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.

Improvement Plan

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, 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 set out the new improvement and recovery activity which is being undertaken under each of these drivers, and a case study to provide an example of what is working well.

A summary of ongoing and completed activity from last year's improvement plan is set out at Annex A.

School and ELC leadership

What is this?

The quality and impact of leadership within schools and ELC settings – at all levels and roles.

Why is this important?

Leadership is recognised as a key driver of the success of any school or ELC setting. 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.

What is the evidence telling us?

HM Inspectors carry out independent scrutiny across sectors ranging from early learning and childcare to adult learning. Scrutiny activity, including inspection, is designed to promote improvement, provide assurance on the quality of education; and provide evidence to inform national policy development.

HM Inspectors found that senior leaders and staff demonstrated flexibility and responsiveness when taking forward new and emerging priorities to support improvement and ongoing recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff across schools and ELC settings have shown great resolve in managing the challenges of the pandemic, while also implementing improvement to support children's and young people's learning. This has led to staff in schools and ELC settings developing approaches to support recovery that reflect their local context.

Almost all senior leaders described an increase in operational workload when managing mitigations during the pandemic and into recovery. Senior leaders reported that these challenges impacted on the time they had to lead learning, and implement actions to ensure continuous improvement. Senior leaders need to continue to ensure that leadership focuses on ensuring the highest quality of learning and teaching.

During the pandemic and into recovery, senior leaders prioritised supporting the wellbeing of staff and learners. In most ELC settings and schools, staff and practitioners felt well supported by one another. Where local authorities focused on the wellbeing of senior leaders, it supported senior leaders to continue to lead schools and ELC settings effectively. Effective leadership includes ensuring a strong commitment to supporting positive mental health and wellbeing across schools and ELC settings. As a result, children and young people reported having a wide range of opportunities to talk about their wellbeing with trusted adults.

Since January 2022, 145 new headteachers have joined the Excellence in Headship (EIH) programme going through the 2-day induction. The ongoing professional learning sessions for headteachers continue to be shaped by the participants. New sessions included input from past participants of the Teacher Leadership Programme detailing how their work on enquiry in the programme shaped their practice. Popular sessions from previous years continued into 2022, including Socially Just Leadership: Anti-Racism, Allyship and Action.

The second cohort of Excellence in Headship Stretch was launched in September 2022, with 56 experienced headteachers engaging in collaborative enquiry to explore, analyse and suggest improvements to aspects of the education system in Scotland.

New improvement actions for the year ahead.

As well as the actions set out below, ongoing improvement actions are set out in Annex A.

Education Scotland will undertake a national thematic inspection in the early learning and childcare sector on progress with implementation of the expansion of funded ELC.

HM Inspectors will undertake a national thematic inspection in 2023 on the subject of inclusion: promoting positive behaviour.

Education Scotland will provide further professional dialogue and support at every level of the system. This will include professional learning for elected members and a continuation of the 'train the trainers' approach for those local authorities and Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) who have not yet participated, or who have requested further input. Education Scotland will focus its professional dialogue and support with the South West and Tayside RICs, and Moray and Highland councils.

By July 2023, Education Scotland and partners will co-create a prototype of a Making Sense of System Leadership professional learning offer. The prototype will be evaluated by Education Scotland in terms of process, content and initial impact of learning on leaders across the education system by August 2023.

During 2023, Education Scotland will build on its existing professional learning and leadership suite of programmes supporting empowerment and agency, including designing, delivering and evaluating professional learning or working with partners to do this. Where appropriate, offers will be co-constructed with school and system leaders.

Education Scotland will work with excellence and equity leads (EEL), local authority officers and the Scottish Government to increase and diversify the use of the recently created online professional learning community by EELs, for example through increased practice sharing and use of the online networking facilities to support the development and scaling of improvement activity. Future engagement will address the priority areas and other feedback identified through the consultation process. It will continue to include support for collaboration and effective practice sharing between EELs working in the early learning and childcare sector.

Education Scotland will work with local authority Assessment Co-ordinators to support the delivery of the Quality Assessment and Moderation Officer (QAMSO) programme and to build capacity in existing networks, increasing practitioner confidence in exercising their professional judgement.

School and ELC leadership - case study

Luisa Daye completed the Into Headship programme in 2020, was subsequently awarded the Standard for Headship by the General Teaching Council, and went on to take her first headship post later that year. She completed In Headship in 2022 and is currently headteacher of St Columba's Primary School in Bathgate.

Into and In Headship gave me the opportunity to centre my practice in my journey to headship. So often, the myriad of day-to-day school happenings can threaten to overwhelm practice, but each programme allowed me the space and time to develop professionally. And their structures comprehensively supported me in building identity, skills and practice as the courses unfolded.

My biggest motivator for joining the programmes had been to develop my abilities to think and act strategically in the continuing process of being a school leader – and this is exactly what I gained from participation in both courses.

It's fair to say that Into Headship and In Headship were the most challenging, the most rewarding and the most useful learning I have undertaken in my career so far. Everything involved was and continues to be highly relevant. In particular, I return time and again to the comprehensive reading and research that I had to undertake and the 'light bulb' moments, all of which developed my ability to think critically about education globally, nationally, locally, and in relation to my own context.

Additionally, both programmes provided that necessary protected time for CLPL and research, allowing me to cultivate my identity as a lifelong learner and model this authentically within my community. This is a continued focus and foundation for both my own leadership practice and one which I continue to build into my setting's culture and ethos.

As a result, I am able to challenge myself, my team and my community to dig deep into our perceptions of education, to find our 'why' and improve and adapt our practices to impact positively on setting, our wider community and ourselves. My leadership and headteacher identity continues to evolve and is firmly grounded in the knowledge of the unique role and capacity of headteachers to effect positive change for our pupils in Scotland.

