Devolved School Management: draft guidelines

Draft new Devolved School Management Guidelines to local authorities, providing guidance on local authorities’ Devolved School Management Schemes regarding how they fund schools and the accountability and responsibility for financial decisions.

The Principles for Devolved School Management

The updated DSM principles, agreed by the Fair Funding Reference Group and building on and enhancing the foundations and principles of the 2012 guidance, are:

  • Subsidiarity and Empowerment
  • Collaboration
  • Accountability and Responsibility
  • Clarity and Equity

These principles reflect the National Improvement Framework aims of excellence through raising attainment and achieving equity. The principles also fully endorse those proposed in the Fair Funding consultation:

  • support excellence and equity - ensuring every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed
  • be fair - placing the needs of all children and young people at the centre
  • be simple, transparent and predictable – ensuing the costs of delivering education can be easily understood and explained and that schools are able to manage and plan ahead with certainty
  • deliver value for money – ensuring that every penny spent is used effectively

Subsidiarity and Empowerment

DSM must provide headteachers and schools with the autonomy and flexibility to ensure decisions are made at the most appropriate level. Local Authorities should, within their DSM scheme, provide Headteachers with clear information about which areas of expenditure are delegated to them. Whilst headteachers should have flexibility in the budgets required to operate and administer a school, there are also areas of expenditure that are not generally considered suitable for devolution to schools. Further details are provided in Appendix A. Devolution of budget must be supportive to the headteacher and allow a headteacher to make a positive impact.

Delegation: Decisions are made closest to the learner wherever possible and should be delegated to headteachers and schools in line with the Education Reform programme. Schools are empowered to make the decisions that affect outcomes, while being part of a collaborative learning community and the Local Authority.Decisions about education spending at Local Authority and school level are made in a collegiate and transparent way, paying due regard to wider responsibilities including GIRFEC.

Staffing: Headteachers are involved in the design of recruitment processes and can design a staffing structure that best supports learning and teaching in the school, within the budget delegated to the school by the Local Authority. Headteachers must have due regard to employment law and other relevant legislation, and the contractual obligations and policies of their Local Authority. Local authorities and headteachers must have regard to supporting guidance developed by SNCT and LNCT (where appropriate).

Budget: The majority of budget decisions should be made at school level. Local Authority schemes should detail specific guidance for accounting policies with regard to areas such as budget setting, budget virement and carry forward of budget underspends based on locally determined criteria.


All partners must work together in a collegiate and collaborative way,

keeping the interests of children and young people front and centre.

Consultation: DSM should be designed and implemented in collaboration and consultation with stakeholders. Joint working with partners should be guided by, and support, the School Improvement Plan, Local Authority or education service, other plans, and local and national priorities.

Partnership: In an empowered system, Local Authorities, headteachers and other school staff should work collaboratively at a local, regional and national level. Headteachers furthermore should ensure that the systems are in place to allow collaboration with their school community, so that decisions are taken through the principles of co-production.

Combined budgets and integrated services: Local Authority schemes should provide scope for combining budgets between schools, clusters, and other public partners (subject to any legal or contractual restraints), noting the requirements of Local Authority policies and frameworks, including, although not limited to: procurement, finance, and recruitment.

Accountability and Responsibility

Accountability is required at all levels; with the Local Authority, headteachers and delegated budget holders all being accountable and responsible within an empowered DSM scheme.

Accountability: Headteachers are the leaders of learning and teaching in their school and are senior officers of the Local Authority with operational responsibility for the service they provide. Local Authorities will continue to be democratically accountable for the Local Authority education budget and the delegation of funding to schools, while headteachers in collaboration with stakeholders will make decisions on the spending within that delegated budget. As senior officers of the Local Authority, headteachers are accountable to both their employer and to their learning community for the leadership and management of education and resources within their setting.

Quality Assurance and Review: Local Authorities should review DSM schemes every three years through peer review; in consultation and collaboration with stakeholders. Quality assurance should be built into the scheme and should particularly consider best practice from other Local Authorities. Local Authorities should also consider, as part of their ongoing self-evaluation, updating DSM schemes if relevant changes occur, for example following annual budget setting.

Support: Local Authorities should ensure that appropriate professional support functions such as business management, finance, human resources teams and administrative support are in place to provide both support and challenge to headteachers exercising their delegated duties.

Clarity and Equity

Clarity and equity is required at all levels; with the Local Authority and headteachers being clear and equitable with devolved resources.

Equitable budget allocation: Devolving resources at a local level will vary according to the characteristics of each authority. The local context, including whether an authority is based in an urban, rural or island setting will have influence regarding the budget decisions within an authority. However, for all authorities, in an empowered system decisions regarding budget allocations should be made in consultation with stakeholders, including schools and should aim to deliver equity, ensuring that every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed.

Clarity: Comprehensive and clear information about funding allocations detailing how local priorities and needs have determined these allocations should be made available to stakeholders. This applies to both Local Authority schemes and school decisions.

Value for money: All decisions regarding resource use at Local Authority or school level should provide best value and continuous improvement, drawing on corporate financial regulations, schemes of delegation and procurement guidance.



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