Education governance – next steps

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

4. Educational Improvement Services to Support a School and Teacher-Led System

We need to ensure that there is excellent support in place for schools and early learning and childcare settings in order for them to thrive. Every part of Scottish education has a key part to play in delivering this and should have a collective focus on delivering excellence and equity for our children and young people.

One of the key recommendations from the OECD in their report Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective [83] , called for a strengthened "middle" operating through collaboration across schools, and in and across local authorities. We also know that effective collaboration is an important driver of improvement, and we need to ensure that it is the hallmark of our system.

4.1 Regional improvement collaboratives

Empowered schools will need excellent educational improvement services aligned to the National Improvement Framework and informed by performance data on all aspects of school improvement. These should include curriculum area specialist support and hands-on improvement support when required.

Across Scotland the tailored education improvement support which local authorities are able to provide to schools has significantly reduced over recent years. Understandably resources available have focussed on frontline delivery. In a number of smaller local authorities there is no longer the critical mass to deliver the improvement support which schools need. Many local authorities have moved to a model of education and children's services. This has advantages in bringing staff together from across professional groups to support children and their families. Whilst we recognise the value of this, it is important that there are sufficient numbers of staff with educational expertise and with a dedicated focus on improving educational outcomes within regional teams. Local authorities have identified the benefit of working across boundaries to support improvement. However, these initiatives vary in their nature, scope and maturity and schools in different parts of the country may not yet have felt the benefit of this collaboration.

In Wales, local authorities have been working together in regional consortia arrangements to support school improvement since 2011. We have looked closely at the Welsh model for regional collaboration and have noted the importance of clarity of purpose, leadership and clear accountability.

We will establish regional improvement collaboratives in Scotland to embed collaboration for improvement across all of our schools. The collaboratives will provide an enhanced educational improvement service to support teachers, practitioners and headteachers to deliver excellence and equity in education. These collaboratives will respond to the recommendations, including from the OECD, ICEA and IPPR Scotland, to drive and focus collaboration across our system. This regional approach will involve decentralising some Education Scotland resources to support improvement closer to schools. It will also involve local authorities sharing resource at a regional level to ensure an enhanced improvement capability.

We want an improved offer to all schools with some consistency of role, but we also want to empower schools and communities to shape the regional improvement offer which best meets their needs and to take account of their school improvement plans when developing regional plans and priorities.

We believe this is the most efficient and effective way to strengthen collaboration to improve education across Scotland, by pooling and strengthening the existing resources and by investing further in systematic improvement.

Regional improvement collaboratives will:

  • provide excellent educational improvement support for headteachers, teachers and practitioners through dedicated teams of professionals. These teams will draw on Education Scotland staff, local authority staff and others;
  • provide coherent focus across all partners through delivery of an annual regional plan and associated work programme aligned with the National Improvement Framework;
  • facilitate collaborative working across the region, including sharing best practice, supporting collaborative networks and pursuing partnership approaches using technology to support this and embedding research informed practice. They will contribute to the work of the national Children and Young People's Collaborative;
  • be led by a Regional Director, to be appointed by the Scottish Government and provide a direct line of accountability for the performance of the regional improvement collaboratives to Ministers. The Regional Director will report to the HM Chief Inspector/Chief Executive of Education Scotland;
  • be set up through the creation of a new legislative duty for local authorities to collaborate on specific functions to support their headteachers' duties to raise attainment and close the poverty-related attainment gap which we will consult on in the autumn as part of a new Education Governance Bill; and
  • be funded through a combination of decentralising the national resources of Education Scotland and pooling of local government resources to support regional improvement delivery.

To focus the regional offer from Government and the national bodies, we anticipate that Scotland will initially establish up to seven regional improvement collaboratives. However, in ensuring that the regional offer is tailored to local needs, we will work with local professionals, local government and national bodies in defining the detailed regional improvement collaborative geographies and the arrangements for regional improvement models. We are keen to build consensus and partnership in their design, however, we must progress with pace.

As we have set out above, it is our aim to embed and support a culture of collaboration across our education system. The establishment of regional improvement collaboratives will build on the effective partnership working which currently takes place between schools, authorities, national bodies and other partners. It will strengthen the networks, relationships and support that is available to evaluate and share good practice, ensuring that the knowledge and innovation within our system is shared across it.

We will work with partners to ensure that the experience of current and emerging partnership working informs the establishment of regional improvement collaboratives.

4.2 School level - supporting collaboration

Collaboration at a school level is already a strong feature of Scottish education, particularly where schools work in clusters. Many schools and establishments are working collaboratively as are many teachers and practitioners, however, this is not universal. The model of collaborative working differs and the governance structures often make collaboration harder. Where it does take place effectively, it has a demonstrable and positive impact on children and young people.