Most recently, the learning gained from In Headship and Into Headship has supported me to confidently approach curriculum development in my setting, and to involve, support and guide others in this endeavour too. As a result, we are now on a journey towards creating a curriculum for our children which values their own interests, allowing them a greater level of personalisation, as well as a greater balance between knowledge and skills in a learning environment which encourages each one to thrive. This is calling in to play many of the tenets of educational leadership raised and explored through Into and In Headship, in particular developing and driving a shared vision through robust collaboration within the school community.

Most importantly, the journey has not stopped with my graduation from Into and In Headship. Rather, a foundation and habit has been set which I build on each and every day to improve outcomes for all.

Teacher and practitioner professionalism

What is this?

Teacher and practitioner 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. Access to high quality early learning and childcare can make a huge difference to children's lives, particularly when they are growing up in more disadvantaged circumstances. Evidence shows that universally-accessible and high quality ELC helps to provide children with skills and confidence to carry into school education, and is a cornerstone for closing the poverty related attainment gap between children from the most and least deprived communities. The single most important driver of high quality in a child's ELC experience is a dedicated, highly-skilled and well-qualified workforce.

What is the evidence telling us?

HM Inspectors found that the development of consistent, high-quality learning and teaching remains an area of priority in most schools and ELC settings. This includes improving the use of assessment to understand progress and providing timely, effective feedback to children and young people about their learning. In schools and ELC settings where the quality of learning and teaching is improving, staff provide an enriched range of learning experiences for children and young people. They use a range of effective approaches including digital technology, play-based learning, outdoor learning, interdisciplinary learning and links beyond the school.

In most schools and ELC settings that demonstrated improvement following an original inspection, staff had engaged in effective teacher learning communities and professional enquiries focusing on improving learning and teaching. Senior leaders facilitated programmes of professional learning and supported staff to deliver appropriately paced and challenging activities to support children's progress in learning. In most of these schools and ELC settings staff are improving the consistency and quality of learning and teaching as a key priority. Schools and ELC settings demonstrated improved outcomes for learners where staff have developed a shared understanding of effective learning and teaching.

In almost all establishments and ELC settings with which HM Inspectors engaged, senior leaders provided staff with professional learning in direct response to the emerging wellbeing needs that children and young people faced. Where teachers and practitioners work effectively with partners to undertake specialist training, this helped to build their confidence to support children and young people. Professional learning is helping staff develop a shared understanding and vocabulary that supports a whole-school approach, and promotes children's and young people's mental health and resilience. Digital platforms also continue to be used well to support staff access to professional learning. Senior leaders recognise that recently appointed staff face additional challenges by starting a new position during the pandemic. Many pair new staff with more experienced colleagues to provide support. Teachers and practitioners engaged with and used digital technology to support children's and young people's learning during the pandemic. They reported a significant increase in their own confidence and skills. Digital technology provides opportunities for increased parental involvement, and now needs to be used more effectively to enhance learning, progress and achievement.

In many schools and ELC settings, the pandemic accelerated staff participation in professional learning related to outdoor learning. This is helping to build the confidence, skills and motivation of teachers and practitioners to deliver outdoor learning effectively. A few ELC settings and schools undertake professional learning with external partners. This is particularly evident where staff deliver national programmes, such as the John Muir Award and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award

The data from the pilot programme, Dyslexia Scotland the GTC Scotland Professional Recognition Programme for Dyslexia and Inclusive Practice in 2021/2, including feedback and evaluations from the 10 successful teachers, demonstrated the programme's value to their increased confidence, knowledge and understanding of dyslexia and inclusive practice in supporting their own practice and career progression, learners, colleagues and the wider school community.

Both the Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Review, and The Promise 2020 produced a vast range of evidence in the form of 'lived experience' that suggests a refocus is required to prioritise and protect positive relationships across educational settings. The recommendations from both these reports have resulted in a number of actions for Education Scotland, Scottish Government and local authorities. The range of inter-linked measures in the ASL Action Plan seek to enhance professional learning and development, to support practitioners' confidence, knowledge and understanding of additional support needs and inclusive practice. We have recently published an updated progress report, which confirms the progress which has been made against the recommendations of the ASL Review. The progress report confirms that 24 out of the 76 actions have been delivered, with many others well underway. Whilst this is a significant achievement, we know there is still a lot more to do and we will continue our work together to do so. There is an updated action plan and a summary progress report.

In addition, the Scottish Government have also published Keeping the Promise implementation plan. The implementation plan includes the proposed actions which will be undertaken in relation to education, in conjunction with our partners.

Evidence shared from Teaching in a Diverse Scotland: Increasing and Retaining Minority Ethnic Teachers – 3 years on : Progress and Final Report ( and data from the Scottish Government's Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme (REREAP) board has identified racial literacy and confidence as a key area of development for the teaching and education workforce. Work has begun to address this with the development and delivery of Education Scotland's Building Racial Literacy (BRL) Programme. The BRL was co-designed by Education Scotland officials, representatives from the education sector and anti-racist experts with lived experience. The programme is open to anyone in the education sector, including leaders in local authorities and early years staff. Its aim is to ensure that educators are racially literate as opposed to race evasive, and are able to approach a range of situations with confidence, including dealing with racism and racist incidents. The initial cohort engaged with the programme at the beginning of 2022 and by January 2023, 250 individuals will have participated. Sustainability is embedded in that some of the first cohort are now engaged in facilitating current sessions and producing anti-racist material to use in them.

The 2022 edition of Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland shows that over the year to 2022 teacher numbers decreased by 92 full-time equivalents (FTE) to 54,193 FTE. Pupil numbers during this time increased by 1,151. However, these changes were relatively small so the pupil teacher ratio (PTR), which gives a measure of the size of the teaching workforce relative to the pupil population, remained at 13.2 after rounding.

