Education Bill policy ambition: joint agreement

A joint agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA on school empowerment, collaboration, parental involvement and engagement and pupil participation.

Education Bill Policy Ambition – Joint Agreement


1. The Scottish Government’s 2017 consultation ‘Empowering Schools: A consultation on the provisions of the Education (Scotland) Bill’ set out clear aims and objectives in relation to the forthcoming Education Bill: improving the education and life chances of our children and young people, closing the unacceptable gap in attainment between the least and most disadvantaged children and raising attainment for all. The Bill aims to create a school and teacher led education system, with children at the centre. The consultation emphasised the need for a collaborative effort in order to achieve the overall aims, starting with teachers and leadership in schools and complemented by Local Authorities and new Regional Improvement Collaboratives

2. Local government representative organisations’ responses to the consultation indicated broad agreement with the overall aims and objectives of the proposed legislation. However, concerns were expressed about whether legislation was required to deliver on the agreed aims. The consultation responses from COSLA, SOLACE and ADES indicated a desire to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that shared aims can be achieved within a framework that supports both improvement in Scottish education and wider integrated children’s services .

3. Discussions took place between senior officers in the Scottish Government and local government in order to examine whether agreement could be secured on policy proposals for the Bill that met the shared policy objectives, to improve outcomes for Scotland’s children and young people. The agreed remit for these discussions is attached at Annex A.

Joint agreement

4. Improving the education and life chances of our children and young people is the defining mission of our Scottish education system. Our shared ambition is to close the unacceptable gap in attainment between our least and most disadvantaged children and to raise attainment for all. We are clear that our vision of excellence and equity cannot be achieved by one part of the system alone: all partners must work together in a collegiate and collaborative way, keeping the interests of children and young people front and centre

5. Empowered, responsible and collaborative schools are an important part of our shared vision for Scottish education. The Education Bill proposals are focussed on the role of empowered schools in improving attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap. This is underpinned by Scotland’s commitment to getting it right for every child, which brings together services and partners from across public services and the third sector in a collective endeavour to improve children and young people’s outcomes. In discussion, it was agreed that legislation on its own cannot transform the culture, capacity and structure of Scottish education and that further discussion on other levers for change is needed and supported.

6. A willingness to explore the options for implementing change, using additional or new levers already in the system, is welcomed by all partners

7. The following agreed principles should form the basis of system-wide improvement and support the provisions in the Education Bill.

Agreed principles:

  • Effective system-wide improvement requires strong leadership, collaborative working and clarity of purpose at all layers of the system – school, local, regional and national
  • Headteachers are the leaders of learning and teaching in their school. They are senior officers of the local authority and have operational responsibility for the service they provide, therefore the majority of decisions should be made at school level
  • Schools are empowered to make the decisions that most affect their children and young people’s outcomes, while being part of a collaborative learning community, the Local Authority and working with others
  • Empowered schools require both strong and distributive leadership, working in partnership with pupils, parents, staff and the wider community
  • The principle of headteacher empowerment will be applied consistently across Scotland
  • Local Authorities’ duty to provide education for children and young people means that they must be able to intervene in decisions made by headteachers where statutory, financial, or contractual obligations would be breached
  • Local Authorities and their headteachers should have a mutually respectful and supportive relationship, with clear processes in place to minimise the need for such intervention
  • Decisions by all parties should reflect mutually supportive and respectful relationships.

Content of the Education Bill

8. Following discussion, there was consensus that the following policies will be pursued in the Education Bill

Agreement on the Headteachers’ Charter

9. The Education Bill will aim to establish a Headteachers’ Charter that will require Local Authorities to empower headteachers in the following areas:


  • Headteachers are responsible for deciding how best to design their local curriculum in line with Curriculum for Excellence;
  • Headteachers must work collaboratively with their staff, parents, pupils, and wider partners including other schools and their local authority on curriculum design and improving learning and teaching.


  • Headteachers and their schools work together towards improvement and reducing inequalities of outcome;
  • Headteachers are responsible for deciding their school’s improvement priorities and publishing their school improvement plan, reflecting the National Improvement Framework;
  • The requirement on local authorities to develop and produce improvement plans will continue alongside regional improvement plans; and
  • Improvement planning at all levels of the system must be responsive to the needs of schools, communities and children and young people.

[In relation to improvement planning, the group agreed that there should be a review of the range, purpose, and alignment of improvement planning across the system.]


  • Headteachers are involved in the design of recruitment and appointment processes;
  • Headteachers design the staffing structure that best supports learning and teaching in the school, within the staffing budget delegated to the school by the local authority;
  • Headteachers choose the staff who work in their school, with due regard to employment law and the contractual obligations of their local authority;
  • Local Authorities and headteachers have regard to supporting guidance developed by SNCT and LNCT (where appropriate) on the processes that should be observed when resolving disagreements about staffing matters between headteachers and Local Authorities.
  • The principle that the local authority must be able to intervene should any statutory duty or contractual obligation be in breach will be upheld in any legislative instrument


  • Local Authorities will continue to be responsible for the local authority education budget and the delegation of funding to schools. Headteachers will make decisions on the spending within that delegated budget;
  • Decisions about education spending at local authority and school level are made in a collegiate and transparent way paying due regard to Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC) and local authorities’ role as Corporate Parents;
  • Local Authorities have regard to updated statutory guidance setting out a clear national framework for the delegation of funding to schools. This guidance is being co-produced through the Fair Funding Reference Group.

10. It was agreed that the Headteachers’ Charter should apply to school based learning only.

Agreement on parental and community engagement

11. Parental engagement in the life of the school and their child’s learning is central to improving outcomes for children and young people. The Education Bill will aim to build on existing good practice in the Scottish education system to ensure that:

  • Headteachers work collaboratively with their Parent Council, and wider parent forum and wider community on substantive matters of school policy and improvement. This should be based on the principle of co-production;
  • Local Authorities continue to be responsible for promoting the involvement of parents and supporting schools in this, including through the development and review of the Local Authority parental engagement strategy; and
  • The principles of parental involvement and engagement extend to early learning and childcare settings, but with appropriate flexibility to reflect the particular context.

Agreement on pupil participation

  • 12. Ensuring that the views of children and young people are heard, respected and taken seriously is central to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Education Bill will aim to build on existing good practice in the Scottish education system so that:
  • Headteachers ensure that children and young people participate meaningfully in their own learning, in decision-making relating to the life and work of the school; and in the wider community.

Agreement on Regional Improvement Collaboratives

  • 13. The Education Bill will seek to require Local Authorities to work collaboratively in Regional Improvement Collaboratives as detailed in the guiding principles and functions agreed by the Joint Steering Group on Regional Improvement Collaboratives for Education in September 2017.

Education Workforce Council

  • 14. It was agreed that the provisions relating to the Education Workforce Council were not central to the relationship between the Scottish Government and local government and therefore they were not discussed in detail. There was consensus on the principle of widening registration to others involved in learning and teaching but that significant change in this area should be carefully considered


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