Education - Achieving Excellence and Equity: National Improvement Framework and improvement plan 2023

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.

Introduction, vision, and key priorities



The 2023 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 national 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. That information can then be used to support and inform improvement planning at regional, local authority and establishment level. The improvement planning has been informed by the fact that the whole education system is continuing to recover from the health, social, and educational impacts of COVID-19.

Third International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA)

At its ninth meeting in June 2022, the ICEA recognised that Scotland's education system had continued to make improvements during and following the pandemic, particularly in areas such as outdoor and digital learning.

The Council felt that the national discussion on Scottish education would help to build on that improvement, while bringing the focus back to the overall picture of Scottish education. Both the national discussion and the Hayward review of assessment provided the opportunity for fresh, innovative ideas to help drive improvement. There should be an emphasis on building the capacity of teachers and ensuring they are supported properly throughout this period of change and improvement, and there was a clear need to prioritise activity to ensure the system did not become overwhelmed.

As a result, the ICEA felt it would not be appropriate to add to the number of reports and recommendations already underway by producing an ICEA report at this stage. Instead, the Council members decided it would be better to wait until the National Discussion is complete before producing the next ICEA report, which would focus on ensuring that the work to take forward the outcomes of the National Discussion is informed by international best practice.

Statutory review

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.

As a result of last year's review, we made changes to the NIF vision, priorities, and drivers of improvement, retaining six drivers of improvement but increasing the number of priorities to five with the inclusion of the rights and needs of children and young people. As a result of the changes last year, there was less appetite for significant change this year in order to ensure that the refreshed focus has the chance to become fully embedded.

However, stakeholders did suggest increasing the profile and visibility of Learning for Sustainability in the NIF, in line with the findings in Professor Ken Muir's Report, Putting learners at the centre: towards a future vision for Scottish education. In that report, young people emphasised the need for the development of values, attitudes, knowledge and skills to be strengthened in the context of Learning for Sustainability, particularly given the increased profile and relevance of climate change to the current and future generations of children and young people.

We have, therefore, amended the vision statement to recognize the need for sustainability to be a core aspect of the learning experience.

Our vision for education in Scotland

  • Excellence through raising attainment and improving outcomes: ensuring that every child and young person achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, as well as the values, attitudes, knowledge and skills necessary to shape a sustainable future as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors.
  • Achieving equity: ensuring every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed, no matter their background or shared protected characteristics, 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 thrives and has the best opportunity to succeed, regardless of their social circumstances or additional needs. We will respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of every child and young person in order to ensure they are incorporated fully across the Scottish education system.

In order to achieve this, we are working with our partners to develop an empowered and collaborative system, where young people have an equal voice and 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

  • Placing the human rights and needs of every child and young person at the centre of education
  • Improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing
  • Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people
  • Improvement in skills and sustained, positive school-leaver destinations for all young people
  • Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy.

The drivers of improvement in the outcomes achieved by children and young people through education are:

  • School and ELC leadership
  • Teacher and practitioner professionalism
  • Parent/carer involvement and engagement
  • Curriculum and assessment
  • School and ELC improvement
  • Performance information

"The ICEA feels that Scottish education exhibits many strengths. It values equity as well as excellence. It has an excellent standing internationally. It is investing effort and resources to narrow attainment gaps, working with and strengthening the teaching profession."

International Council of Education Advisers, December 2020



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