We will provide a clear vision and framework within which effective school level collaboration can take place. We will work with partners to develop this framework and support development of resources and tools to support collaborative approaches in the classroom. As part of their inspection process Education Scotland will look at how schools and establishments are working collaboratively with others and we will share evidence about what works.

We will support schools and establishments to work together in a learning journey cluster to develop a 3-18 curriculum offer, support transitions and clearly focus on outcomes. We will also support schools and partners in working to support transitions to a positive destination as part of their wider learner journey.

The OECD stressed the importance of creating coherent and cohesive cultures of system‑wide collaboration. We know that collaboration can cover a wide range of practice and that not all kinds of professional collaboration are equally effective. We also know that successful collaborative partnerships require local leadership, buy-in and direction, but that without an external prompt and support such collaborative partnerships often struggle. We are clear therefore that action is needed to embed and support effective collaboration at a school level.

Fullan and Munby [84] summarise what factors need to be in place to support effective system-wide school collaboration. These factors, which will inform our approach to collaboration, are:

  • a clear focus on outcomes;
  • partnerships must be founded on a clearly articulated shared moral purpose;
  • transparency, trust and honesty are crucial;
  • commitment to and capacity for peer review;
  • peer review needs to be carried out within a long term relationship and a commitment to continuously improving practice and systems;
  • partnerships must have a plan to move from collaboration to co-responsibility to a position of shared professional accountability;
  • partnerships should go beyond school leaders and engage with students, families, teachers and communities; and
  • partnerships welcome scrutiny and support from other partnerships as their contribution to a connected local, regional and national system.

We recognise that many teachers and practitioners want to work collaboratively, so we must remove the barriers that prevent this from happening.

We will establish a system of support through the regional improvement collaboratives to encourage and facilitate school improvement partnerships.

The National Improvement Framework will provide the evidence and regional improvement collaboratives will be tasked with supporting schools to identify potential partners. These collaborative partnerships may cross local authority boundaries. The focus will be linking schools which either have a shared challenge or where one school is keen to learn from successful practice in another school. The School Improvement Partnership Programme evaluation (2015) [85] has shown the effectiveness of these kinds of school partnerships in tackling educational inequity.

4.3 Local authority level - focussing on world class educational support services

This devolution of power to the school level means that the traditional roles of national and local government will change. Headteachers will be empowered to make high quality decisions to drive up attainment and close the equity gap; putting the needs of children and their families first and helping to build a more open, flexible and dynamic system.

Local government's role and importance is clear. A range of local authority provision, such as Children's Services and Community Learning and Development, have a very important role to play as we continue to improve outcomes for children and families. Local authorities will remain democratically accountable for the provision of early learning and childcare and of schools. Local authorities will focus on delivering excellent educational support services for children and young people - their role will be key in supporting schools and establishments to drive improvement and deliver better outcomes for children.

Local authorities will:

  • provide education support services, including: the supply of schools; the provision of denominational and Gaelic medium schools where required; the administration of placing and admissions procedures, including for children with additional support needs (including independent sector where appropriate); planning for future requirements; and securing excellent headteachers for the schools in their area;
  • provide HR services for all school staff and respond to HR requests from headteachers;
  • be the employer of the education workforce within their schools and local authority early learning and childcare settings;
  • support the provision of early learning and childcare delivered by funded providers (in the private and voluntary sector) as well as local authority nurseries in various establishments to maximise its educational benefit to young children;
  • appoint headteachers with the appropriate involvement of parent councils;
  • be accountable to local communities for the provision of education support services including early learning and childcare in their area;
  • appoint a Chief Education Officer as set out in the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 in order to fulfil their responsibilities in relation to education support services;
  • have a new duty to collaborate to support improvement on a regional basis;
  • be responsible for improvement through their provision of education support services, their regional collaboration and securing leadership in their schools;
  • collaborate with other local authorities and national agencies to provide staff (including headteachers and teachers) to work within the regional improvement collaborative;
  • ensure that other local authority provision, such as Children's Services, Library and Community Services, Community Learning and Development and third sector partners work effectively with schools and regional improvement collaboratives to provide care and education to children and their families; and
  • continue to channel the vast majority of funding for school education, including their role in Attainment Challenge funding, ensuring that public resources allocated for the delivery of education in Scotland are properly accounted for.

