Devolved school management: guidelines

This guidance supports the development of devolved school management schemes, which set out how local authorities fund schools and the accountability and responsibility for financial decisions.


These guidelines have been devised to help Local Authorities[1] develop their own Devolved School Management (DSM) schemes. They include advice on what is expected and recommended in a local scheme, alongside practical examples from Local Authorities. To aid Local Authorities, a framework document has been created which will allow Local Authorities to populate a standard format if they wish to do so, introducing broader consistency of scheme presentation. This Framework can be found at

This document has two main sections. The first section, Devolved School Management: Background and Principles sets out the background, context and principles of DSM, as well as providing a common framework and overview of the expectations and requirements. The second part, Devolved School Management: Detailed Guidance for Local Authorities in developing a DSM scheme, provides detailed guidance for Local Authorities including regarding format and publication, scheme review, training, accounting matters, consultation, engagement and, transparency, professional support, collaboration and staffing. Throughout the second section, examples from Local Authorities are given. These are intended to offer ideas and aid discussion on areas a Local Authority may wish to include in its scheme. Finally, Appendices A to D provide supporting information.

These guidelines aim to encourage participation from Local Authority wider teams, schools[2] and parents. They have been prepared through collaboration and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. Collaboration is key to a successful local DSM scheme; this is captured within the Joint Agreement and Headteachers' Charter to which these guidelines align and support.

Devolved School Management was introduced in 1993 to enhance and improve the management of resources at school level. The DSM guidance was reviewed in 2006, and again in 2012, taking account of the changing economic and financial climate for both Local Authorities and the Scottish Government. In June 2017 the Scottish Government consulted on changes to DSM as part of the wider "Fair Funding to Achieve Excellence and Equity in Education" consultation.

These updated DSM guidelines seek to build and improve on the DSM Guidelines of 2012 and, critically, reflect and integrate with the Education Reform Programme and priorities emerging from the Scottish Government and COSLA Education Reform Joint Agreement of June 2018.

The guidelines were developed through extensive stakeholder engagement (Appendix C) and produced by the Scottish Government and COSLA in conjunction with the Fair Funding Working Group and Fair Funding Reference Group (Appendix D). These guidelines are issued by Scottish Ministers under section 13 of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000 (the 2000 Act). This guidance is issued to Local Authorities in relation to their functions under Section 8[3] of the 2000 Act in relation to delegation schemes. Before issuing this guidance, Scottish Ministers consulted those detailed in Appendix C about the proposed guidance. The guidelines are sufficiently flexible to support local variation and local circumstances, ensuring that the democratic right, aims and priorities of locally elected members remain fundamental to successful schemes.

The guidelines replace three separate documents from 2012 - Devolved School Management Guidelines, Devolved School Management Self-Evaluation Toolkit and Devolved School Management Examples of Practice from the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) Resources Network.



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