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.

Section 2


Local Authority schemes are expected to demonstrate best value by following the characteristics of: commitment and leadership; sound governance at a strategic and operational level; accountability; sound management of resources; responsiveness and consultation; use of review and options appraisal; a contribution to sustainable development; equal opportunities arrangements and joint working.

DSM schemes are expected to support, promote and facilitate school empowerment, enabling headteachers to provide the efficient and most effective use of resources. Local Authorities, and their headteachers, are expected to demonstrate accountability at all levels, be clear and transparent, support collegiate working and strive to deliver national, Local Authority, local and school priorities.

It is expected that Local Authorities ensure that devolution is meaningful and empowers school leaders to make appropriate, and informed decisions to best meet their local needs in line with Local Authority policies, guidance and frameworks. It is recognised that there are areas of expenditure that are generally not considered suitable for devolution. These may be aspects that are beyond a headteacher's influence or are too bureaucratic to be managed at school level, have unacceptable levels of risk or have no impact on learning and teaching. A list of such aspects are detailed in Appendix A. It is expected that each Local Authoritywill identify any areas that are not deemed suitable for devolving to schools and include this information within their published schemes.

Headteachers are expected to deploy the school's budget in accordance with best value principles and Local Authority procurement arrangements, with appropriate support and guidance from their Local Authority. School expenditure should be in line with the School Improvement Plan supporting both Local Authority and national priorities and frameworks. Local Authorities and headteachers are required to support SNCT and LNCT agreements and guidance.

Local Authorities should aim to reduce where possible, staff workload and bureaucracy in relation to the utilisation and the application of DSM schemes, including associated financial policies and procedures.

Format and Publication

Local Authorities are strongly encouraged and recommended to use the Scottish Government/COSLA common DSM framework document [final document still to be finalised]. The framework will support benchmarking, assist staff moving between Local Authorities, aid national and/or shared training opportunities and bring a common look and feel to Local Authority schemes.

It is expected that local schemes include any criteria and methodology used to create staffing models and other resource allocations as appropriate. If formulae have been applied, these should be included within the scheme. Headteachers should be able to interpret the formulae or resource allocations and reconcile this information with their school's resources.

Local Authorities are expected to publish their DSM scheme on an external facing authority website, providing access to public stakeholders. Where a school has a website, it is recommended that it includes a link to the Local Authority website directing parents and wider stakeholders to the scheme. As DSM schemes can be technical documents, and are expected to include detailed formulae, Local Authorities are recommended to consider publishing a summary of their detailed scheme using the Scottish Government/COSLA template (Appendix B) to provide all stakeholders with summary information which is both accessible and in plain language, maximising parental and/or stakeholder engagement.


To support understanding and enhance confidence in DSM, Local Authorities are expected to provide specific training opportunities to individuals who make use of, or may influence, the DSM scheme. It is expected that this group would include headteachers and business managers or equivalent posts. It is recommended that training should also be considered for depute headteachers, aspiring leaders, LNCT trade union representatives and any other appropriate groups.

It is recommended that elected members, as decision makers responsible for the Local Authority corporate budget should also receive a tailored training programme.

The National Parent Forum Scotland have advised that additional training for Parent Councils is not required as this may be viewed as a barrier for parental involvement. However, Local Authorities can offer training in conjunction with Parent Councils where they deem it appropriate.

It is expected that appropriate training should be available on a recurring basis to ensure new appointments to posts can be given sufficient induction, training and support to allow them to make informed decisions and to allow experienced staff to refresh their knowledge. Training should be available when new systems or processes are introduced. It is recommended that Local Authority Headteacher Induction programmes include a DSM element.

Where school or establishment staff have a delegated budget responsibility, it is expected that they will be aware of the aims and principles associated with DSM and best value and that they will adhere to financial regulations and Local Authority procedures and policies for the funds they are responsible for. This should include any staff member with a recognised budget responsibility.

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Consultation, Engagement and Transparency

It is expected that local DSM schemes are accessible and in plain language, maximising engagement and supporting transparency. Local Authorities are expected to make information available to all stakeholders in relation to the Local Authority budget, delegated budgets to schools, including identifying areas of expenditure that are not devolved to headteachers.

