National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan: 2020

Sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education and the improvements that need to be made to help deliver those priorities.

Introduction, vision and key priorities


The 2020 National Improvement Framework (NIF) and Improvement Plan replaces last year’s NIF and Improvement Plan. Together with the 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 these have been taken into account in the drafting of this year’s NIF and Improvement Plan. Following the review process in autumn 2019, there was a clear consensus that the NIF priorities and drivers of improvement remained relevant, and that significant change would not be appropriate. Indeed the International Council of Education Advisers, at its meeting in September 2019, said that it was important to have a period of consolidation and stability to ensure the improvement work that is being undertaken across the Scottish education system has time to become fully embedded.

One issue which was raised during the review, was the need to strengthen the voice of young people in Scottish education and to increase their participation in decisions which affect their lives. There was also continued support for maintaining the increased focus in the NIF on early learning and childcare and health and wellbeing, as these were particularly important for delivering the skills required for learning, life, and work that form part of the four capacities of CfE:

The need to meet the aspirations of our children and young people drives the improvement activities outlined in the 2020 NIF and Improvement Plan. These activities 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. These recommendations continue to inform the 2020 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.

In order to achieve this, we are working with our partners to develop 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



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