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.

Drivers of improvement: what the evidence is telling us and the action we will take

The key drivers of improvement will continue to provide a focus and structure for gathering evidence to identify where further improvements can be made and for ensuring we have the evidence sources to contribute to our priorities, and to minimise unintended consequences. They all remain equally important and the links and connections across these key areas are essential to enable continuous improvement.

The following sections summarise what we know is working well under each of these drivers and the ongoing and new improvement activity. This has been informed by the evidence we have gathered for the NIF Interactive Evidence Report and softer information from our day to day interaction with schools, practitioners and other partners.

A more detailed explanation of the evidence gathered under each driver, what it is telling us and improvement activity resulting from this is set out at Annex A.

School leadership

What is this?
The quality and impact of leadership within schools – at all levels and roles.

Why is this important?
Leadership is recognised as a key driver of the success of any school. Leaders at all levels who are empowered and collaborative, and who empower others to take ownership of their own learning and teaching in a collaborative way, have a strong track record of ensuring the highest quality of learning and teaching. This in turn helps to ensure that all children and young people achieve the best possible outcomes. Gathering evidence on the quality of school leadership will help us to identify and share what works, and provide support and intervention where leadership needs to improve.

How will this help to achieve excellence and equity for all children and young people?
Evidence indicates that in the most effective systems, decisions about learning and teaching are made as close to the child or young person as possible, drawing on the expertise of the professionals who know them best and listening to the views of the child, young person and their family. School leaders play a critical role in creating a culture of empowerment and collaboration where curricular and learner pathways are designed and developed to meet the needs of children and young people. Through evaluating leadership and, crucially, leadership of change, we will be able to focus on where leadership action is delivering excellent outcomes for all children and young people and closing the attainment gap through targeted intervention. We will also have evidence on the extent to which the professional skills and competences of school leaders are being developed and maintained.

What is the evidence telling us?
Our education system has a growing number of empowered and motivated school leaders who engage in career-long professional learning to further develop their leadership skills, and who are keen to make a difference not just at school level, but across the wider system. This demonstrates the commitment of our school leaders to their own professional learning and the continuous pursuit of excellence and equity for all children and young people. Teachers are looking for new opportunities to develop and diversify their careers through new career pathways and leadership opportunities. In many schools, staff are supported by senior leaders to take on a range of leadership roles, and are working together to lead and implement improvement priorities.

Inspection evidence shows that most schools are satisfactory or better at leadership of change.

Improvement priorities for the year ahead
A key focus will be to continue the work to support and encourage the empowerment of school leaders and school communities, and to create a culture of collaborative and system leadership.

The Headteachers’ Charter and new national guidance on an empowered system will be finalised to support local areas in ensuring that decisions are made as close to the child or young person as possible, in a collaborative and collegiate way. We will continue to work with partners to raise awareness of the guidance, helping to embed it in schools and local authorities, and we will continue to measure progress so we can work together, across the education system, to address challenges where they arise.

School leaders drive and promote a culture of professional enquiry, self-reflection and evidence-based practice. Support for the Into Headship Programme will form part of our ongoing commitment to fund professional learning for teachers, including at school leadership level. More school leaders will have the opportunity to develop values-based leadership by participating in Columba 1400 Headteacher Leadership Academies.

Leadership does not just happen in formal leadership and management roles. Teachers are leaders of learning and their classroom practice makes a huge difference to children and young people’s outcomes. Education Scotland’s Teacher Leadership programme has been developed to support classroom teachers to become confident in leading classroom practice in their context, and to develop against the GTCS Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning. A central feature of the programme is enquiring into an aspect of the teacher’s classroom practice, developing their practice and reflecting on the learning arising in terms of their own leadership and for their learners.

The Independent Panel on Career Pathways has been considering how we can develop more diverse and exciting career pathways for teachers that will create more opportunities to enhance leadership skills. The Panel reported to the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers early in 2019 and among its recommendations are the need to establish a lead teacher role, and a national model for sabbaticals for teachers. These will be taken forward over the next few years.

Case Study

Harris Academy, Dundee City Council

Harris Academy is committed to promoting leadership at all levels. The aims of the school are to build a learning community where staff and pupils work together to successfully nurture and develop the potential of all.

The new Harris Academy building opened in August 2016, representing a new chapter for the school. Harris Academy now comprises an amalgamation of pupils and staff from another local secondary, and the former Harris Academy. Headteacher Barry Millar commented: “The highly successful transition is testament to the leadership culture which is embedded within all levels of the school. Distributive leadership is at the heart of everything that we do.” Staff and pupils have been instrumental in developing the collective vision and values for the new school context.