4.4 National support for an empowered system

The Governance Review set out that the following organisations were within scope:

  • Scottish Government;
  • Education Scotland;
  • Care Inspectorate (in relation to early years and childcare provision);
  • Scottish Social Services Council (in relation to education, early years and childcare provision) ( SSSC);
  • Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA);
  • General Teaching Council for Scotland ( GTCS);
  • Scottish College for Educational Leadership ( SCEL); and
  • Universities providing Initial Teacher Education.

Evidence [86] points strongly to the importance of shared national priorities and a collective achievement so there is a clear line of sight between learning and teaching in the classroom through to school performance and the achievement of wider priorities.

We have a clear, shared and agreed vision for Scottish education: a vision of excellence and equity set out through our National Improvement Framework. This paper sets out our vision and plans for a school and teacher-led system, with a world-class support system in place to deliver on this ambition.

In order to capitalise on our shared vision and to ensure that there is coherence, pace and challenge at a national level, we recognise the need to provide an overarching structure to support the system.

We will establish a Scottish Education Council, chaired by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, to ensure a system-wide focus on improvement can be delivered.

The role of national bodies including the Scottish Government, is to establish and support this national vision, in such a way that ensures a clear line of sight to the classroom. We are clear that a number of functions in education continue to need to be undertaken at a national level. These are:

  • education policy;
  • a national framework to support improvement and the curriculum;
  • inspection and review of early learning and childcare, school education, educational psychology, community learning and development, children's services and local authorities;
  • development, accreditation and awarding of national qualifications;
  • national support for professional learning and leadership development for the teaching profession and wider education workforce;
  • teacher workforce planning and initial teacher education; and
  • terms and conditions of service for teachers, including pay professional standards and registration of teachers.

However, the findings from the Governance Review consultation, public events and discussions with various stakeholders suggest that currently the responsibilities at a national level are not clear and some functions feel too far removed from the classroom [87] .

We will clarify and simplify the national landscape.

4.4.1 Education policy

The Scottish Government is responsible for setting clear priorities for Scottish education and for setting the national policy context within which the education system operates supported by our national research strategy [88] . While respondents to the Governance Review debated the merits of individual policies no-one suggested that there was no need for a national vision for education or national priorities. The OECD have emphasised the importance of a strategic vision to secure effective delivery of reform. At a national level we must also monitor and evaluate the impact of reform we have set out in this paper, to ensure we are a learning system.

However, an empowered system does suggest a clarified role for national government - for example, empowering teachers and headteachers to make decisions about curriculum content raises questions about the extent to which we can mandate or require certain elements of that curriculum. The freedom for headteachers to choose the staffing mix and management structure within their schools could have implications for the national pupil-teacher ratio. We accept that empowering schools and devolving power also has implications for national government and we will continue to engage with partners, including parents and professional associations on the balance between national priorities and local flexibility.

The Scottish Government will remain responsible for national education policy.

4.4.2 A national framework to support improvement and the curriculum

Within the broad overall vision of achieving excellence and equity the National Improvement Framework is galvanising efforts to align our collective improvement activities across the whole education system, to address our key priorities:

  • improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy;
  • closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children;
  • improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing; and
  • improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school leaver destinations for all young people.

Education Scotland is currently responsible for supporting quality and improvement in Scottish Education. Innovations such as the National Improvement Hub have been welcomed. However, the responsibility for improvement needs to be held at all levels of the system and should be a collective responsibility for all. We have set out an enhanced responsibility for improvement at a regional level, designed and driven at local level, to align with the National Improvement Framework. Learning from each of the regional improvement collaboratives will be shared nationally.

4.4.3 Inspection of early learning and childcare and school education

Inspections and reviews are designed to improve outcomes for learners through providing assurance on the quality of education and promoting improvement and innovation to enhance learners experiences. Currently Education Scotland undertakes inspections for all educational establishments including education in early years settings while the Care Inspectorate inspect care and social care settings. Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate undertake joint inspections where an establishment is providing care and education for example early learning provision or schools with residential accommodation.

The need to ensure both consistency of standards and oversight of the best educational practice across Scotland indicates that inspection should remain a national function. In order to ensure inspection is seen as part of the improvement cycle, rather than as a quality assurance audit, it is important that the inspection and improvement functions remain together at a national level in Education Scotland.

Some establishments are subject to inspection by both the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland and while both Inspectorates have adopted a more joined up approach to inspection, respondents to the Governance Review reported that the current process is unsatisfactory, overly bureaucratic and can lead to confusion for parents [89] . We believe that there is more that can be done to bring these two inspection processes more closely together.

Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate will further enhance their single shared inspection model for early learning and childcare and ensure that an institution will only be subject to a single inspection per cycle.

