Europe 2020: Scottish National Reform Programme 2016

This report sets out the actions being undertaken in Scotland in support of the delivery of the Europe 2020 ambitions.

Chapter 5: learning and Skills

Scotland's people are our greatest economic asset, and a highly-skilled and productive workforce is essential for improving economic performance.

The Scottish Government shares the European Commission's ambition of improving education levels, and Scotland's Economic Strategy highlights the importance of investment in education and skills in driving long-term improvements in competitiveness and in creating economic opportunities for all.

This chapter sets out the activities being undertaken across Scotland to equip our young people with the knowledge and skills to flourish.

Europe 2020 headline targets:

Improving education levels, in particular by:

  • Reducing the rate of early school leavers to 10 per cent from the current 15 per cent; and
  • Increasing the share of the population aged 30-34 having completed tertiary or equivalent education to at least 40 per cent by 2020.

Current Scottish Performance

Current Scottish performance against the headline EU targets and the relevant National Indicators to education is presented in Table 5.

Table 5 - Current Scottish Performance Against Education Indicators


Current Level

Change Over Year

Reference Period

Proportion of 18-24 population who are early leavers from education and training [55]


1.0% pts decrease in early school leavers


Share of the population aged 30-34 having completed tertiary education [56]


3.7% pts increase


The proportion of young people in learning, training or work[57]57

91.5% of school leavers were in positive destinations

1.5% pts increase


The proportion of graduates in positive destinations 6 months after graduating [58]


1.8% pts increase


The proportion of working age adults that have low or no educational qualifications ( SCQF Level 4 qualifications or below) [59]


1.1% pts decrease in proportion of adults with low or no educational qualifications


Scotland continues to perform well against each of its education indicators, as indicated in Table 5. The share of the population aged 30-34 having completed tertiary education increased over the year and well exceeds the Commission's target of 40 per cent; the proportion of early school leavers decreased over the year to 2014 and is close to the Commission's target of 10 per cent; educational qualifications amongst adults improved over the year to 2014; and the proportion of graduates in positive destinations increased over the year to 2013-14.

Raising attainment and addressing inequalities of educational outcome

The Scottish Government is committed to raising attainment among all children, but particularly those from low income backgrounds. This informs all of our policies that affect children and young people.

National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education

On 6 January 2016, the Scottish Government launched the National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education, [60] which sets out the Scottish Government's vision and priorities for our children's progress in learning. The vision is made up of:

  • Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, and the range of skills, qualifications and achievements to allow them to succeed; and
  • Achieving equity: ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of their background.

The current priorities for the National Improvement Framework are:

  • Improving 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.

Actions for 2016 as part of the Framework include development of national standardised assessments in primary and early years of secondary school to inform teacher judgement of children's progress. Over time, the Framework will provide a level of robust, consistent and transparent data, to extend our understanding of what works to drive improvements across all parts of the education system.

Scottish Attainment Challenge

Tackling the attainment gap requires challenging everyone involved in Scottish education to relentlessly focus efforts on reducing the impacts of deprivation on educational outcomes.

The Scottish Attainment Challenge [61] will accelerate targeted improvements in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing for children in our most deprived communities. The Challenge is funded through the Attainment Scotland Fund. In February 2016, the Deputy First Minister announced plans to double the amount of funding allocated to the Attainment Scotland Fund over the next 3 years from £80 million to £160 million, bringing the total investment over 2015-19 to £180 million. As part of the fund, all schools and Local Authorities have access to a named Attainment Advisor for each Local Authority, a virtual National Hub of educational expertise and a £1.5 million Innovation Fund which will support other schools (including Secondary schools) across Scotland to explore and develop innovative approaches to raising attainment.

Seven Local Authorities have been selected as the first 'Challenge' Authorities, and each is developing a bespoke Improvement Plan to put in place effective interventions in education. The initial focus of the fund has been in Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire and North Lanarkshire. A further 57 schools in 14 other Local Authorities have been selected as the next tranche of the Attainment Fund, providing support for the most hard pressed local communities in Scotland.