It is expected that there will be meaningful consultation and engagement at all levels among the Local Authority, headteachers and all stakeholders. It is expected that meetings take place to inform appropriate resource decisions, including, for example: budget, staffing models and savings. To facilitate meaningful consultation and collaborative decision making, it is expected that Local Authorities form appropriate mechanisms or forums for regular engagement and consultation with headteacher and wider stakeholders. These should be formed in conjunction with headteachers and Local Authority education management. A range of consultation approaches are already in place within Local Authorities including:

  • regular finance forums
  • headteacher/trade unions/staff working groups
  • DSM committees
  • area / school cluster meetings
  • quality improvement forums
  • feedback from surveys at school, school cluster and Local Authority levels
  • headteacher short-life work streams

It is an expectation that headteachers have an input into areas affecting school resources, at a local, area or schools cluster level. This includes criteria used when determining how a formula is devised, how the formula is applied to schools, methods of calculating and distributing budget, any associated savings, school staffing models and any other appropriate allocations of resources.

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As the leaders of learning in their schools, and as senior officers of the Local Authority, headteachers are expected to take the lead role in ensuring their school community is empowered at all levels, this includes full consultation with staff. Headteachers are expected to consult with staff, parent councils, pupils, trade unions and the wider community on appropriate matters to inform resource decisions. It is expected that headteachers provide clear information on local budgets and resource allocation including school staffing models, DSM decisions, allocation of departmental or class resources, formulae, criteria or methodologies used within the school. To facilitate consultation, it is expected that headteachers form appropriate mechanisms or forums for regular engagement and consultation with stakeholders to discuss and consult on any relevant area. To facilitate collective decision making a range of consultation approaches are in place within schools which include:

  • School committees
  • staff meetings
  • parent council
  • pupil councils
  • working groups

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Headteachers are expected to ensure that any costs on families are minimised to ensure equality of access. However, where charges are deemed unavoidable, it is recommended that any anticipated pupil costs for curricular or extra-curricular activities (such as materials for Home Economics, or school trips), or other costs (such as school uniform) requiring funding contributions from parents/carers are clearly detailed in school information published at the start of the academic session, supporting transparency. It is further recommended that any potential financial assistance or opportunities available to the pupil, or any discounts or exemptions available, for example in relation to pupils in receipt of free school meals, are included within this information.


DSM schemes should be informed by local priorities to enable them to contribute towards shared agendas and improved outcomes, allowing stronger partnership working between schools and with other agencies and stakeholders.

Local Authority decisions about education spending are expected to be made in a collegiate and transparent way, paying due regard to their wider responsibilities, including Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and the role of Local Authorities as Corporate Parents.

Effective joint working, encompassing headteachers, school staff, Local Authority chief officers, community partners, other schools, colleges, universities and the Regional Improvement Collaborative are key. Meaningful collaboration can support the best use of resources, through arrangements for strategic planning of local provision, economies of scale and the pooling of resources to meet locally identified educational needs. To further develop this, it is recommended that Local Authorities consider empowering an area or school cluster, enabling headteachers to influence decisions and resource use across a geographical or cluster basis. Devolving budget resource on an area or school cluster basis also requires headteachers to be responsible for these resources to their stakeholders and Local Authority.

The Regional Improvement Collaborative should consider developing and sharing models of best practice in empowerment and effective decision making within the funding and resources context.

In an empowered system, headteachers are expected to be collaborative and collegiate in their approach, challenging themselves and stakeholders to be solution focused and embrace joint working with the learning community, teachers, support staff, partners, other schools and the Local Authority. It is recommended that headteachers work together to share and maximise resources in order to influence outcomes across geographical areas or school clusters.

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Local schemes are expected to devolve the appropriate resources to schools, whilst ensuring that legislative and contractual requirements are met and local circumstances and needs taken into account.

Local Authorities are required to develop and implement staffing models for all school sectors, within which headteachers are expected to deliver the most appropriate and efficient use of staff, ensuring equity, transparency and clarity whilst promoting and supporting collaboration and collegiate working. To facilitate this, it is expected that headteachers are empowered to design a staffing structure to suit their school's context, within the budget delegated to the school by the authority.