A key feature of how the school is embedding its approach to school leadership is through supporting the engagement of staff with Professional Learning and Leadership opportunities. This is demonstrated by the commitment from the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to engage with the Into Headship Programme. In order to build capacity and empowerment within the school, all members of the SLT have, or are, engaged with the Masters level learning programme, delivered by the University of Dundee. The SLT thus model their commitment to lifelong learning. An additional strand of this empowerment approach is to inspire staff across the school to engage with Education Scotland’s Middle Leaders programme.

The Into Headship programme supports participants’ ability to develop and deepen their ability to critically reflect and enquire; develop their strategic leadership and management practice and, significantly, to design and implement a strategic change initiative to strengthen the school’s capacity for improvement. The impact of the engagement of staff with the programme seems to have been hugely beneficial to the school and is one of the key factors that has supported a culture of improvement, focusing specifically, on learning and teaching and relationships.

The Into Headship programme has enabled members of the SLT to carry out a needs based analysis to identify areas for strategic change. This has been exemplified by a Depute Headteacher, taking a strategic approach to ensure maximum impact of the Pupil Equity Funding to close the poverty related attainment gap through a distributive leadership approach. This supported building capacity in middle leaders to take forward initiatives and interventions. This targeted and considered approach to distributive leadership is an example of the collective vision of the SLT, and is a measured and sustainable method to embrace national and local priorities within Harris Academy.

The supportive conditions within Harris Academy have allowed leadership to flourish beyond the school, for example a Depute Headteacher is currently undertaking a secondment to support systems leadership within the Tayside Regional Improvement Collaborative.

Teacher professionalism

What is this?
Teacher professionalism demonstrates the overall quality of the teaching workforce in Scotland and the impact of their professional learning on children and young people’s progress and achievement.

Why is this important?
The quality of teaching is a key factor in improving children and young people’s learning and the outcomes they achieve. In Scotland we have a highly professional, graduate teaching workforce with high professional standards set by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). It is important that we maintain our teachers’ professionalism, and support them to engage in career-long professional learning to further increase their skills. The focus within the National Improvement Framework is on teacher professionalism, but we recognise that many other people make significant contributions to children and young people’s learning and development.

How will this help to achieve excellence and equity for all children and young people?
There is a strong link between teachers’ professional skills and competences and the quality of children and young people’s learning experiences. Ensuring the highest professional standards for all teachers in Scotland will help to ensure the highest standards and expectations for all children and young people. Consistent, well-moderated teachers’ professional judgement data on achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels in literacy and numeracy will help us to focus accurately on the difference in attainment between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people, and take further action as a result. We want all new teachers to develop as enquiring, collaborative, and empowered professionals who are highly confident in teaching literacy and numeracy, supporting health and wellbeing, using technology and data effectively to enhance learning and teaching, and ensuring equality. This is critical to ensure the strongest possible progression in learning for all children and young people.

What is the evidence telling us?
Our teachers are highly committed, motivated and engaged in their own professional learning. We know from evidence gathered in previous years that the level of engagement in professional learning is increasing. More than three quarters of active teachers are now engaged in the five-yearly cycle of Professional Update, and the number of teachers being awarded GTCS Professional Recognition of their expertise is high and increasing year‑on‑year. This illustrates the teaching profession’s commitment to professional learning, and the importance of continuing to recognise and celebrate the effort teachers make to enhance their skills.

Evidence suggests a strong appetite for a wide range of professional learning amongst teachers, including Masters level learning. In 2018/19, 766 teachers benefited from SCQF Level 11 professional learning through their local teacher education partnership.

The evidence around initial teacher education (ITE) is developing. The role of ITE is to ensure those entering the profession have the appropriate skills to teach, particularly in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. The introduction of a new self-evaluation framework, developed in partnership between Education Scotland, the Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE) and GTCS is being used to support universities to demonstrate the quality of learning and teaching in these priority areas and identify where more support is required. This work will be complemented by the findings from a five year longitudinal study already underway, which is intended to provide a detailed insight and understanding of how effectively ITE is preparing newly qualified teachers for the classroom. The Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education (MQuITE) project is a collaboration between all eleven teacher education universities and the GTCS, and is tracking a cohort of newly qualified teachers, who graduated in 2018 and 2019, through their first five years in the profession. We expect the findings to contribute significantly to the ongoing development, delivery and improvement of quality teacher education in Scotland and help to ensure that it remains able to adapt to the changing needs of our children and young people.