Supporting Students and Widening Access

The Scottish Government is committed to developing a highly-skilled and educated workforce, and we are taking steps to ensure that people from all backgrounds have the support to reach their full potential, including:

  • In contrast to other parts of the UK, the Scottish Government has retained the Education Maintenance Allowance [62] ( EMA) to provide financial support to eligible 16-19 year olds from the lowest income families to enable them to continue to stay in education and learning beyond the school leaving age. In academic year 2013-14, £28.2 million of funding was provided to support 34,955 young people in schools and colleges. In January 2016, the programme was expanded to include part-time non-advanced college courses and the income thresholds were increased.
  • The Scottish Government is committed to providing student support. The current funding package includes annual minimum income of £7,625, through a combination of bursaries and loans, for students with a family income of less than £17,000 (rising to £19,000 in academic year 2016-17), and a student loan of £4,750 a year which all students are eligible for. Part-time students with a personal income of less than £25,000 are eligible to receive a grant towards tuition-fee costs.
  • In addition to an existing loan of up to £3,400 toward the cost of their tuition fees, from 2015-16, postgraduates on eligible courses have been able to apply for a loan of up to £4,500 a year to help with living costs. Over the academic year 2014-15, over £780 million [63] of student support, covering tuition fees, grants, bursaries and authorised loans, was allocated through the Student Awards Agency for Scotland ( SAAS) to 139,370 full-time higher education students.
  • Ensuring that access to higher education remains free for Scottish-domiciled students, investing over £1 billion in Scotland's higher education sector in 2016-17 to support this. In addition, the Scottish Government's Budget for 2016-17 confirmed that college funding levels would be maintained at 2015-16 levels to build on the sector's strengths in delivery of relevant, high-quality learning connected to the needs of their regions.

The Scottish Government is committed to widening access to higher education and the Programme for Government sets out a clear ambition that a child born today in one of our most deprived communities will, by the time he or she leaves school, have the same chance of going to university as a child born in one of our least deprived communities.

The Commission on Widening Access, [64] made up of key figures from business, education, early years and student representatives, was established to advise on meaningful milestones, targets and activities that will assist in accelerating progress and identify where more action is required to realise our vision. The Commission published its final report, A Blueprint for Fairness [65] on 14 March 2016. The Report made a series of 34 recommendations to help ensure that a student's background is not a barrier to university access, including: setting targets for the share of students from deprived areas enrolling in Higher Education; appointing a Commissioner of Fair Access; and new admissions thresholds for students from the most deprived backgrounds. The Scottish Government has accepted the Commission's recommended targets, and will set out its response to the other recommendations in due course.

Details of a programme that provided support to offer places in higher education to young people in the Highlands and Islands can be found in Box 6.

Box 6: Investing in Recovery - Delivering Higher Level Qualifications to Support Economic Development

Investing in Recovery ( IIR) was a 3-year project delivered by the University of the Highlands and Islands ( UHI) with support from the Highlands & Islands Scotland European Social Fund 2007-13 programme. It was designed to ease the effects of the 2008-09 recession in the region and developed in response to the European Commission's Recovery Plan. The project involved funding for additional full and part-time student places, supporting in particular, young people to develop skills in key sectors. With a total project budget of £12.4 million, including a grant from ESF of £7 million, 2,074 additional places were provided over three academic years from 2010-11 to 2012-13.

A significant upskilling was evidenced with an increase in the qualification levels of project participants. At the start of the project 76 per cent of participants reported qualifications at ( SCQF) Level 3 or below. At project closure, participants at Level 3 or below had fallen to 2 per cent with a significant increase in participants with Level 5 and 6 qualifications from 13 per cent to 95 per cent. Courses

identified as key to economic recovery were studied including HNC/ HND and degree courses in Business and Management, Engineering, Marine Science, Oral Health Science and Adventure Tourism.

