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.

Appendix A: Expected and Recommended Summary

These guidelines recognise that in relation to DSM the functions and roles undertaken within an empowered school system are not restricted to headteachers. Although the role of headteacher is identified throughout, shared and distributed leadership means that other staff members or groups may undertake an area or aspect of DSM. The guidelines support distributed leadership, collaboration and consultation whilst recognising that the accountability and responsibility will reside with the headteacher as the leader of their school, supported by the Local Authority.

In some cases the guidelines note statutory requirements on Local Authorities. For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in these guidelines detracts from those statutory requirements, which all Local Authorities must comply with.




Local Authorities schemes adhere to financial regulations, deliver best value and ensure the efficient, fair and equitable distribution of resources.

Headteachers 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.

Local Authorities should ensure that devolution is meaningful and empowers school leaders to make appropriate, and informed decisions to best meet their local need in line with legislation and Local Authority policies, guidance and frameworks.

Local Authorities scheme clearly define areas of resources that are not devolved to schools.

Headteachers are expected to ensure school expenditure is in line with the School Improvement Plan supporting the relevant Local Authority strategic plans, priorities and the National Improvement Framework.

Local Authorities and headteachers must adhere to legislative requirements, SNCT and LNCT agreements and guidance.

Format and Publication



Local Authorities are strongly encouraged to utilise the format of the DSM Framework for their scheme. This is available from

Local Authorities are expected to publish the DSM scheme on the external facing website.

Where a school has a website, it is recommended that it should include a web link to the Local Authority published scheme.

Local Authorities should consider publishing a summary of the authority's scheme, providing stakeholders summary information in an accessible way, using plain language.

Published schemes should include the criteria and methodology used to create formulae-based allocations, staffing models and other resource allocations as appropriate. If formulae have been applied, the formulae should be included within the scheme.




Local Authorities should provide specific DSM training to key staff groups including headteachers and Business Managers or associated posts.

It is recommended that training opportunities are made available to depute headteachers, aspiring leaders, elected members, and any other appropriate staff who utilise or influence DSM decisions.

Where school or establishment staff have a delegated budget responsibility they should be aware of the aims and principles associated with DSM, best value and adhere to financial regulations and Local Authority policies for the funds they are responsible for.

Training should be available for new and experienced staff members.

Training should be available on a frequent and recurring basis.

School leaders have access to local and/or national leadership programmes and training which ensures an approach to DSM that encourages confident decision-making to promote better outcomes for learners.

Consultation, Engagement and Transparency



Consultation and engagement at all levels between Local Authorities, headteachers and stakeholders should take place to inform appropriate resource decisions, including: budget, staffing models and savings. This includes consultation on criteria used when determining how a formula is devised or applied and other methodology of distributing resources.

Local Authorities should form appropriate mechanisms or forums for regular engagement and consultation with headteachers and wider stakeholders as appropriate.

Consultation and engagement between headteachers and staff groups should take place to inform appropriate resource decisions, including: budget, staffing models, department budget allocations and savings.

Headteachers should form appropriate mechanisms or forums for regular engagement and consultation with staff, parents and wider stakeholders as appropriate.

Headteachers should consult with staff, parent councils, pupils and the wider community on appropriate matters, these may include school staffing models, DSM decisions, allocation of departmental or class resources and include formulae or criteria used within the school.

Headteachers share and discuss local school decisions, budget and resource allocations with staff groups and wider stakeholders as appropriate.

It is recommended that at school level this includes methodology and distribution of budgets and resources.

Local Authorities make information available to all stakeholders in relation to the Local Authority budget, education budget and delegated budgets to schools, including identifying areas of expenditure that are not devolved to headteachers.

It is expected that DSM schemes, and information published for stakeholders is accessible and is in plain language.

Headteachers are to ensure that any costs related to the curriculum are minimised to ensure equality of access.

Where charges exist for pupils, including both curriculum or extra-curricular activities (class materials, school trips, school uniform, etc.) they should be clearly detailed in school information published at the start of the academic session.

Any potential financial assistance, discounts or exemptions available, for example in relation to pupils in receipt of free school meals, should be included within this information.




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

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

It is recommended that Local Authorities consider empowerment on an area or school cluster basis, enabling headteachers to influence decisions across geographical areas or school clusters.

Headteacher are expected to be collaborative and collegiate in their approach, challenging themselves and stakeholders to be solution focused embracing joint working with the learning community, parents, children and young people, teachers and support staff, partners, other schools and the Local Authority.

It is recommended that headteachers work together to share and maximise resources to influence outcomes across geographical areas or school clusters.




Local Authorities should empower headteachers to design a staffing structure to suit the school's context within their delegated budget and in accordance with SNCT and LNCT agreements and guidelines.

Local Authorities consider their approach when devolving staffing, this includes discussing with Headteachers the complexities and risks associated with staffing allocations.

Schemes should seek to devolve the appropriate resources to schools, whilst ensuring that legislative and contractual requirements are met and local circumstances and need taken into account.

The Local Authority, with headteachers will seek to deliver the most appropriate and efficient use of staff resource ensuring equity, transparency and clarity whilst promoting and supporting collaboration and collegiate working.

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

For all staffing matters, headteachers must adhere to the appropriate legislation and Local Authority, SNCT and LNCT agreements and guidelines.

Headteachers should be consulted on the allocation of support staff to schools.

Professional Support



Headteachers in all schools should have access to professional support teams and functions.

There should be transparency in the formulae or methodology in allocating professional support to schools.




Headteachers should have the provision to carry forward budget underspend or overspend in line with agreed and published Local Authority policy and criteria.

Intended use of carry forward of budget underspends are identified in School Improvement Plans or school budget spending plans.

Procedures for managing carry forward of overspends are included within the scheme.

Consideration is given towards enabling schools to deposit funds to save budget for planned and agreed future spend.

Headteachers should have the provision to vire budget between budget headings in line with agreed and published Local Authority policy and criteria.

Scheme Review



Local Authorities undertake a three-year review with stakeholders and a peer Local Authority as they determine appropriate.

Stakeholders may include headteachers, business managers, all staff groups, trade unions, parents, pupils and corporate partners such as finance, human resources and procurement as examples.

Local Authorities are recommended, as part of ongoing self-evaluation, to update DSM schemes if changes are made which have a consequential impact on a scheme.

Headteachers are recommended to apply national standards and to undertake self-evaluation drawing upon the most appropriate, and current tools, at date of publication these include, but are not limited to:

Education Scotland - HGIOS4 QI 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



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