Improvement priorities for the year ahead
The evidence demonstrates a strong appetite amongst teachers for professional learning. In 2020, the Scottish Government will consider how the support and learning for probationer teachers can be strengthened to provide greater consistency towards achieving full professional registration with the GTCS. Working with key stakeholders, we will take steps to identify and agree what additional areas of professional learning are needed to improve the support available to post probation teachers.

In order to further support teacher empowerment, enhancements to the Teacher Leadership Programme include an additional regional contact day, twilight workshops (offered on a regional basis) and participants of the Supporting Teacher Leadership programme attending the final ‘sharing the learning’ summit.

Attendance at the twilight workshops will be monitored and the sessions evaluated to ensure both the content and concept are useful for participants. The evaluation will be completed in time for the next cohort in August 2020.

In its new regional capacity, Education Scotland will support professional learning priorities at regional as well as at national level. Increased regional working by the Professional Learning and Leadership team within Education Scotland, and delivery of the learning resources on a regional basis, should help to raise awareness across Scotland of the online resource on professional learning and leadership provided by Education Scotland.

Case Study

Killermont Primary School, East Dunbartonshire

Killermont Primary School in East Dunbartonshire is committed to ensuring that staff at all levels are involved in career long professional learning. Early years and school staff have taken part in leadership courses at local and national level. This has included a teacher taking part in the Teacher Leadership Programme delivered by Education Scotland (previously SCEL).

Colin Henderson, who is currently a Primary 6/7 class teacher at Killermont, initially became involved in the Teacher Leadership Programme because he strongly believes in looking for ways to improve his practise to benefit the children he works with. This included a wish to undertake a greater amount of professional reading and further develop practitioner enquiry through the Teacher Leadership Programme.

Colin found the experience of looking at previous work undertaken by participants in the Teacher Leadership Programme invaluable, as this gave him a starting point in developing his own approach to enquiry. He built on professional reading and his own learning experience during the Teacher Leadership Programme to develop a Pupil Enquiry Based Learning approach with his class. This gave pupils more freedom and flexibility in their learning and a greater level of personalisation and choice. There was also greater and richer pupil voice in his class – an idea for a lesson or activity could be brought to life much quicker as a result of the enquiring approach.

On a personal level Colin feels that his participation in the Teacher Leadership Programme has had a major impact on his teaching style and he is still involved in the programme as a ‘Critical Friend’. This is allowing him to pass on his knowledge and experience to colleagues.

In terms of impact on the learners in Colin’s class, they now have a wider range of learning opportunities, have a greater say in their learning and as a result are now more enthusiastic learners. There have also been specific examples of children benefiting from his involvement in the programme. The new approach gives Colin more time for direct teaching for pupils who require additional support and allows more able pupils to be challenged. All children are now more motivated and have a positive attitude to learning.

Parental engagement

What is this?
This covers parental and family engagement in the learning of children and young people, as well as parental involvement in the life and work of school. Parental engagement focuses on ways in which parents, carers and families can best be supported to develop the skills and confidence to engage in, and encourage, their children’s learning in school and in everyday life. Schools and partners can play a vital role in supporting families to do this effectively and with confidence.

Parental involvement includes parental representation in decision-making, collaboration between parents and educators in matters such as school improvement planning, using the skills of parents and carers to enrich the curriculum, and communication between home and early learning and childcare settings and school. It is about the partnerships and links between home and school, and the opportunities for parents and families to get involved in activities in a school or early learning and childcare setting.

Why is this important?
Research shows that when parents and carers engage in their children’s learning, and when children and young people live in a supportive home learning environment, it improves children and young people’s attainment and achievement. Family learning encourages family members to learn together, fostering positive attitudes to lifelong learning. We want to improve and increase the ways in which parents, carers and families can work with teachers and partners to support their children and young people. We also want to increase the voice of parents and carers in leading improvements within schools. Parental involvement ensures that parents can help to shape the ethos, activity and priorities for the school in partnership with school leaders.

