Education governance – next steps

Scottish Government’s vision for education and the reforms we will take forward following the review of education governance.

3. A School and Teacher-Led System - Empowering Teachers, Parents and Communities

Decisions that will shape the education of children and young people will rightly be taken as close to them as possible. In order to deliver and support our vision of a school and teacher-led system, it is crucial that we take account of what the evidence tells us will work, including the excellent practice currently taking place in many of our schools. In particular, we need to support the National Improvement Framework drivers of teacher professionalism and school leadership. We want to significantly strengthen the practical, curriculum area, and sector-specific improvement support which is available to teachers at regional level.

3.1 Teachers and practitioners - improving the quality of learning and teaching

Teachers and practitioners are the most important factor in improving children's outcomes in schools. As Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor of education at the University College London's Institute of Education argues " the only thing that really matters is the quality of the teacher" [67] . Teachers are best placed to make the best decisions regarding children and young people's learning, when fully empowered and well supported to do so. Curriculum for Excellence is based on the teacher as an empowered professional making curriculum decisions and leading learning within their classroom and school. We will take forward a number of actions which support and enhance this.

We will trust and invest in teachers and practitioners as empowered, skilled, confident, collaborative and networked professionals. To ensure that they flourish, we will transform the support available to teachers and practitioners at every level of the system.

New regional improvement collaboratives, set out in detail in Chapter 4, will provide teams of professionals who have the singular focus of helping teachers to improve their practice. These teams will include sector and curriculum area specialists as well as additional support for learning experts such as educational psychologists. They will provide advice and support to enable teachers and schools to drive improvement, making use of all available evidence and data. They will help teachers to access the practical improvement support they need, when they need it. Further work will be done in collaboration with partners on what this could look like.

There is widespread acceptance that teacher knowledge base is an important component of teacher quality. When teachers' skills and student performance are compared across countries [68] , there is a positive relationship between them. Improving skills among teachers can therefore improve student performance. There is a need to ensure that all those working with children and young people are able to support their needs to ensure that they overcome barriers to their learning. This must be delivered within a context of inclusive practice. We must focus on both initial teacher education and career-long professional learning in order to address the barriers to a more empowered teacher workforce and to benefit from a more open, dynamic and flexible system.

Initial teacher education is the gateway to the profession and we want to continue to attract aspiring and highly motivated individuals who are attracted to teaching because it makes a difference. We also want to inspire an ongoing commitment to learning throughout a teacher's career.

We will take steps to ensure initial teacher education prepares students to enter the profession with consistently well-developed skills to teach key areas such as literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.

Since 2012-13 we have invested £4.6 million to enable teachers to undertake SCQF level 11 (Masters level) professional learning as part of its aim to ensure that teachers have the necessary skills and knowledge. To date it has supported around 4,600 teachers to undertake study at Masters level.

Michael Fullan argues that leading for coherence requires the development of leaders at all levels within the system [69] . The professional learning offer is currently patchy across different parts of Scotland. Many different organisations offer aspects of professional learning for teachers. We will learn from Ontario, which is arguably one of the best international reference points. The Ontario provincial government agreed a clear agenda around professional learning with schools and teacher unions. We can build on the commitments made with the teacher professional associations at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession 2017 in Edinburgh which recognised the importance of equity related professional learning and the need to incentivise professional learning for teachers.

We will streamline and enhance professional learning so that there is a coherent learning offer to teachers which is focussed on curriculum area and sector-specific issues. More professional learning will be provided by teachers, for teachers, through the regional improvement collaboratives.

Evidence throughout the Governance Review consultation indicated that there is a need to ensure that teachers and the wider education workforce are able to support children and young people with additional support needs [70] . We will shortly publish revised guidance on the presumption to mainstream education for consultation. In addition, the 10-year strategy for the commissioning of national services will be published for consultation. This will include a focus on leadership and training.

We will recognise the contribution of the whole school workforce by working with them to introduce professional standards for these staff, including classroom assistants, to recognise the importance of the whole education team.

The removal of the Chartered Teacher scheme in 2012 closed off a possible additional career option for teachers who wanted to expand their role without leaving behind classroom teaching. There were significant issues with the design of the scheme which limited the impact of some Chartered Teachers on school improvement. The lack of promoted posts in Scottish teaching, particularly in the primary sector, arguably does not enhance the idea of teaching as a profession with strong career progression routes. This could be seen as a barrier to innovation and to building the necessary confidence required if schools are genuinely to lead the system. We are keen to learn from a range of international examples which support career progression. Figure 1 outlines the three distinct career routes for teachers in Singapore: teaching track, leadership track and specialist track. These complementary tracks allow linear progression but also for teachers to move between tracks. The need to provide clarity on career progression in order to increase the appeal of teaching as a profession in Scotland was discussed at the recent International Summit on the Teaching Profession 2017 in Edinburgh.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1


Recognising the importance of the role of teachers and practitioners, we also want to continue to ensure that teaching and the wider education workforce are attractive career paths. The International Council of Education Advisers recommended [71] that we consider:

  • ways of making the teaching profession more attractive, particularly around the structure for career progression;
  • how to make use of high-performing teachers and their leadership skills within schools e.g. creating a peer support role to support and mentor other teachers; and
  • establishing clear, broad and multiple career pathways for teaching professionals, and look at ways for teachers to progress while remaining in the classroom.

