Education governance – next steps: executive summary

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

Chapter 5: Cluster working

Key points

There was a general sense that cluster working was being done proactively already by groups of schools who viewed this as helpful.

There was recognition that a more formal process in the right circumstances could lead to efficiencies in the system.

There was a wide range of possible services for clusters mentioned. Most common ideas referred to: support services (such as ASN, EAL or psychological provision), extra-curricular activities and a bank of support staff.

Respondents were asked what services and support functions could be provided more effectively through clusters of schools working together with partners.

The responses were quite broad and beyond giving ideas on what services and support functions could be delivered, they also focused around the good work already taking place.

5.1 Perception of current cluster working

Many respondents stated that cluster working was being done proactively already and that it was an important feature of the Scottish education system. Positive examples of current cluster working identified by respondents included clusters of a secondary school and its feeder primaries, teacher collaboration and peer mentoring, working with other agencies - such as with councils' Social Work departments - towards the GIRFEC agenda, or with educational support services, and sharing resources such as transport.

Some of the positive comments included a warning that current good practice may be affected by governance change, with a few respondents suggesting an audit of current cluster working be conducted.

Some individual respondents wanted to see current developments in cluster working facilitated by additional capacity and resources, particularly by releasing staff for joint working. Some respondents also saw a greater role for employers in cluster-working, particularly in relation to the Developing the Young Workforce ( DYW) agenda.

Some organisations thought that there was no need to formalise cluster arrangements. They referred to the good work that already took place organically within the education system. On the other hand, some organisations recognised that a more formal process in the right circumstances could lead to greater efficiencies in the system. This was particularly mentioned in regards to administrative functions, educational support services ( e.g. ASN, EAL), quality improvement and staff development provision.

A few respondents questioned what was meant by clusters and how to define these.

Some individual respondents also expressed concerns about clusters, namely:

  • Scepticism that clusters are merely cost-cutting exercises with no other benefit;
  • A recognition that clusters may be harder to put into practice in rural and remote areas where there are large distances between schools, and between schools and councils;
  • Worries that clusters formed around catchment areas will perpetuate differences between wealthier and poorer areas; and
  • Questions about to whom the cluster is accountable - whether local accountability through the local authority will be retained.

5.2 What services and support functions could be provided through clusters?

Under a quarter of organisations, and over a third of individual respondents, offered ideas on what services or support functions could be, and in some cases already are, provided at a cluster level.

A wide range of possible services/support functions were mentioned but there was a lack of consensus across respondents as to the type of service that should be provided by clusters. Some common themes emerged however, focusing on:

  • Collaboration with health services, social services and children's services. Some believed that GIRFEC could only be delivered effectively through partnership working;
  • Extra-curricular activities, such as breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, holiday camps;
  • Transitional support between nursery, primary and secondary;
  • Banks of support staff, teaching staff, ASN or EAL specialists (though it was noted that this may require managing by school leaders);
  • Collaboration with employers, particularly in relation to DYW;
  • Delivery of specific subjects;
  • Pooling funding and sharing resources between schools; and
  • Teacher collaboration and Continuous Professional Development ( CPD).


Email: Stephanie Gray

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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