The number of teachers, graduate staff and staff working towards graduate level qualifications in funded ELC reached 5,676 FTE in 2022 – the highest figure since the Scottish Government started collecting graduate data in the ELC census in 2017 – and an increase of 289 FTE from 2021.

New improvement actions for the year ahead.

As well as the actions set out below, ongoing improvement actions are set out in Annex A.

As part of the Future of Gaelic and Scots consultation, we have identified the need to enable teachers to improve their confidence in Scots and Gaelic for Learners skills by expanding the Continued Professional Development (CPD) opportunities available. The Scottish Government will work in partnership with local authorities, Gaelic training institutes and other partners to identify what CPD training is already available and to establish what work is required to expand CPD opportunities.

As part of the refresh of the LfS Action Plan we have engaged with educators to gather their views on LfS. A better offer for Career Long Professional Learning (CLPL) has been identified as one of the key themes on our engagement exercises. SG is working with ES to develop an LfS Professional Learning Directory, from which all the training and resources that are already available can be accessed centrally. This will provide practitioners with readily available CLPL resources on LfS which will ensure they are better able to embed LfS in their practice and ensure that children and young people receive their entitlement to LfS.

Education Scotland will build capacity through the development and refresh of the suite of inclusion, wellbeing and equality professional learning information, resources and opportunities through the lens of:

  • Relationships
  • Wellbeing and care
  • Inclusion and targeted support
  • Rights and Participation

Education Scotland will participate in education reform work streams, working in collaboration with Scottish Government officials to progress the ASL Action Plan, facilitating national networks and local authorities to 'Keep the Promise'.

Education Scotland will continue broadening its work with ELC and Community Learning and Development (CLD) practitioners. Taking a service design approach to designing and delivering professional learning. Throughout 2023, Education Scotland will continue to offer bespoke professional learning and leadership opportunities for Scotland's teachers, ELC practitioners and CLD practitioners including support around educational reform, curriculum design, and work to build racial literacy amongst the workforce. This action will include the design, delivery and evaluation of Education Scotland's professional learning offer, or working with partners to do this. Where appropriate, offers will be co-constructed with teachers/practitioners.

Education Scotland will work with partners, including local authority, RIC and private and third sector ELC leads and practitioners, to design and deliver improvement support to the early learning and childcare sector at national, regional, local and setting level during academic session 2022-23.

Education Scotland will work with stakeholders to design and deliver targeted professional learning to support recently appointed ELC practitioners and leaders.

Teacher and practitioner professionalism - case study

Angela Kerr is acting headteacher at Cart Mill Family Centre in East Renfrewshire Council. Angela completed the Building Racial Literacy programme in March 2022 and has since been involved in learning also delivered by the Professional Learning and Leadership team at Education Scotland around leading, designing and delivering effective professional learning with others.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be nominated as the Early Learning and Childcare representative for East Renfrewshire Council to join the first cohort of Building Racial Literacy (BRL). When I read the pre-course information I honestly wondered what I would get from the course as a white, middle class leader other than information.

How wrong I was! As part of the Building Racial Literacy course it was really important to start with ourselves and locate where our beliefs, views and attitudes had formed before we could begin to go on the journey of influencing change.

I kept a reflective journal where I jotted down my innermost private reactions to readings, videos, group activities and professional dialogue during the many networking opportunities. I hadn't understood that journaling would be such an emotional task as I put down on paper what was in my head and heart. At times I felt uncomfortable as I honestly hadn't fully appreciated some of the challenges we would address, the impact of re-examining the environment and times I grew up in and how my values and beliefs had developed. I now realise that this discomfort is part of the process and a sign that I am becoming a truly reflective, anti-racist, inclusive leader.

The course material that resonated with me the most was Beverly Daniel Tatum's talk as I realised at times I have been colour silent or suffered from selective inattention. I just didn't know how to manage a conversation about racism due to lack of knowledge or fear of rocking the boat. Having completed BRL I am more confident when challenging others as I have growing knowledge and answers to difficult questions. With this increased awareness around terminology, I can help others to develop as well. I've learned so much about race evasiveness and about acknowledging race to change perceptions. I've learned that difficult discussions about racial bias or inequities are necessary as I work with others to examine perceptions and beliefs.

I feel that I am very much at the early stages of developing racial literacy and will have many questions needing answered over the next months and years as I probe and dig deeper into my journey. BRL has helped me connect with other practitioners throughout Scotland, sharing this journey. Having a network of BRL professionals to continue to bounce ideas, question, share resources and advice with is invaluable as we work through our action plans to lead anti-racist change.

I am proud that as BRL alumna the impact can be seen in our School Improvement Plan for 2022/23. In our Early Learning and Childcare Centre, we are working to gather more data on our families to be more inclusive, to tap into the diverse knowledge and cultures that might exist, in order to be more reflective and culturally-responsive in our practice. No longer race evasive, I now lead anti-racist change from a position where courageous conversations about equality are welcomed.

Parent/carer involvement and 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.

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 their attainment and achievement. Where high quality personalised communication between schools and ELC settings and parents/carers takes place, relationships are strengthened. This supports parents and carers to engage more with their child's learning

What is the evidence telling us?