How will this help to achieve excellence and equity for all children and young people?
Parental and family engagement is a key factor in helping all children and young people achieve the highest standards whilst reducing inequity and closing the attainment gap. The ICEA has emphasised the importance of ensuring that parental engagement is embedded in high school as well as primary school, particularly in the senior phase. International evidence has shown that parental engagement is powerful and liberating, and is crucial to releasing achievement potential, and closing the poverty related attainment gap. Our 2016 review shows that family learning helps close the attainment gap through breaking the inter-generational cycles of deprivation and low attainment. Its effects can provide lasting impacts and improved outcomes. The information that we gather will inform our knowledge of where parental engagement and family learning and involvement is strong and where further attention is required. This will include monitoring levels of parental engagement and involvement in, and satisfaction with, learning provision in different communities.

What is the evidence telling us?
The evidence from the NIF Interactive Evidence Report indicates that overall satisfaction levels with schools amongst the general population (measured via the Scottish Household Survey) have fallen over the last six years. However, the same survey also shows that satisfaction levels amongst parents appear to be higher than amongst the general population.

In addition to this survey, before school inspections take place, HM Inspectors issue questionnaires to parents and carers, which then give an indication of parents and carers’ satisfaction with various aspects of the school to inform the inspection. Pre-inspection evidence (albeit with important caveats about the representativeness of the data) indicates there are high levels of confidence amongst parents about approaching the school with questions, and that the school gave them advice on how to support their child’s learning at home. It also indicates that most parents feel they are being kept informed about the work of the Parent Council.

A new Parental Involvement and Engagement Census was piloted in May/June 2019. The Census was rolled out to local authority primary, secondary and special schools, and 24 local authorities took part (with the remaining 8 authorities using their own surveys). Initial analysis from the national level data indicates that key strengths include the extent to which schools are seen to be approachable, the way that school staff respond to issues and their communication to parents. There is further room for improvement in involving parents in decisions and strategies from the outset and in involving fathers. In addition, we need to re-focus our efforts on finding new and better ways for secondary schools to involve parents and support parents’ engagement in learning.

As part of the development of the “Learning Together” National Action Plan, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland conducted in-depth engagement with key parental organisations, and we continue to engage with these organisations through our Learning Together steering group and national network on parental engagement. Key priorities include: improving the support to parents to ensure they have the opportunity to become more involved in the life and work of their children’s early learning and childcare setting or school; better partnerships between practitioners, parents and families; getting the right support in place so that parents can engage in their child’s learning; expanding access to family learning opportunities which meet participants needs; improving the quality of all communication between practitioners, staff, parents and families; improving practice and approach in secondary and; enhancing the skills of leaders, front-line practitioners and support staff.

Improvement priorities for the year ahead
Key improvement activity in 2020 will be taken forward across 13 key goals as identified in the joint Scottish Government/COSLA “Learning Together” National Action plan.

Following the successful pilot of the 2018/19 Parental Involvement and Engagement Census, we intend asking all local authorities and grant-aided schools to undertake a Parental Involvement and Engagement Census in the 2020/21 academic year, and every two years thereafter.

There were a number of key actions that came out of the new census including the need to review and strengthen statutory guidance relating to the 2006 Scottish Schools Parental Involvement Act, and to continue to refresh the content of Education Scotland’s ParentZone Scotland website. In addition, Education Scotland will work with the Regional Improvement Collaboratives, local authorities, practitioners, early learning and childcare settings, schools, relevant partners and stakeholder groups during 2020/21 to help them further develop approaches to parental involvement, parental engagement, learning at home and family learning.

There will also be regular Learning Together National Network meetings to bring together practitioners, academics, researchers and policymakers who have been identified as ‘champions’ with a view to sharing good practice and expertise, making new connections and reviewing evidence of what is working well. The aim of the network is to improve the connections between policy, research and practice.

Case Study

Kirsty McConnachie, Depute Headteacher, Beattock Primary

At Beattock Primary and Nursery, we understand the importance of creating opportunities for our parents/carers to become involved in activities where they could learn together with their children, which would promote positive attitudes towards lifelong learning whilst increasing parent voice and shaping ethos.

We secured a variety of additional funding targeted at engaging families, particularly in the early years, through the Scottish Attainment Challenge, Food for Thought, and local community funding. Interventions to promote family learning were chosen in line with an analysis of the needs of the local community. We created opportunities for families to learn together which were carefully planned to be enjoyable and accessible to parents, and to empower them to contribute to learning for the whole family.

Through self-evaluation and reflection, stakeholder surveys, focus groups, informal and interactive self-evaluation wall displays and chats, it was identified that parents did not feel valued as partners in their children’s learning.