An impact study, carried out 6 months after the end of the project, demonstrated extremely positive outcomes including:

  • Almost half of respondents declared that they were employed, either full-time, part-time or in self-employment;
  • 83 per cent of respondents who were in full time employment declared they were employed in the Highlands and Islands, with a further 13 per cent employed in the rest of Scotland; and
  • 45 per cent of respondents were occupied in full-time study, training and research.

As a result of these positive outcomes, additional funded numbers have now been incorporated in SFC funding, enabling considerable increase in size from just under 3,500 FTEs in 2010-11 to an expected 6,000 in 2015-16.

Investing in Scotland's learning environment


The Scottish Government is committed to increasing student and staff mobility, and promoting Scotland as a learning nation. Scotland's participation in Erasmus+, the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020, helps to raise the profile of Scotland as a place to live, work and study in key overseas markets and to showcase the best of Scottish higher education to the world.

Across the UK, Erasmus+ is delivered by a consortium of the British Council and Ecorys. Preliminary data in 2014 showed that projects with a lead organisation based in Scotland were awarded over €12.2 million of funding through Erasmus+.
The Scottish Government is working closely with the British Council and Ecorys by participating in service design and procurement for Erasmus+ in Scotland.

Detail of an initiative to help teachers from Scotland improve their Modern Languages ability through the ERASMUS+ programme can be found in Box 7.

Box 7: Le Français en Ecosse ( LFEE) Europe - Languages for Education

LFEE Europe is an independent Teacher Training Centre based in Edinburgh since 1999, specialising in the teaching of Modern Languages. LFEE offer a range of educational and training services for learners and Educators within Scotland and in the rest of Europe.

LFEE Europe receives the support of the French Embassy in the UK and the General Teaching Council in Scotland as well as support from National European Agencies and from the European Centre for Modern Languages. As well as this support, LFEE Europe works with strategic partners such as Education Scotland, Scotland's National Centre for Languages ( SCILT), Scottish Local Authorities, the Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools ( CISS), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education ( HMIE) and, in France, the DAREICs (International and European Cooperation Bureau in Education) and French Local Education Authorities (Académies).

The training programmes include Immersion Courses for Primary and Secondary teachers in France, Spain and Scotland. These courses provide a balanced combination of language, methodology and cultural activities for practitioners. Over the past 10 years more than 3,000 teachers coming from all over Europe have participated in LFEE immersion courses. Participants receive funding from the European Union Mobility Programme (currently ERASMUS+) which covers all expenses: travel, course fee, subsistence and accommodation.

Over 70 per cent of participants on the Immersion Courses come from Scotland. Over the past 4 years, 250 teachers from Scotland have been able to attend, every year, a course in France or Spain under the ERASMUS+ programme. Recently, LFEE courses have been accredited by the General Teaching Council for Scotland ( GTCS).

Teaching Scotland's Future

Significant progress has been made towards implementing the recommendations of Teaching Scotland's Future ( TSF) [66] - a report which was commissioned to review teacher education in Scotland, and ensure that the teaching profession had the skills necessary to successfully support the new Scottish education curriculum. For example over 3,000 teachers have benefited from new opportunities to gain Masters qualifications over the past 4 years, with the support of £4 million funding from the Scottish Government. A new Qualification for Headship has been developed that will prepare teachers for undertaking the role of headteacher. The first group of 145 teachers undertaking the qualification started studying in September 2015 at seven Scottish universities and will complete the programme later this year.

Scotland's Schools for the Future Programme

As well as providing support for teachers, the Scottish Government is also investing in Scotland's school infrastructure. The current phase of the Scottish Government's £1.8 billion school building programme, Scotland's Schools for the Future, [67] will see the construction or refurbishment of over 112 schools in Scotland, benefiting over 60,000 pupils, by March 2020. These schools will be built in every part of Scotland, in partnership with Local Authorities. To date, there are 23 schools which are operational (15 Primary, one Additional Support Needs and seven Secondary). There are 30 schools currently in construction (14 Secondary, 15 Primary and one Additional Support Needs).


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