) has reduced due to an increase in attainment of leavers from the most deprived areas; at SCQF Level 6 (including Higher), the gap has reduced due to a decrease in the proportion of leavers from least deprived areas attaining one or more passes at SCQF Level 6 and an increase for most deprived leavers.
The participation measure shows that the proportion of 16-19 year olds participating in education, training or employment continues to increase in 2018, and that there continues to be a narrowing of the gap between the proportion of 16-19 year olds in the most deprived areas participating in education, training and employment compared with 16-19 year olds in the least deprived areas. This narrowing of the gap is due to the proportion of 16-19 year olds participating in education, training or employment increasing more for those 16-19 year olds in the most deprived areas than for those in the least deprived areas.
Summary tables of the key measures are set out below, while the 15 sub-measures can be seen in the NIF Interactive Evidence Report.
Executive Summary: Early years, health and wellbeing
As set out above, for the 27-30 month review there is only data for 2016/17 as there has been a change in the data that has been collected since April 2017.
For the HWB: children total difficulties data, there will be no new data to compare on children aged 13 and 15 until 2019.
Executive Summary: Broad General Education
Executive Summary: Senior Phase and Participation Measure
Email: Elaine Kelley