HM Inspectors reported that staff across schools and ELC settings said that relationships and connections with families were strengthened during the pandemic. Many parents benefited from improved communication through the sharing of information using digital platforms during the period of remote learning. This includes online parents' evenings and family learning opportunities. Many schools and ELC settings continue to offer digital opportunities for parents and families to engage with their children's learning. In ELC settings, practitioners regularly share videos and upload examples of children's learning online. As a result, parents feel more able to engage with and support their children's learning

Schools and ELC settings are working increasingly in partnership with parents to support children and young people's wellbeing. Where schools do this well, senior leaders consult with parents and use the feedback received as part of their ongoing self-evaluation to identify individual and whole school wellbeing needs. Teachers and practitioners are providing increased levels of support to improve the mental and emotional wellbeing of children, young people and their families. A continued focus is needed to maximise the contribution of partnerships, parents and the wider community to enhance the wellbeing of staff, children and young people. Schools and ELC settings should continue to build on the positive relationships with their partners by working together to take forward and evaluate approaches to supporting wellbeing.

In a number of schools and ELC settings that demonstrated improvement following an original inspection, senior leaders had increased parental engagement in policy making and school improvement. This supports a greater understanding of experiences of children, families and the local community. By using this knowledge to identify and prioritise areas for development, the work of these schools and ELC settings reflects better the needs of their local community. As COVID-19 restrictions eased, parents were welcomed back to visit schools and ELC settings in person. This encouraged further engagement with children's learning. Across sectors, staff recognised that there had been a significant increase in the number of families requiring support due to financial challenges - the pandemic has increased levels of job insecurity, debt and poverty in many local communities. Many staff now have a greater awareness of poverty beyond that indicated by free school meals, clothing grants or the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). Staff take a sensitive approach to signposting families to advice centres and support agencies. Many ELC settings and schools support families to access food and clothing banks. There is an increased focus across sectors on minimizing the cost of the school day.

New improvement actions for the year ahead.

As well as the actions set out below, ongoing improvement actions are set out in Annex A.

Education Scotland will review and refresh the Parent Council resource as and when updates emerge. Education Scotland will continue to raise awareness of the Parent Council resource across local authorities, Regional Improvement Collaboratives and relevant internal/external audiences as appropriate.

Education Scotland will disseminate the findings of the various equalities and equities projects internally to colleagues and externally to practitioners across Scotland - through webinars, networks, case studies and links in key documents as appropriate.

Education Scotland will hold a series of awareness raising activities to highlight the British Sign Language toolkit to practitioners across Scotland who work with, or have the potential to work with, deaf children, young people and their families and/or parents and carers who use British Sign Language (BSL) and Tactile BSL in education.

Education Scotland will work with the Campaign for Learning, a UK wide Lifelong Learning charity, to develop a data sharing agreement ahead of planning for the 2023 Scottish Family Learning Festival. This will highlight the breadth of where family learning is being delivered across Scotland, by who. It will also identify emerging trends and gaps in provision. This will inform Education Scotland's planning in relation to support and development at a national, regional and local level. A strategic working group has been established which will act in an advisory capacity to influence the direction of the Festival.

Education Scotland will raise awareness and promote the new Strategic Framework for Parental Involvement, Parental Engagement, Family Learning and Learning at Home across all sectors involved in delivering career long professional learning/continuous professional learning (CLPL/CPL) in this area. Education Scotland will work with practitioners delivering professional learning to support them in reviewing their existing offer and work collaboratively with partner and stakeholder groups to embed consistency in the CLPL/CPL offer.

Education Scotland will continue to work with local authorities and Regional Improvement Collaboratives to deliver a bespoke Parental Involvement, Parental Engagement, Family Learning and Learning at Home offer based on their identified needs and national priorities. Work is already underway with several local authorities and Regional Improvement Collaboratives.

In 2023 the Scottish Government will consider the recommendations from the co-design phase of the Learner Participation Project, with a commitment to launch a new co-created learner participation mechanism that protects and promotes children's rights by embedding the voice of children and young people into education policy development and decision making.

Parent and carer involvement and engagement - case study

Elphinstone Primary School and Nursery Class, East Lothian Council Increasing engagement with families during the pandemic

Senior leaders and staff at Elphinstone Primary School identify effective engagement and positive relationships with parents as central priorities. Staff recognise that sustaining connections and relationships with children and families is key to supporting children's learning and wellbeing. There is a strong belief that reconnecting children and families with the school environment through positive experiences is essential to recovery.

Collaboration and consultation with key stakeholders takes place using a range of methods, including the recently introduced use of online platforms. Online polls, staff meetings, pupil council meetings, informal sessions and Parent Council meetings all form part of a comprehensive approach to communication. Parents welcome this level of support and the variety of opportunities afforded to them to take an active part in the life and work of the school. Children say that they feel respected and parents talk about the school feeling like a family. They report positively on how this improves their involvement in the school community. They appreciate having support from staff to answer any questions/concerns and address anxieties they may have.

Stronger links with families during periods of school closures have largely been due to effective communication strategies and have allowed senior leaders and staff to understand the variety of needs of children and families better.

As a direct response to increased community engagement through periods of lockdown, a green space is being developed as a wider community space that is accessible to all. This will provide an opportunity for parents and wider community members to come together. Informal networking and the opportunities for support are greatly valued by parents and are strengthening relationships with the school.

Curriculum and assessment

What is this?

This 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, for example Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels, skills, qualifications and other awards. It also includes curricular improvement to reflect the key links between curriculum and assessment and so this driver includes many of the actions in response to the OECD recommendations.

Why is this important?

We need to ensure the curriculum remains coherent, appropriate and effective. We also 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.

What is the evidence telling us?

The OECD's 2021 review of CfE recommended that Scotland should:

  • Balance CfE so students can fully benefit from a coherent learning experience from 3 to 18 years.
  • Combine effective collaboration with clear roles and responsibilities
  • Consolidate institutional policy processes for effective change
  • Combine effective collaboration with clear roles and responsibilities

HMIE reports that staff in schools and ELC settings employ a wide range of strategies and interventions aimed at closing gaps in learning appropriate to their own context. Where schools, ELC settings and local authorities ensure that data is robust and used effectively, staff can identify gaps reliably. In all sectors, the use of quantitative and qualitative data to identify children's and young people's gaps in learning continues to be an ongoing area of focus. Assessment data should be used more effectively to plan well-timed interventions, monitor progress and track progression at an appropriate rate for each learner.

