Empowering Schools: education reform progress update

Progress update on delivery of the Scottish Government's programme of education reform.

Chapter 2: Parental Engagement

Next steps 

In the Next Steps publication, we committed to:

  • Strengthen, modernise and extend (to early years) the legislation on parental involvement. The draft 2018 Education Bill proposed to update definitions to reflect engagement in learning, strengthen the duties on headteachers to involve and engage parents, strengthen the requirements on local authority parental involvement strategies and provide a new focus on schools’ responsibilities to provide simple, practical advice on learning in the home. 
  • Statutory guidance will make it clear that schools should identify a teacher or professional with responsibility for promoting parental, family and community engagement.

Joint agreement

The Joint Agreement committed signatories to:

  • Build on good practice to ensure that: headteachers and schools work collaboratively with their Parent Council, wider parent forum and community on matters of school policy and improvement; local authorities continue to be responsible for promoting the involvement of parents and supporting schools in this, including through the review of the local authority parental engagement strategies; and that the principles of parental involvement and engagement extend to early learning and childcare settings.


In place of primary legislation a commitment on parental and community empowerment was included within the Joint Agreement. To complement this work national and Local Government developed a joint Scottish Government and COSLA plan to improve parental involvement and engagement: The Learning Together National Action Plan 2018–2021 (published July 2018). This plan, which includes 52 actions covering parental involvement, parental engagement, communication, family learning, and other key themes, demonstrates our long-term commitment to put parents at the heart of their children’s learning, and reflects the importance we place on parental engagement within a range of Scottish Government education policies and initiatives. 

Progress with the plan is being overseen by a joint group involving national parent organisations, COSLA, ADES and national bodies. A local authority joint implementation statement is included within the action plan. To support broader culture changes and improvement, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland created a national network on parental involvement and engagement in May 2019. In addition the Deputy First Minister has appointed an initial tranche of parental engagement champions in schools and early learning centres. In early years, parental involvement is included in the national standards for Early Learning and Childcare and an online resource and guidance has been developed to help parents make informed choices about the right early learning and childcare setting for their child.

The suite of guidance designed to support school empowerment will include a section
on the empowerment of parents and carers. The development of this section of the empowerment guidance has been led by the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS). Allied to this, Education Scotland is working with the NPFS to develop a parent-friendly version of this guidance, ensuring that Parent Councils and the wider parent forum understand and can engage in school-based decision making. This guidance will complement existing good practice guidance which was updated by Education Scotland in March 2019.

Strengthened statutory guidance on parental involvement and engagement is also being drafted. We convened a working group earlier in 2019, comprising of national parent organisations, ADES, and other partners, and expect to consult on draft amended guidance later in 2019. We also know that some parents face additional barriers to being involved and engaged. This is why we are providing £350,000 of funding over two years (2019–2021) for a small number of projects and activities to support equalities work covering a range of protected characteristics and groups.

Going forward

Parental involvement and engagement is a key theme in our empowerment reforms as well as an integral part of the National Improvement Framework (NIF) for education. As the Joint Agreement and associated empowered system guidance and support – including the specific guidance on empowerment of parents and carers – is embedded into everyday practice, this will strengthen engagement with parents and the wider school community on decisions affecting our children and young people. This will be reinforced and supported by strengthened statutory guidance to support the 2006 Parental Involvement Act. 

Local authorities will use the self-evaluation on school empowerment toolkit to assess how Local Government partners are supporting parental and community engagement in school decision making. This will include identifying where, through collaboration and shared learning, local authorities and RICs can further support schools in engaging effectively with parents and the wider school community. This activity will be complemented by data and information gathered from school and early learning centre pre-inspection questionnaires as well as a new Parental Involvement and Engagement Census which is being piloted in a number of local authorities in 2019. Data from a range of evidence sources will be included in the annual National Improvement Framework reports under the NIF’s parental engagement driver. 

The third Education Scotland thematic inspection, on parent and pupil participation is complete and was published in June 2019. We will work with Local Government partners and Education Scotland to take forward its findings.


Email: scott.miller@gov.scot

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