4.4.4 Development, accreditation and award of national qualifications

Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA) is the national body in Scotland responsible under statute for the development, accreditation, assessment and certification of qualifications. Whilst respecting SQA's independent responsibility for delivering these core functions, we expect SQA to have in place appropriate and robust processes to ensure accuracy, and for consulting and engaging with a wide range of stakeholders.

We will make clear our expectations of SQA on the importance of listening, and being open to, the voices of learners, teachers and parents. We will ensure that the Chair regularly reports to Ministers on the improvements being made in relation to these matters. We will request that SQA outline in their annual corporate plan their strategic communications and engagement plans.

4.4.5 Pay, workforce planning and initial teacher education

Many respondents to the Governance Review consultation cited the importance of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers ( SNCT) which is the tripartite body comprising members from teaching organisations, local authorities, and the Scottish Government with responsibility for agreeing pay and terms and conditions for teachers [90] . The 2001 teachers' agreement, A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century [91] , introduced a new negotiating framework for teachers' pay and conditions of service and this is supported by the SNCT. As we made clear during the Governance Review consultation, we remain committed to national terms and conditions of service including pay.

We remain committed to national terms and conditions of service including pay.

The Scottish Government undertakes an annual teacher workforce planning exercise each autumn to estimate how many student teachers should be enrolled by the relevant universities in the following year to ensure that we maintain an adequate supply of teachers to meet local authorities' and schools' requirements. This process is led by the Scottish Government supported by the national Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group comprising:

  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA);
  • Professional Associations;
  • Headteacher organisations;
  • Scottish Funding Council;
  • General Teaching Council for Scotland ( GTCS);
  • Education Scotland;
  • Universities providing Initial Teacher Education;
  • Universities Scotland; and
  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland ( ADES).

In recent years the process has been supplemented by more detailed local information and this has strengthened confidence in the workforce planning process. We will build on this approach in the future strengthening local input and continue to work with the national Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group.

Workforce planning will continue to be undertaken at a national level but with an enhanced role for local authorities and regional improvement collaboratives to ensure that national planning reflects local need.

4.4.6 Professional standards and registration of teachers and wider education workforce

One of the strengths of our education system is that we have national teacher professional standards underpinned by a national registration scheme which ensures the high quality of our teaching profession. We remain absolutely committed to these safeguards. It is right that we have a national system to determine who has the skills and expertise to work with our children and young people but that system also needs to be flexible and prompt in dealing with requests so that qualified, high-quality teachers are able to get into classrooms as quickly as possible.

It is also important that we have a system to identify people who should not be working with children and to address issues of competence. Procedures for dealing with competence investigations in relation to professional standards need to be robust and operate at a faster pace where possible. Professional Update where teachers demonstrate that they are continuing to meet the professional standards needs to have more impact on improving teachers' knowledge, skills and competences.

We support a professional workforce and recognise that there are many professionals, such as education support staff and Community Learning and Development ( CLD) professionals, who play a key role in educating our children and supporting our teachers. Currently, not all of these professionals are part of a national registration scheme.

We will therefore consult on establishing an Education Workforce Council for Scotland which will take on the responsibilities of the GTCS, the Community Learning and Development Standards Council and register other education professionals. The full scope of the functions to be undertaken by this body will be included in our consultation on our Education Bill in autumn 2017.

4.4.7 National support for professional learning and leadership development

Currently the support for professional learning and leadership development of teachers rests with a number of different national bodies. Education Scotland has core responsibility for professional learning as set out in their Framework document. The Scottish College for Educational Leadership ( SCEL) has responsibility for leadership development and the GTCS has brought together professional associations and other partners to develop a professional learning framework. In order to simplify the landscape and provide clarity to teachers, we believe that one national government agency should have responsibility for national support for professional learning and leadership. The improved regional organisation of Education Scotland, as outlined earlier in this paper, will mean that they are best placed to co-ordinate hands-on professional learning and leadership development to teachers in line with a focus on developing methods of improvement that work for local circumstances.

We will simplify the national support for professional learning and leadership development by placing these functions in a renewed and revitalised Education Scotland.

Education Scotland will have a significantly enhanced role and purpose going forward, with a strengthened inspection and improvement function. We do not accept the calls for these functions to be split; inspection remains a crucial tool that supports the system-wide goal of continuous improvement. Education Scotland will have a renewed focus on professional learning and leadership, providing clarity and coherence to the national landscape. Delivery via the new regional improvement collaboratives will mean that hands on advice, support and guidance can flow directly to schools to support improvement.

The table below sets out a comparison of which national bodies are responsible to which function now and how they will look in the future.