Schools and ELC settings continue to prioritise children's and young people's wellbeing. Across all sectors, staff report an increased number of children and young people requiring significant support to manage change. Improving further aspects of the health and wellbeing curriculum across the broad general education (BGE) would equip children and young people with the skills and knowledge to respond to change and uncertainty. Across all sectors, there is a need to develop processes for tracking and monitoring of children's and young people's wellbeing to inform universal support and further inform targeted support.

There are significant gaps in younger children's social skills as a result of missed opportunities to socialise with their peers during the pandemic. In many primary schools, teachers are beginning to develop play pedagogy to address this at the early stages. This is most successful when practitioners and primary school staff work closely together across the early level to support a shared understanding of play pedagogy.

Secondary and special schools are renewing curricular partnerships to support young people in reaching a positive destination. Staff in secondary schools continue to maintain close links with Skills Development Scotland. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was very challenging to support young people to attend college and work experience placements, as well as in their post-school transitions. Young people in the senior phase now have improved access to a broader range of vocational opportunities.

In a few schools and ELC settings, the curriculum is supported well by businesses to enhance the learning offer. Where schools have strong partnerships with local businesses and employers, this offers a valuable opportunity for rebuilding children's and young people's ambition and capacity. In secondary schools, this supports more informed choices about pathways from school into a relevant positive destination.

Most ELC settings continue to make good use of the outdoors to provide a wide range of experiences which support and extend children's learning across the curriculum. Increasingly, school staff provide children and young people with opportunities to learn outdoors. A few schools have developed a progressive whole-school approach to outdoor learning to ensure both quality and purpose. Where the curriculum is effectively supported by use of the outdoor environment, leaders provide clear strategic guidance and support. They share the benefits with staff, children and families which helps everyone to recognise the value of outdoor learning. The greatest impact is realised when outdoor learning experiences are embedded in and contribute to all areas of the curriculum.

There has never been a stronger focus on ensuring that the early learning and childcare experience is of high quality and meets the developmental needs of our youngest learners. The national practice guidance "Realising the Ambition: Being Me" and the Curriculum for Excellence support and encourage learning through play across the early level. "Realising the Ambition: Being Me" is underpinned by theory, research and evidence with a key focus on developmentally-appropriate child-centred play pedagogy. Feedback from practitioners across the early level indicates that the guidance has been exceptionally well-received by the sector. In order to continue to support increased continuity, coherence and progression and to assist practitioners and teachers working across the early years, Education Scotland will continue to work with partners to design and deliver universal, intensive and targeted improvement support for the early years at regional, local and setting level during academic session 2022-23.

The ASL Review made recommendations that the successes and achievements of children and young people with additional support needs should be further recognised, celebrated, and promoted. The development of a national measurement framework will allow the diverse range of achievements of children and young people with additional support needs to be captured and celebrated, within a context of learning for life.

The recently published updated progress report, confirms the progress which has been made against the recommendations of the ASL Review. The progress report confirms that 24 out of the 76 actions have been delivered, with many others well underway. Whilst this is a significant achievement, we know there is still a lot more to do and we will continue our work together to do so. The updated ASL action plan and the summary progress report on the ASL review provide further information.

New improvement actions for the year ahead.

As well as the actions set out below, ongoing improvement actions are set out in Annex A.

Professor Muir's Report highlighted that the current generation of learners sees climate change as one of the most significant issues facing their futures. At the COP26 young people called for a greater emphasis on climate education, Learning for Sustainability (LfS), biodiversity and youth participation. Despite the very strong policy framework of LfS, there is still variation in the quality of learning that children and young people receive. A new refreshed LfS Action Plan will be published in March 2023. This is being developed in collaboration with children, young people and their educators, and the LfS Leadership Group. The LfS Leadership Group will work on the development and delivery of the refreshed Action Plan and will monitor its implementation through the development of a new Key Performance Indicators system.

SQA manages the National Qualifications Group, which facilitates discussions with stakeholders about the approach to exams post-pandemic. In recognition of the ongoing impact on learning as a result of the pandemic, SQA will engage with partners to monitor the position and agree any adjustments to approach and additional support needed for learners - to ensure fairness for learners and credibility with the system, whilst ensuring delivery of robust, valid, evidence-based attainment in academic year 2022/23.

Education Scotland will undertake a national thematic inspection on the subject of curriculum design.

The 'National Discussion' on the future of Scottish Education took place from September to December 2022. Between December 2022 and March 2023, independent analysis will be carried out to evidence the key themes emerging from the extensive range of views received. This will inform early drafts of a vision, which will be discussed and tested with children and young people, parents and carers and teachers and practitioners.

A consensual vision, which provides Scottish Education with the right platform to set the direction for the future, will be delivered in Spring 2023. This vision will help to shape the other strands of education reform.

Alongside the vision, the independent co-facilitators of the National Discussion will set out a 'Call to Action' with short, medium and long term goals for the next 20-years.

Curriculum and assessment - case study

Menstrie Early Learning and Childcare Centre, Clackmannanshire

The leadership team in Menstrie ELC setting have used assessment information to identify clearly the impact of the pandemic on their learning community and the needs of individuals in their ELC setting. Leaders undertook a careful analysis of data and practitioner professional judgements to form a comprehensive overview of children's progress. The staff team used this information well to understand learning and progress of individual children. As a result, staff are clear about children's next steps and they tailor their plans and practice accordingly. The leadership team work effectively together to support practitioners in offering a high-quality early learning and childcare curriculum which meets individual need.