A variety of opportunities for families to learn together through effective targeted interventions including:

  • ​Successful baby and toddler group which has provided support for families through modelling effective parenting and play, interacting with parents and their children, and recognising and supporting good parenting. Feedback from parents has been very positive and has led to continuation of targeted programmes.
  • Improved relationships with parents through home visits, care plan meetings and ‘Tea and Toast’ sessions.
  • Building capacity of parents through Stay ‘n’ Play sessions, Busy Bags, Maths Bags, policy contributions, Big Cook Little Cook sessions and Archie’s Adventures Bag.
  • Parents have been empowered to develop and lead various projects including: ​Maths and Busy Bags; Book Club; Craft Club; Breakfast Club and Toy Library.
  • Effective use of the school’s nurture hub including targeted interventions for literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing and extended links with parents and families to support learning.


  • Opportunities for families to learn together are enjoyable, accessible and contribute to learning for the whole family.
  • Increased parental engagement and confidence with 100% positive feedback of family learning activities.
  • The crucial role of parents in supporting their child’s education, development and emotional wellbeing is well recognised and parents feel valued as partners.
  • Reduced levels of isolation, stress and anxiety for adults and children (HMIe Report, June 2018).

2018 Stakeholder Surveys evidenced: 100% of parents agreed that the school organises activities for parents and children to learn together; they felt comfortable approaching the school with suggestions, questions or problems; they felt the school gave them advice on how they can support their children’s learning at home and overall, were happy with the school.

Assessment of children’s progress

What is this?
Assessment of children and young people’s progress includes a range of evidence on what children and young people learn and achieve throughout their education and how well this prepares them for life beyond school. This includes achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels, skills, qualifications and other awards, and achievement of positive and sustained destinations. Progress in learning for children and young people with complex additional support needs is evaluated at an individual level, through agreed plans and personalised next steps.

Why is this important?
We all need more robust and consistent evidence which will help us in improving health and wellbeing, raising attainment and closing the poverty related attainment gap. We need to know the size of the attainment gap at different ages and stages, across Scotland, in order to take the right action to close it, and we need to know whether the attainment gap is narrowing over time in order to know whether the actions we are taking are the right ones. The annual collection of teachers’ professional judgement data on the achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels, and the use of national standardised assessments, will lead to more consistent assessment approaches within the broad general education. Other important measures within this driver include positive destinations and the quality of career information and guidance available to children and young people.

How will this help to achieve excellence and equity for all children?
Data gathered on children and young people’s progress is essential to achieving excellence and equity. Improved data on children and young people’s progress at key stages, including differences between those from the least and most deprived areas, will allow for planning further interventions to ensure that all children and young people achieve as well as they can. The quality of career information, advice and guidance and monitoring positive destinations will tell us about how successful young people are when they leave school. This will also tell us about the choices young people make, and the difference in the levels of positive destinations for young people from the most and least disadvantaged backgrounds. This data will help teachers to identify areas where good practice exists and which high-impact interventions should be shared. This is equally important for children and young people who experience barriers to learning caused by additional support needs.

What is the evidence telling us?
The data being collected on children’s progress continues to help inform a shared understanding at local and national level on areas where focused action is required to reduce the gap in attainment and health and wellbeing between children and young people from the most and least deprived areas. The evidence being gathered also confirms that teachers are becoming increasingly confident about making judgements on achievement of a CfE level, and the use of national standardised assessments is helping to support consistency in the approach to assessment within the broad general education. Almost all of the sample schools inspected for the NIF by Education Scotland were evaluated as satisfactory or better in ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion; and latest statistics continue to show positive trends in the numbers of school leavers going on to positive destinations.

Improvement priorities for the year ahead
Improving literacy and numeracy, particularly amongst those learners vulnerable to poorer outcomes, remains the key priority. Improvement activities in the school years will continue to focus on the quality and consistency of data collections for attainment and health and wellbeing, as well as on ensuring that support for learning, teaching and assessment is provided to school leaders and practitioners through the RICs.

Data literacy amongst teaching professionals will also continue to remain a key focus over the coming year and the use of the Insight Senior Phase Benchmarking Tool and the BGE Benchmarking Tool will provide the means for supporting this activity. The priority now is to allow these improvement tools and approaches to become embedded and to avoid further changes which could increase workload for teachers.

There is growing evidence from the user review of the second year of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) that the information generated by the assessments and reports is being used to plan effective next steps in learning. This, in turn, is giving teachers more confidence in assessing children's progress, with a more consistent understanding of the standards expected of CfE levels in literacy and numeracy.