We will work with our partners to establish new career pathways for teachers allowing greater opportunities for development and progression into leadership, specialist or improvement roles.

3.2 Headteachers - supporting school leadership

Leadership is the essential ingredient that binds the separate parts of an education system together and is a pre-requisite for achieving system-wide transformation. Leadership capacity doesn't just emerge, it needs to be built and requires modelling by leaders.

In their 2008 publication " Improving School Leadership" [72] , the OECD stated that:

" Research has shown that school leaders can make a difference in school and student performance if they are granted autonomy to make important decisions. However autonomy alone does not automatically lead to improvements unless it is well supported. In addition, it is important that the core responsibilities of school leaders be clearly defined and delimited. School leadership responsibilities should be defined through an understanding of the practices most likely to improve teaching and learning".

The OECD paper identified four main policy levers which, taken together, can improve school leadership practice, and we will address each of these. They are:

  • define school leadership responsibilities;
  • distribute school leadership;
  • develop skills for effective school leadership; and
  • make school leadership an attractive profession.

Headteachers feel a deep sense of responsibility to improve children's life chances and to do everything possible to help them to succeed. This level of dedication and responsibility needs to be formally reflected in legislation, to give headteachers the power and autonomy to make decisions for the children in their care. This needs to include the responsibility to choose and manage the staff in their school. The blend of staff in a school needs to match the needs of the children, families and the local community. At present there is a lack of flexibility in this area which can significantly affect the pace of school improvement and the overall quality of learning, teaching and attainment.

We will clearly define school leadership responsibilities, legislating to create a Headteachers' Charter, which will be developed in partnership with the profession and professional associations. We will trust and invest in the leadership of schools and support empowered headteachers.

Headteachers will:

  • be the leaders of learning in their schools;
  • be supported through a revolutionised offer of support and improvement;
  • be responsible for raising attainment and closing the poverty-related attainment gap;
  • deliver quality and improvement at school level;
  • select and managing the teachers and staff in their school;
  • decide on school management and staffing structure, including business managers;
  • decide on curriculum content and offer;
  • work with partners including local authority support staff and others to meet learners' additional support needs at school level;
  • collaborate for school improvement at school, cluster and regional level;
  • lead self-evaluation and improvement of school performance;
  • monitor school progress and reporting; and
  • manage defined and greater proportions of school funding (this will be part of the accompanying consultation on funding).

We will distribute school leadership to ensure headteachers are supported by peer networks, regional improvement collaboratives, local authority support and the wider school community including pupil and parent councils.

We created the Scottish College for Educational Leadership ( SCEL) in order to bring clarity and coherence to educational leadership in Scotland. To ensure that all teachers engage with the most relevant, meaningful and inspiring leadership development, SCEL is developing pathways that include opportunities for teachers, middle leaders, new headteachers, experienced headteachers and system leaders. Notably they are also responsible for the development and delivery of the Into Headship qualification which, further to our recent consultation on Standard for Headship will be required for appointment to the headteacher role from 2020 onwards. There is however a perception that headteachers require additional skills and support in order to fully capitalise on the benefits of a more empowered system. We discuss the future role of SCEL in Section 4.4 of Chapter 4, however the functions which it currently fulfils in relation to provision of educational leadership development is critical in a school and teacher-led system.

We will develop skills for effective school leadership by enhancing the leadership support package to build the capacity and culture for teachers and headteachers to take on their new more empowered role.

We recognise the concerns raised during the Governance Review consultation about the need to continue to attract and retain excellent headteachers. We must do more to support teachers to become headteachers and to ensure it is seen as an attractive and fulfilling career.

We will take specific actions to increase the attraction of school leadership. We will develop a specific recruitment campaign for headteachers building on our Teachers make People campaign.

We will develop a mechanism to identify aspiring headteachers early in their career and develop a programme of professional learning and work experiences to lead them to the Into Headship course - this will provide a fast-track leadership route for talented teachers providing a clear pathway to headship.

Research evidence suggests that formal collaboration between schools and the development of executive headship roles can play a significant role in impacting on student outcomes and supporting school improvement more broadly including by strengthening leadership [73] .

We will develop new Executive Heads and Cluster Leaders with partners to strengthen school leadership.

The dilution of educational expertise and leadership at a local authority level was identified by a number of stakeholders during the Governance Review consultation as a key area of concern. We know that leadership needs to be nurtured and modelled and we need to work collectively to ensure we support leadership beyond school level. The regional improvement collaboratives will provide a route for teachers, headteachers and system leaders to collaborate and we will support this leadership pathway.

We will develop a coherent approach to the leadership capacity across the whole system from the classroom to policy level and work with partners to develop a new system leadership role to provide clear progression opportunities and to strengthen educational leadership at all levels in the system.