Practitioners know children well as learners. They use high-quality observations and interactions to identify where children are in their learning. Staff are thoughtful, consistent and curious as they support children to make progress in their learning. They use professional judgement well to tailor rich, relevant play and learning opportunities to the needs of children. For example, following lengthy periods of remote learning, staff increased the curricular focus on outdoor play in the extensive garden area. Children enjoy a range of physical activities and fresh air to support their wellbeing. They have opportunities to explore, investigate, take risks, and engage independently in a range of activities. Children work well together in learning groups to investigate and build upon their own interests and skills. Learning groups motivate and support children to extend and deepen knowledge in a natural and organic way. Learning is often sparked by a favourite story or interesting event in the children's lives. Children research, solve problems and explore their own theories and questions, developing their skills as learners.

The team engage very well with a visiting improvement adviser to use a range of data as part of an approach using recognised improvement strategies. Practitioners have improved their knowledge, skills and confidence in using different ways to look closely at the impact of small, targeted changes to practice. As a result of this approach, children have made accelerated progress in meeting developmental milestones. The leadership team also use data well to challenge and support practitioners when monitoring children's progress. They agree and revisit next steps during moderation and quality assurance activities. Senior leaders work effectively with the team, children, parents and visiting professionals to ensure the pace, focus and breadth of learning is right for individual children. All staff are focused on ensuring equity is a key driver for their work.

School and ELC improvement

What is this?

The overall quality of education provided by each school and ELC setting in Scotland and its effectiveness in driving further improvement.

Why is this important?

School and ELC 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 the essential elements to raise attainment for all children and young people, and close the poverty related attainment gap.

What is the evidence telling us?

Due to COVID-19, HMIE paused routine inspections of school and ELC settings for 2019/2020 on 13 March 2020. HMIE restarted ELC inspections in September 2022.

The Care Inspectorate continued to inspect ELC settings against Key Question 5 ('operating an ELC service during COVID-19') between September 2020 and September 2021, returning to full thematic quality inspections in September 2021. In June 2022 the Care Inspectorate launched its Quality Framework for daycare of children, childminders and school aged childcare. This framework is now used for all inspections carried out by the Care Inspectorate. Latest Care Inspectorate ELC data for 2021 (published on 20 September 2022) show that the quality of services remains high overall, with 92.8% of childminders and 87.7% of daycare of children services found to be good or better for all quality themes. The proportion of services with all themes found to be weak or unsatisfactory remains very low. Prior to August 2022, the Care Inspectorate and HMIE set out plans for work in the immediate term to improve joint working and planning for settings providing funded ELC, and to reduce potential duplication of inspections.

Cases of exclusion have fallen from high of 44,794 (63.9 cases per 1,000 pupils) in 2006/07 to 8,323 (11.9 cases per 1,000 pupils) in 2020/21. There was a particularly notable decrease in exclusion between 2018/19 and 2020/21, with cases falling by 44%.

Attendance in the 2020/21 school year was impacted substantially by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 'attendance – schools open' rate, which excludes periods of COVID-19 related school closures, was 92.0%. This is a decrease from 93.0% in 2018/19 and the lowest rate since comparable figures began in 2003/04.

There was an increase in the number of funded registrations for early learning and childcare (ELC) from 91,603 in 2021 to 92,615 in 2022. An estimated 14% of two year-olds were registered for funded ELC, an increase from 13% in 2021.

HMIE reports that, across all sectors, senior leaders and staff have continued to respond to the demands placed upon them by COVID-19. In most schools and ELC settings, the pandemic has impacted on the capacity to take forward improvement priorities. However, establishments with a robust culture of improvement continue to focus on improving outcomes and empowering staff to bring about positive change. Staff across sectors have a strong focus on establishing nurturing environments and re-establishing routines for learning. This supports consistently positive relationships and sustains children's and young people's interest in learning.

In almost all establishments, supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of children, young people and their families is a key feature of improvement planning. There is a strong recognition that supporting wellbeing, including reducing anxiety, and promoting positive relationships and behaviour, is integral to improving outcomes for children and young people. In a majority of schools and ELC settings, staff make links between improving children's and young people's wellbeing and making greater use of the outdoor environment for learning. Where possible, staff in many schools and ELC settings work with a wide range of partners and professional agencies to support and develop the wellbeing of children and young people. In a few schools, partners work with school staff to provide targeted support.

Senior leaders report an increase in the number of children and young people who require additional support in most schools. Learners adversely affected by interrupted learning, absence and struggling with in-person learning are working below expected levels. For some children and young people, the impact of the pandemic has widened gaps in their learning.

Senior leaders use Pupil Equity Funding to improve targeted support, including for children and young people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage. Examples include appointing additional staff such as home school link workers, recovery teachers, and support staff to support learners. Senior leaders and staff across sectors need to have a clearer focus on evaluating the impact of these strategies on accelerating progress in closing the poverty related attainment gap.

The Scottish Government has funded an improvement programme delivered by the Care Inspectorate to support early learning and childcare settings across Scotland to improve the quality of ELC provision and meet the National Standard for funded childcare. The programme focuses on providing targeted support for those settings currently or at risk of, not meeting the National Standard. In addition to this, the programme provides a range of universal resources to support all settings with improving quality.

In order to address the issues of race inequality in schools and develop a systemic anti-racist approach, Scottish Government in partnership with Education Scotland and Equality Unit colleagues have recently established a race equality and anti-racism in education programme to tackle a number of areas which contribute to the barriers which perpetuate race inequality in education. The Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme (REAREP) was established in February 2021 after 3 months of official and Ministerial consultation with race and education stakeholders. The aim of engaging with stakeholders in this way was to enable Ministers and officials to:

  • gain a clearer understanding of the barriers which perpetuate race inequality and racism in schools and the impact they have on learners and staff;
  • begin to develop, with stakeholders, new and innovative ways in which these barriers can be addressed, in order to deliver improved outcomes for children, young people and practitioners.