Local Authorities are recommended to consider the risks associated with devolving staffing. This includes discussing and consulting with headteacher and appropriate forums around the complexities and risks associated with staffing allocations. Local schemes will vary and may be determined or influenced by systems and processes in place for finance budget setting. This may include budgets based on named individual salary placements, average staff salaries, top of teaching scale salary, cash or points models, or any other methodology used.

Consideration should also be given in relation to long term absence and family leave costs which may impact on budgets. Variances in local schemes may also exist owing to the accounting approach applied for specific individual circumstances noting the salary differentials for roles such as chartered teachers, assimilated teachers, career pathway lead teachers or in relation to conservation of salary or changes to job sizing grades. For all staffing matters, headteachers are expected to adhere to the appropriate legislation, Local Authority, SNCT and LNCT agreements, Working Time Agreements and guidelines.

Headteachers are expected to play an active role in designing and reviewing the recruitment processes and staffing approaches, both for their own school/s and for the Local Authority.

It is expected that headteachers are consulted on the allocation of all staff groups to their schools, including support staff. Staffing allocations of support staff should be supported by a clear and transparent methodology for the distribution of staff either to schools or clusters.

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Professional Support

To support empowered schools, Local Authorities are expected to provide the appropriate support and challenge to headteachers. Empowered schools should be underpinned by professional high-quality teams with the appropriate capacity to support headteachers. This may be in the form of business managers (or equivalents), finance, human resources and facilities teams. It is expected that access to professional support is available to all headteachers, in all school establishments. It is expected that there should be transparency in any formulae or methodology used in allocating professional support to schools.

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Accounting Matters

Headteachers are expected to be given the flexibility to manage and determine the best use of the resources devolved to schools. To facilitate this, headteachers should be permitted to move budgets between devolved budget headings (referred to as budget virement) subject to Local Authority accounting principles, schemes of delegation and financial regulations.

Locally determined virement criteria, including any maximum percentage, financial limits or excluded budget areas, are expected to be included within the published local scheme.

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Headteachers are expected to be given the ability to carry forward budget underspends and overspends from one financial year to another in line with Local Authority criteria. This will provide greater flexibility, maximise best value and aligning school year expenditure with the School Improvement Plan, recognising that expenditure commitments operate on an academic and not financial year basis. Locally determined carry forward criteria, including any maximum percentage or financial limits, or where a carry forward provision is determined by the overall service, directorate or authority budget position, are expected to be published within the scheme.

It is recommended that local consideration is given to the use of carry forward of underspends and that the intended use of any carry forwards are identified in School Improvement Plans or school budget plans.

Local Authorities should give consideration to enabling schools and establishments to deposit funds to save budget underspends over a number of financial years for planned and agreed future spending requirements.

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It is recommended that Local Authorities consider how carry forward of overspends are managed and that associated processes or arrangements are included within the published scheme.

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Scheme Review

Local Authorities are expected to undertake a full review of their scheme every three years though peer and stakeholder evaluation. Local Authorities may wish to consider utilising the Regional Improvement Collaborative which they are a member of, although consideration should also be given to working with Local Authorities beyond the collaborative where demographics, scale, size and context may be comparable. Peer review should utilise the Scottish Government and COSLA quality assurance template. [template still to be developed]

In addition to working with a partner Local Authority, it is expected that the three-year review should include stakeholders from the home Local Authority and the wider community. It is recommended that these stakeholders include headteachers and other local authority representatives, for example, business managers or equivalent, school staff groups, trade unions, parents, pupils, corporate partners (such as finance, human resources and procurement) and any other community stakeholders as deemed appropriate.

It is recommended that Local Authorities, as part of their ongoing self-evaluation, update the DSM scheme if required following formal agreement of the Local Authority budget, or to recognise any Local Authority policy decisions which may have a consequential impact on their scheme.

It is recommended that headteachers undertake self-evaluation of DSM in their own school's context using the most appropriate and current tools available. At date of publication these include; Education Scotland - How Good is Our School 4 (HGIOS4), Quality Indicator 1.5 Management of Resources; GTC Scotland - The Standards for Leadership and Management: supporting leadership and management development; Scottish Government and COSLA – Education Reform Joint Agreement and Headteachers' Charter.

Local Authorities may wish to utilise the 'Expected and Recommended Summary' (Appendix E) as their self-evaluation checklist or for use during their annual internal review.

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