3.3 Empowering Children, Parents and Communities

Our system is based on trusting the professional judgement of teachers and practitioners but engagement and communication with children and young people, parents and carers is crucial in ensuring that learning at school is supported at home. Children want to have their voice heard in decisions that affect them. Parents can only be partners in their child's education if they are valued as equal partners.

3.3.1 Children and young people

School is a critically important part of children and young people's lives but it is not the only significant part. Consultation with children and young people by the Children's Parliament, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People and Children in Scotland [74] emphasised the importance of understanding the breadth of young people's lives.

Young people talked about balancing school work with commitments like sports, family, friends and volunteering. Children and young people have said that they want their schools and teachers to realise the value of extra-curricular achievements in their education and the pressure that they face in other parts of their life as well as in school. They want schools to be more engaged in the community and to see it as a resource so that they can build their skills and access opportunities.

Children also want to play an active role in the running of their school. When children and young people are consulted or involved in decision making it is important that decision makers show that their input is valued and that they can affect change. Finally, children and young people want to have more of a say in the decisions that affect them, both locally and nationally, and they want that input to be valued.

We will strengthen the voice of children and young people by supporting all schools to promote and support pupil participation. As part of this we will consult on a requirement that every school pursues the key principles of pupil participation.

3.3.2 Parents and families

Evidence from the OECD [75] suggests that when parents are fully involved in their child's learning we see better outcomes for children, parents and schools. The international study PISA shows that higher parental engagement is associated with higher performance by their children. We also know that if schools are to improve attainment they need to collaborate with the local community and with local partner organisations [76] .

The findings from the Governance Review consultation, public events and discussions with various stakeholders suggest that many parents are well engaged with their child's school and learning, and that they are adequately represented under current arrangements [77] .

However, as outlined in Chapter 2, further research indicates that there are socio-economic differences in the levels of engagement, and this view may not represent the opinions of, or contributions from, parents who generally are less likely to engage with schools. The quality action plan for early learning and childcare, due for publication in October 2017, will consider how we can establish parental involvement from the earliest stage in the learner journey by integrating early learning and childcare with the range of family support available.

We also know that parent councils could be supported to play a much stronger role in substantive matters such as school improvement and school policies, and that we could be more innovative to ensure that the wider parent forum are provided with a greater variety of ways to be involved.

We will strengthen parental involvement by consulting on legislative changes to strengthen, expand and improve the Scottish Schools Parental Involvement Act 2006 acting on the National Parent Forum of Scotland's review of the Act. [78] This will:

  • strengthen the duties on schools to ensure that parent councils play a full part in the decision making of schools;
  • expand relevant aspects of the Act to involve parents from early years settings;
  • provide a stronger focus on parental engagement in learning within the legislation;
  • improve and extend the duties on headteachers to engage the entire parent forum; and
  • include proposals to extend the links between parent councils and pupils.

Evidence published by PISA [79] shows that, in Scotland, students whose parents are interested in their child's activities at school are more likely to want top grades, less likely to report being dissatisfied with life and less likely to report feeling lonely. However, some parents find it more difficult to engage in their child's learning - some because of practical challenges and others because they feel less confident in engaging. While PISA found that the level of parental engagement in Scotland was higher than OECD average (88% compared to 78%), around 18% of parents reported that their participation at school was hindered by inconvenient meeting times and difficulty of getting off work. In thinking about how best to engage with parents, schools need to recognise the changing reality of home and work. For some people work and family commitments and working patterns make it difficult to physically attend school meetings. Many schools are exploring different ways of communicating with parents and the potential technology offers to allow parents more immediate access to information about their child's learning and this should be welcomed.

In addition to their recommendation on the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006, the National Parent Forum of Scotland's review [80] looked at how we might improve a wide range of practical matters related to communication with parents, learning at home and home/school partnerships.

We will ensure that every school has access to a home to school link worker to support parents and families who find it challenging to engage in their child's learning and feel excluded from the work and life of their child's school.

We will respond to the other non-legislative recommendations of the National Parent Forum's review in the Autumn.

3.3.3 Communities

Early learning and childcare and schools do not exist in isolation and we recognise that many of the factors which influence a child's outcomes are outside the school gates in the family, the community and society [81] . Schools, however, make a major difference. They make that difference by working with families and communities and recognising the reality of the lives of the children and young people. Many schools are at the heart of their local communities. Improvement planning at school, cluster and regional level should take account of the work of the relevant Community Planning Partnerships. This will enable schools to strengthen their knowledge of, and engagement with, the wider community to achieve collective impact [82] . The contribution of Community Learning and Development ( CLD) professionals should also feature as an integral part of local planning, taking account of local authority CLD plans, published through The Requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013.

We will strengthen parental and community engagement by working with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council to learn from their Partnership Schools initiative to ensure that schools support parents to play an active part in school improvement.

We will strengthen school, parental and community engagement by requiring that every school has a teacher or professional who has responsibility for promoting parental, family and community engagement.


Email: Stephanie Gray

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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