As a result of the programme of stakeholder engagement and subsequent distillation of the discussions which took place during that period, four key themes emerged, which stakeholders agreed were interlinked and of fundamental importance in order to tackle race inequality in schools:

  • Education leadership and Professional Learning
  • Diversity in the Teaching Profession and Education Workforce
  • Curriculum Reform
  • Racism and racist incidents in Schools

A set of 20 actions to embed anti-racism in schools ,were developed and signed off by the Cabinet Secretary in April 2022. In September, COSLA and ADES committed to supporting the actions, some of which are already underway. An evaluation framework is currently being developed by an external consultant, in order that the impact of the actions can be measures. The framework will be completed in early 2023.

You can find out more about the work of the REAREP on the Race Equality and Anti-Racism Education Programme information page.

New improvement actions for the year ahead.

As well as the actions set out below, ongoing improvement actions are set out in Annex A.

Education Scotland will support and work in collaboration with local authorities and schools to deliver an agreed plan which provides intensive, targeted and universal support as required to ensure recovery, progress and achievement of stretch aims. Consideration for support will be based on levels of deprivation, progress, data and contextual analysis. The Accelerating Progress Forum will review action plans and consider how Education Scotland resources are allocated and deployed.

Education Scotland will collaborate with system leaders on the effective use of context specific data to support self-evaluation for improvement, and inform setting and monitoring the progress of local authority stretch aims. The Accelerating Progress Forum will review action plans and consider how Education Scotland resources are allocated and deployed. Action plans will be focused on improving performance and outcomes for children and young people.

Before the end of 2022, we will announce the successful projects which will be included within Phase 3 of the Learning Estate Investment Programme.

As part of earlier phases of our £2bn Learning Estate Investment Programme, which is being delivered in partnership with local authorities, 17 school projects will have started construction by autumn 2023.

School and ELC improvement - case study

Obsdale Primary Nursery, Highland

Obsdale Primary Nursery is based in Alness in the Highlands, and had moved to a new building which had only one room and a garden. As a result, there was nowhere separate for the children to have lunch, which was causing challenges at mealtimes. At the same time, the head of the nursery was on extended sick leave and there was no acting headteacher in place. This all took place not long after COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted, and the nursery had had a poor inspection visit, which had identified a range of weaknesses in relation to the indoor environment. As a result, the local authority referred Obsdale Primary Nursery to the Care Inspectorate's ELC Improvement Programme for support.

The nursery manager took part in targeted support in April 2022. Together with the Improvement Team they decided to focus on improving the lunchtime experience for the children in their care. Both the nursery manager and the newly appointed acting head of the nursery participated in the programme sessions. They welcomed the structured approach to quality improvement and the opportunities to engage with other nurseries facing similar challenges.

"The stepped approach to Quality Improvement was so helpful. It made it more strategic and sustainable."

Staff will continue to use the quality improvement structure in future to inform other changes they wish to make. They also highlighted the value of having dedicated time to reflect on changes needed

"It was a real bonus that the programme gave us time together to reflect on improvements, without any interruptions. We will now make sure we carve out that time in future too."

The nursery now has an entirely new approach to serving and eating lunch which is working much more effectively. Staff, including kitchen staff, were involved throughout the process which helped to build the team – it also enabled them to engage staff who had been more reluctant and give them a voice. They also involved children in the process. An inspection conducted in May 2022 showed significant improvements to the quality of care, and outcomes for children in the nursery.

"It was like a different service. There are still things to embed, but learning is being rolled out across the nursery." (Inspector)

The attitude and mindset of the team has changed completely in relation to change. In addition, children are now being given more choice and are leading their play and learning.

Obsdale is continuing to apply the learning from the Improvement Programme to tackle other changes the staff and children would like to make in the nursery.

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 that 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.

What is the evidence telling us?

The PISA 2018 assessment indicated that Scotland's performance among 15 year olds had increased in reading compared to 2015 and was similar in maths and science. Compared to the OECD average, Scotland is above the average for reading, and similar for maths and Science. The background of students had less of an influence on attainment in Scotland than the OECD average.

The PISA 2018 Global Competence assessment showed that only two out of 26 countries had a higher average score than pupils in Scotland.

A PISA report entitled Are Students Ready for Environment Challenges? was published on 8 December 2022. The report examines 15-year-old students' readiness to address environmental challenges.

The report uses PISA data to show that:

  • Performance on Environmental Science questions was higher in the UK than across the OECD, and performance increased between 2006 and 2015.
  • Almost half of 15-year-olds in Scotland were assessed as being environmentally enthusiastic in the PISA 2018 Global Competence assessment, slightly higher than the OECD average. This was positively linked with having a growth mindset.
  • Students who are environmentally enthusiastic had a higher PISA Science score than those who are not.
  • The majority of 15-year-olds in Scotland reported that they know something or are very familiar with climate change (nearly 80%), while over 60% reported that they could explain how carbon dioxide emissions affect climate change.

Data on the delivery of 1,140 including how many children are accessing the entitlement in September 2022 – as at the first week of September 2022, local authorities reported that:

  • c. 93,900 children were accessing funded ELC as of the first week of September 2022.
  • Of these, c. 91,500 children (97%) were accessing more than 600 hours (same proportion as in April 2022) and c. 83,200 children (89%) were accessing the full 1,140 hours funded ELC (a rise of 2 percentage points on April 2022 figures).
  • There has been a year-on-year increase in the number of eligible 2-year-olds accessing funded ELC, rising from 5,954 children in August 2021 to 6,188 in September 2022 (a 4% increase).