Function at national level

Body currently responsible

Body to be responsible in future

Education policy

Scottish Government
Education Scotland (for community learning, adult learning and youth work)

Scottish Government


Education Scotland Care Inspectorate

Education Scotland
Care Inspectorate

Improvement/Curriculum Support

Education Scotland

Education Scotland

National qualifications

Scottish Qualifications Authority

Scottish Qualifications Authority

Professional learning

General Teaching Council for Scotland
Education Scotland
Scottish College for Educational Leadership

Led by Education Scotland, supported by providers including Universities

Leadership development

Scottish College for Educational Leadership
General Teaching Council for Scotland
Education Scotland

Education Scotland

Initial teacher Education

University of the West of Scotland
University of the Highlands and Islands
Royal Conservatoire

University of the West of Scotland
University of the Highlands and Islands
Royal Conservatoire
Other routes into teaching and other providers as required

Initial teacher Education accreditation

General Teaching Council for Scotland (accreditation of ITE)

Education Workforce Council

Workforce Planning

Scottish Government in close collaboration with

Professional Associations
Headteacher organisations
Scottish Funding Council
General Teaching Council for Scotland
Education Scotland
Universities providing ITE
Universities Scotland
Association of Directors of Education in Scotland

Scottish Government in close collaboration with

Professional Associations
Headteacher organisations
Scottish Funding Council
Education Workforce Council
Education Scotland
Universities providing ITE
Universities Scotland
Association of Directors of Education in Scotland

Terms and conditions

Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers

Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers

Professional standards, regulations and registration

General Teaching Council for Scotland
Scottish Social Services Council

Education Workforce Council
Scottish Social Services Council

4.5 Fair Funding for an Empowered System

The transformation of education governance outlined in this paper needs to be supported by a fair and transparent funding system that puts schools at the heart of decision making.

There are broadly three approaches to funding that could support our vision for a school and teacher-led system.

A Fixed National Funding Formula

In recent years, many education systems have moved towards decentralisation of school funding through the use of funding formulas.

Under this approach, money for education in Scotland (or relevant parts of the education system) would be ring-fenced and go directly to schools, via the local authority. The total amount of money available to schools in an individual local authority could be calculated from the top down, determined by the current local government distribution calculation mechanism, or from the bottom up, based on the characteristics of the school population in that authority.

Allocations could be determined on a unit cost per child basis by a broad range of input variables and criteria, such as deprivation, rurality, etc. Alternatively, they could be determined by providing a school allocation based on pupil numbers and historic spend, supplemented by additional funds reflecting particular needs. The services currently provided for and funded centrally by local authorities, for example additional support needs and capital spending, could either be included within that formula, or excluded from it. Portions of funding would be allocated directly to clusters and regions to support collaborative working and maximise the use of resources.

While the OECD [92] have found that a " well designed funding formula can be the most efficient, stable and transparent method of funding schools", there is little direct evidence at present about the role and success of funding formulas in driving improved educational outcomes. In addition, moving towards a national funding formula could introduce unacceptable instability and inflexibility into education funding. We do not therefore intend to proceed with consulting on a fixed national funding formula.

As highlighted in Chapter 2, the Accounts Commission [93] suggests that it is how local authorities decide to spend their education budget, rather than the overall level of spending, which has most impact on attainment. The review of literature suggests that the impact of funding on attainment could be more significant if it was targeted at those schools and pupils where the need to improve attainment was greatest. A Centre for Economic Performance Paper [94] similarly found that "increases in resourcing are usually more effective for disadvantaged pupils and/or schools". With this in mind, we are consulting on two possible approaches to funding, alongside this paper.

A national approach to devolved funding within the new "Headteachers' Charter"

This paper sets out our intention to legislate to create a Headteachers' Charter which will define across Scotland the leadership responsibilities of headteachers. The Charter could also provide for a Scotland-wide approach to funding. Set out in legislation, such an approach could build on best practice, bring consistency to the way local authorities fund schools while allowing some degree of flexibility in decision making to reflect local circumstances, and ensure maximum devolution to headteachers. It could also set out clearly where responsibilities for funding are held and shared.

Increased targeting of elements of funding, building on the approach taken to Pupil Equity Funding ( PEF)

Through the establishment of the Pupil Equity Fund, we are already ensuring that more money to tackle attainment is going directly to schools, with headteachers having discretion over how that money is spent. An alternative to a national approach to devolved funding within the Headteachers' Charter - or that could be used in conjunction with the Charter - would be to build on and further embed this approach so that more funding would be targeted directly to schools in relation to specific additional need factors and for specific purposes.

We propose to develop an approach to funding that truly empowers schools, and provides the framework of support which schools need, based on the outcome of the consultation.


Email: Stephanie Gray

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top