Education governance – next steps: executive summary

Summary of the Government's vision of an education system which is led by schools and teachers.

Chapter 3: National Functions and Bodies

Key points

Respondents generally felt that the current breadth and depth of national functions was sufficient.

Many respondents saw the current level of devolution to local authorities as positive.

Organisations, in particular, saw the role of current national bodies as supportive and necessary.

There was, however, a general sense that there is scope to clarify and align the roles of all agencies to establish whether they are all still 'fit for purpose'.

The consultation document asked respondents to state what governance changes were required to support decisions being taken at a school level. The document also sought views on which specific services or support functions should be delivered nationally. This section summarises respondents' views around national functions and bodies.

3.1 National functions

Respondents generally felt that the current coverage and breath of national functions was sufficient. Respondents felt that current national functions should remain at the national level, as one respondent put it, 'everything we already have still needs to be delivered nationally'.

Respondents felt that the following functions should be delivered at a national level:

  • Leadership and vision in the form of high level strategic planning and funding to ensure equity;
  • Inspection and qualification bodies to drive consistency;
  • Workforce regulation, terms and conditions, salaries, teacher education, contracts etc.;
  • Guidance on curriculum; and
  • Infrastructures, such as SEEMIS or GLOW.

The current level of devolution to local authorities was seen by many respondents as sufficient. In fact, many saw it as a strength that current governance arrangements allowed for a degree of local knowledge to be implemented.

3.2 National Bodies

On the whole, respondents saw the role of the current national bodies as positive, supportive and necessary. As one organisation put it, 'national bodies provide a consistent approach to the delivery of a range of services'.

However, some respondents questioned the need for such a wide range of agencies and wondered whether these could be streamlined. Respondents agreed that there was scope to clarify and align the roles of all agencies to establish whether they were still 'fit for purpose'. For some, there was an appetite for streamlining current roles and responsibilities to minimise what they felt was some degree of duplication. Others felt that certain agencies suffered from a conflict of interest in terms of their current remits.

Some of the specific ideas for change were:

  • A need for a more coherent approach across all agencies. There was a general feeling that all agencies need to be much more coordinated and work together. For example, the dual inspection model for nurseries was criticised by many and most felt that this could be streamlined to minimise bureaucracy.
  • There was also a strong appetite for greater collaboration between agencies and local authorities. Many respondents felt that the support provided could be better targeted. 'At present the information from organisations is of the spray and pray variety and adds to the burden of bureaucracy and workloads in schools'.

While the consultation document did not ask any direct questions around specific national bodies, some respondents provided spontaneous comments on some agencies. Key highlights are provided below:

Focus on General Teaching Council for Scotland ( GTCS)

Analysis of responses showed a very positive outlook on the role of GTCS. This positive endorsement was particularly strong among schools/clusters and head teachers' associations.

Respondents saw GTCS' key strength as supporting teachers and maintaining and monitoring the quality of the profession. GTCS was seen as an independent regulatory body, which sets clear standards and promotes and enhances the teacher profession. Many respondents saw the GTCS role as vital for maintaining the health of the profession.

Focus on Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers ( SNCT)

While there were only a few mentions of SNCT, organisations in general, but teachers in particular, saw SNCT as a clear strength in the system. Very few individuals commented on SNCT, but all comments made were positive. SNCT's tripartite nature, involving the Scottish Government, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) and the teaching unions, was highlighted as a strength.

Focus on Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA)

Most organisations that responded to the consultation described SQA as a key strength of the Scottish education system. This was not the case amongst individual respondents. Positive comments stated that having one single qualifications body provided consistency and clarity across the nation. Some organisations felt positively that SQA involved practitioners in the development and delivery of national qualifications.

However, a minority of organisations stated that SQA appeared to work in a silo. Furthermore, some of the individual respondents who commented on SQA felt that recent changes in SQA assessments had increased stress and workload for teachers.

Additionally, a few teachers described the messages provided by SQA and Education Scotland as conflicting. Specifically, they would have welcomed clearer advice in the wake of new qualifications and assessments.

Focus on Education Scotland

Many of the organisations that responded to the consultation commented on the positive role that Education Scotland plays in delivering a national picture of standards. Offering a wide range of resources, identifying and sharing best practice and providing external scrutiny and governance were mentioned as key strengths of the organisation. Only some of the individual respondents who commented on Education Scotland were positive about it; these positive comments highlighted the same perceived strengths as identified by organisations.

However, many respondents were critical of Education Scotland, in particular, individual respondents. The critical comments raised tended to focus around:

  • Its dual role in providing guidance and carrying out inspections. Many respondents saw this as a conflict of interest and questioned how one body could handle both accountability and quality advice. One individual respondent described this as being both 'poacher and gamekeeper'. Education Scotland, on the other hand, saw the ability to offer blended guidance and inspection as a strength;
  • Duplication between the inspection role that both Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate play;
  • A need for greater emphasis on support ( i.e. better targeted support);
  • Should Education Scotland keep the inspection role, agreement that it should be kept at a national level. A significant minority questioned whether other functions could be delivered through a regional model;
  • A review of accountability. Some respondents queried who checked the work of Education Scotland; and
  • Some individuals, in particular, thought that Education Scotland was too removed from the reality of schools and classrooms.


Email: Stephanie Gray

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top