An independent review of the SNSA at P1 was carried out in 2019 led by Mr David Reedy. Mr Reedy recommended that the P1 SNSA should continue, subject to a number of modifications and enhancements. Mr Reedy’s report makes a number of recommendations for action, primarily for the Scottish Government, in order to deliver those modifications and enhancements. The Scottish Government has published a document “National Standardised Assessment Improvement Activity Plan” which summarises the action that the Scottish Government (working with key partners as appropriate) plans to take forward during the 2019/20 school session.

The Scottish Government has also commissioned an independent review of our Senior Phase. The purpose of the review will be to explore further how Curriculum for Excellence is being implemented for young people in S4-S6 across the country, and to identify any improvements that might be made.

We are mindful of the need for stability in the system after several years of change – the national qualifications themselves are not the focus of the review.

Case Study

South Lanarkshire Council

In South Lanarkshire, promoted staff from 4 secondary schools, Duncanrig, Calderglen High, St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High and Strathaven Academy have worked closely together to create a very effective BGE Moderation Collaborative. This work has been led by the acting Depute Headteacher at Duncanrig, who was part of the QAMSO Literacy programme in 2016. Their aims were to develop a collaborative and systematic approach to improve teaching, learning and assessment in the BGE, as well as a shared understanding of standards that would raise expectations of young people and staff and deliver excellence and equity.

The Collaborative was supported by a retired Headteacher and educational consultant, who developed the model for change, and provided ongoing training and support. The schools provided time and support to empower staff to lead learning in their own subject area through a collaborative approach with subject colleagues from across the four schools. The moderation cycle was used to support professional dialogue and empower staff to explore ways they could reduce workload.

Giving staff the time for professional learning and meaningful collaboration was key to building their capacity to lead learning. The resources on the Moderation Hub were used to deliver two days training to middle leaders from each school in all subject areas with a focus on embedding good practice in assessment. Whole staff training was also delivered by the DHTs in school, and time devoted to moderation activities within departments across the schools during collegiate time.

This was followed by two further days of supported collaboration where colleagues worked in subject teams on areas of agreed development, and prepared for a moderation event engaging all staff. It was crucial that staff had ownership of this process to allow them to identify areas of priority for their departments. Each subject area chose a different focus for moderation. In May 2019 every member of staff was involved in a range of moderation activities with their subject colleagues from the other schools. The event was evaluated very positively by the staff involved.

The impact of this work has already had significant impact including:

  • Shared approaches to high level holistic planning of learning, teaching and assessment developed.
  • Subject networks established and an enhanced range of CLPL activities for all staff.
  • Collaborative approaches to self-evaluation and planning across 4 schools.
  • Enhanced capacity and capability of staff to confidently lead learning in the BGE.
  • Improvements in the validity and reliability of teacher assessment judgements made regarding the progress of learners.
  • Enhanced opportunities for young people to understand their strengths and next steps in learning and to take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Shared approaches to monitoring and evaluating the impact of this work on young people was developed and is now being implemented across the four schools.

This year all middle leaders will have five further days of supported collaboration. Every department will provide exemplification of achievement of a level for a borderline candidate to be moderated in May 2020. Ongoing work to improve the learning, teaching and assessment and reduce workload continues.

This model is now being rolled out to other schools in South Lanarkshire, and the acting DHT from Duncanrig is leading two further collaborative groups involving twelve schools in Clydesdale and Hamilton and Rutherglen, adapting the model as required to suit the context of the schools involved. All schools involved have made a long term commitment to the work to ensure maximum impact.

School improvement

What is this?
The overall quality of education provided by each school in Scotland and its effectiveness in driving further improvement.

Why is this important?
School improvement focuses on the quality of education, including learning, teaching and assessment, as well as the quality of the partnerships that are in place to support children and young people with their broader needs. These are essential elements to raise attainment for all children and young people and close the poverty related attainment gap. We have a good education system in Scotland, with schools achieving good outcomes for children and young people. We want to continue to improve this so that more children and young people experience very good and excellent education services, delivered by self-improving, empowered schools and key partners such as community learning and development professionals.