New improvement actions for the year ahead.

As well as the actions set out below, ongoing improvement actions are set out in Annex A.

In 2023 Scottish Government will look at the feasibility of aligning the National Statistics SSAILD report and the Insight tool, including the addition of a wider range of providers and courses to SSAILD (on top of National Qualifications). This will include a programme of comprehensive user engagement and development work, as well as technical aspects which will need worked through to ensure the methodology is sufficiently robust for a National Statistics publication.

Working with partners, Scottish Government will develop options for the enhancement of the Insight benchmarking tool in line with the recommendation in the Muir report. Initial proposals will be developed by spring 2023.

Scottish Government will work with Education Scotland and authorities to support progress towards local authority stretch aims. This will include:

  • Develop an enhanced guiding coalition to support an acceleration of progress towards achieving the mission of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
  • Develop partnership working across services and the third sector to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty, with a focus on engaging children and young people for their views on this work.
  • Develop and publish an updated Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress for 2023/24, reflecting learning from 2022/23 and the 2022 NIF.
  • Develop and undertake refreshed evaluation strategy for 2022/23 through to end of parliamentary term.

We will continue to work with HMRC to gain access to employment data for 16-24 year olds for statistical purposes to support the Annual Participation Measure.

Linked to the work to support the Annual Participation Measure (above), we will support service delivery and reform by sharing individual level employment data with partners for operational purposes.

Performance information - case studies

Buckie High School – Using the Insight tool for improvement

The Buckie High School community has worked together to develop and improve our curriculum to meet the needs of all learners and raise attainment and achievement for all - driven by our increased confidence in dealing with a wider range of data and our ability to analyse and use the data to bring about positive change. Working alongside our Insight Advisor we interrogated our senior phase data which allowed us to clearly identify our areas of strength and next steps. This data was triangulated with staff and pupil feedback to redesign a new aspirational approach to our curriculum rationale.

Planning for long term sustainable change meant we initially focussed on the broad general education. Middle leaders worked collaboratively to re-shape the S3 experience to maximise success and achievements for learners by giving learners more time in subject areas. A strategic framework was provided to allow middle leaders to collaborate with each other to share best practice. Moreover, a series of visits from the Insight Advisor began to build and develop middle leaders' confidence in data literacy. The developing confidence of middle leaders empowered them to begin to work in departments to build flexible learning pathways.

Subject areas used the school's curriculum framework to design pathways which maximised attainment and interest. For example, our Art department have in place a range of pathways in which learners can personalise their unit choice, but which still allow a course award at Level 5. Moreover, layering qualifications together such as National 5 Art and the Level 5 NPA in Painting and Decorating or National 4 Practical Cookery with Level 5 Hospitality has allowed a richer learner experience which captures the appropriate attainment.

Another crucial aim for the school's improvement journey has been the approach to the coursing and subject choice process. Working with guidance staff, our Insight Advisor looked at the factors which influence pupil choice and how these can be attenuated or accentuated. Sharing the understanding of the school's strengths and areas for improvement has allowed guidance staff to be more informed when working with families and young people. To visualise and improve the course choice process, learners use the department pathways to build their own learning pathway through the senior phase. The learner's pathway is used to inform the approach to curriculum design and influences subject choice - making our curriculum fit our young people and not vice versa.

Working with the Insight data set has revolutionised how our support staff reflect on attainment. For example, improved data handling has enabled staff to drill down and focus on young people and tell the story behind the data. As well as allowing short term remedial actions to be put in place, this has allowed collaborative working to ensure that interventions are put in place earlier. The use of the Insight Advisor is crucial in our continuing self-improvement cycle and improved data literacy plan. The engagement through Insight sessions has been instrumental in changing the culture and ethos of staff approach to curriculum planning and design. Moreover, using Insight to demonstrate the impact of improvement arising from the changes made has enabled the school community to have a shared ownership of the data and use it to plan continuous improvement.

Bun-sgoil Chondobhrait/Condorrat Primary School, North Lanarkshire Council

Using total immersion to raise children's attainment and promote their confidence in Gaelic

The depute headteacher and staff prioritise supporting children to regain their fluency in Gaelic to improve continuity in learning.

At the beginning of the session, teachers adjusted the curriculum to deliver total immersion to children in P4 to P7 for a six-week block. Children engaged in learning where Gaelic was spoken and used in a range of situations and curriculum contexts. They responded using their Gaelic language skills. Teachers' monitoring noted children regaining confidence in speaking Gaelic and using it as a medium of learning.

Staff have planned a programme of support to address identified gaps in writing Gaelic. All classes have a 'publication station' to provide daily opportunities for writing. Children write across a range of genres and about topics of their choice. Teachers' monitoring evidences children regaining confidence in writing through Gaelic. Teachers have identified individual children who benefit from small group sessions to target gaps in learning. Children speak positively about this support and are involved in monitoring the impact it has on their progress.

Children's progress is showing early signs of improving. Children talk confidently and proudly of the progress they are making.

The Gaelic-speaking classroom assistant works across all classes to provide planned support to individuals and groups of children. Teachers have translated resources to support children improve their vocabulary. The Gaelic-speaking support for learning teacher and classroom assistant are now using these materials to work with individuals across the school.

Senior leaders continue to make effective use of data to monitor the impact of their approaches to support recovery. They have identified 'checkpoints' throughout the year when they look closely at the progress of groups and individual learners. Children's views are gathered and used alongside the attainment data. This use of qualitative and quantitative data provides a robust and accurate picture of progress. Senior leaders use the information with staff to review and adapt the support for children ensuring interventions are leading to improved outcomes for all children.

(Principal teacher of Gaelic Medium Primary Education)



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