How will this help to achieve excellence and equity for all children and young people?
Evaluating learning, teaching and assessment and the quality of what goes on in classrooms will tell us how good the experience is for children and young people, as we strive towards excellence for all. We know that for children and young people from the most deprived backgrounds, the gap in learning can develop from a young age. Evaluating school improvement and how schools work with partners will help us to focus on early and sustained intervention, and support for children and their families. School inspection, school self-evaluation and local authority reporting on attainment and achievement will tell us how well schools are achieving equity for all children and young people. This will include the school’s success at raising attainment for all, whilst closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people. We expect that this self-evaluation will be carried out increasingly with partners and other services. Data on improving attendance and reducing exclusions are critical factors in ensuring that children and young people’s time at school and their opportunities to succeed are maximised.

What is the evidence telling us?
Almost all of the sample schools inspected by Education Scotland for the NIF in 2018/19 were evaluated as satisfactory or better on ‘learning, teaching and assessment’, and most were evaluated as being satisfactory or better on raising attainment and achievement. Approaches for assessing and monitoring children and young people’s progress across the broad general education are improving. Staff are using a broader range of assessment evidence to evaluate children and young people’s progress in their learning. However, there is more work to be done to ensure greater account is taken of assessment evidence when planning learning and teaching.

Overall, schools have gained confidence and knowledge in identifying the poverty related attainment gap in their local context. Almost all schools have planned interventions in place using Attainment Scotland Funding. Schools should continue to improve approaches to identifying outcomes and measures to enable them to evaluate the impact of their approaches on closing the poverty related attainment gap. They should work with local partners, including colleges, employers and community learning and development to help deliver improvement.

Improvement priorities for the year ahead
We will be increasing the focus of our improvement activity in ELC. We have introduced a new National Standard that all funded providers will be required to meet from August 2020, a key element of which is a requirement to achieve good or better in all four Care Inspectorate evaluation themes.

We will also continue to focus on supporting leaders and practitioners, through regional working to further develop their skills to deliver professional learning for others, to drive innovation and improvement in learning and teaching, to use data to raise attainment and close the poverty related attainment gap, and to continue to improve the capacity of staff to self-evaluate for improvement. Working in partnership with local government, Regional Improvement Collaboratives and Education Scotland, we will aim to ensure that our education empowerment reforms strengthen and support collaborative working across the system. This includes extending the reach, accessibility and impact of collaborative working across school, local, regional and national levels. These reforms are vital to strengthening professional practice and self-knowledge to ensure that Scotland’s Curriculum is enhanced and developed. This will be achieved through teachers and headteachers being empowered and supported to collaborate and share innovation and best practice in implementing the curriculum for their learners.

In addition, HM Inspectors of Education will publish a thematic inspection report focusing on highly effective practice in using assessment within the BGE to improve learning and teaching. The report will be published January 2020.

Case study

Matt Reid, Education Support Officer, Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeen City’s Young Leaders of Learning (YLL) Programme maximises pupil engagement and leadership by ensuring that pupils (primary and secondary) are actively involved in reciprocal visits to other schools to identify what is working well and areas for improvement. It also promotes ways that pupils can be involved in school self-evaluation for improvement in their own schools, and can become more familiar with the language and processes of school improvement.

In year one, the YLL programme involved 3 secondary schools and 16 primary schools with up to 8 pupils from each school trained as YLLs. Schools worked in partnership to explore the theme of ‘Relationships’ through a number of pupil-led activities. Consequently, effective practice from ‘How Good is OUR School’ is becoming embedded in a cycle of learner led school improvement activity.

Another key feature of the YLL Programme has been its collaboration with Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland (Sparqs). Sparqs is an organisation that promotes student engagement in the quality of learning and teaching in Scotland's universities, colleges and schools. They worked closely to develop and deliver training to all the selected YLL.

Some immediate benefits noted are outlined below:


  • improved communication, social skills, confidence and extended friendships
  • improved playground / lunch time experiences; improvement initiatives run by senior pupils; calmer lunchtimes


  • professional dialogue with colleagues in other establishments and extended to work on moderation
  • most schools progressed some school improvement changes including: raising awareness of particular policies and involving other learners in leading improvements
  • all schools reported strengthened learner participation in classes and in the decision making of the school
  • all school improvement plans represented the follow up actions from reciprocal visits or improved learner participation
  • in a few schools pupils have written their own action plans

Together with pupils from Harlaw Academy, we delivered a joint presentation at the Scottish Learning Festival which focused on sharing information about the programme and our experiences in Aberdeen. Pupils provided testimonies about their experiences of the programme and its impact.

We are very pleased with the culture of school improvement. Crucially, schools have found that participation in the YLL programme has encouraged them to reflect on how they involve pupils as agents of change in school improvement, and to adopt a more robust, strategic approach aligned to the empowered system. This degree of meaningful engagement with children and young people is representative of our partnership commitment to becoming a Unicef accredited Child Friendly City and a place where children and young people have a meaningful say in decisions, services and actions that shape their lives.

Performance information

What is this?
All of the information and data we need to get a full picture of how well Scottish education is improving. We will gather together and analyse the data collected from each of the other key drivers of improvement.

Why is this important?
Evidence suggests that we must build a sound understanding of the range of factors that contribute to a successful education system. This is supported by international evidence which confirms there is no single measure that will provide a full picture of performance. We want to use a balanced range of measures to evaluate Scottish education and take action to improve.

How will this help to achieve excellence and equity for all children and young people?
Through the NIF and the Interactive Evidence Report, we will build a picture of progress across the drivers and towards our key priorities. Analysis of the evidence gathered will help identify where things are working well, and approaches that could be shared as good practice. It will also highlight areas for further improvement and where action is required. This activity will have a specific focus on excellence and equity and will inform school, local authority, regional and national improvement planning. It will also be used to inform policy development and decisions about priorities moving forward, including the allocation of resources and support.

What is the evidence telling us?
The NIF Interactive Evidence Report provides an overview of what we know about Scottish education and the context in which our children and young people learn. It brings together available current evidence on achievement, attainment, health and wellbeing and the wider education system, with a specific focus on the differences between children living in the most and least deprived areas. As it is an online interactive tool, stakeholders are able to interact with the evidence available and (where possible) to drill further down into the evidence.

For example, users can investigate whether improvement in the key NIF priority measures (e.g. achievement of CfE levels, school leaver qualifications) is happening not only at a national level (as was possible to ascertain using previous NIF Evidence Reports), but also at local authority level, both in terms of whether trends show an improvement over time and whether the poverty related attainment gap is closing. This is in line with our intention to be transparent and open with evidence, to highlight whether improvement is happening and inform further improvement activity.

Improvement priorities for the year ahead
The diverse range of data being collected through the NIF has emphasised the importance of supporting practitioners to use data intelligently at all levels of the system to help drive improvement.

In the year ahead we will continue to administer the Challenge Authority, Schools Programme, Care Experienced Children and Young People and Pupil Equity funds as well as the National Programmes, supporting schools, local authorities and third sector organisations to close the poverty related attainment gap with up to £182m from the Attainment Scotland Fund.

The Scottish Government and Education Scotland will continue to work in partnership with local authorities, schools and other key stakeholders to facilitate, broker and support action to maximise progress in reducing the poverty related attainment gap. A five point maximising progress plan has been jointly developed by the Scottish Government and Education Scotland to facilitate this, and is set out in more detail in Annex A.

Case study

Fife Council

In Fife, all primary, secondary, special schools and early years centres participate within either a Learning Partnership (LP) or Extended Learning Partnership (ELP) each school session. These are structured to support establishments to constantly seek to improve through self-evaluation activities focusing on improving outcomes for children and young people.

LPs and ELPs support and challenge the quality of education being provided, provide opportunities to share practice and encourage colleagues and establishments to learn from one another through genuine partnerships and collaboration. Establishments are grouped in sectors across Local Improvement Forums/Areas.

The Partnerships aim to:

  • Support the professional autonomy and empowerment of school leaders and school communities in their on-going self-evaluation.
  • Focus on school improvement and improved outcomes for children and young people.
  • Support strong partnership working between school leadership teams as well as outcomes focused collaboration.
  • Provide opportunities to share areas of good practice, expertise, strategies for improvement and offer challenge to achieve continuous improvement.
  • Support the further development of self-improving systems at local level.

The focus and format of the LP/ELP visit, is decided by school leaders and should focus on an aspect of improvement work. The visit may include professional dialogue, classroom visits, focus groups and a review of selected evidence. An Education Manager from Fife Council will form part of the visiting team along with other appropriate colleagues. Following the visit, and verbal feedback, a written report is completed by the Headteacher.

As part of the initial dialogue between schools and Education Managers, school data from the previous session is shared and discussed. As part of the LP/ELP process, data is used as part of the triangulation of evidence and to support the rationale for change for identified priorities. Attainment over time is discussed to support and challenge any identified trends across a school.

Learning Partnerships and Extended Learning Partnerships support self-evaluation activities for self-improvement within and across schools. They have impacted on improved collaboration between schools to support and challenge improvement work. They also contribute to the evidence gathered to measure the impact of current and previous identified priorities on improving outcomes for learners.



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