Independent Review of Community Learning and Development: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Independent Review of Community Learning and Development.


This document sets out the proposed terms for the independent review of community learning and development (CLD) in Scotland with the aim of building a comprehensive picture of its delivery across various communities. This review forms part of a suite of reviews across the education and skills system, and will be conducted independently of Scottish Government and Scottish Ministers.

Community learning and development is a professional practice within the realm of education with delivery stretching across all stages of lifelong learning. The purpose of CLD is to provide early intervention and prevention to those experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, inequality of opportunity within the education and skills system.

With a focus on removing barriers to learning for the most marginalised people within society, high quality CLD practice creates opportunities for people who:

  • have few or no qualifications
  • require help to engage in learning opportunities
  • face personal, social or systemic barriers to learning

The statutory basis for CLD is under sections 1 and 2 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (the 1980 Act):

  • Section 1 places duties on education authorities to secure adequate and efficient provision of further education for their area
  • The Requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013, were made under section 2 of the 1980 Act which allows Ministers to prescribe the standards and requirements which education authorities must comply with when discharging their statutory functions under section 1 of the Act. They set requirements in relation to the process to be undertaken by education authorities in securing CLD provision. Under the Requirements, local authorities must publish a plan every 3 years containing information about the provision of CLD within their area

Changes across the policy landscape have highlighted a need to further collaborate on planning to ensure young people and adults achieve the skills and support they need to progress.

Within the education and skills system, there is an increased recognition of the need to more systematically embed professional intervention for young people and adults who need support to progress to a positive outcome for their future. This will help to ensure that provision meets the needs of different learners and employers and serves the economy and wider society, now and in the future.

In recognition of the changing landscape and emerging needs of learners, the Scottish Government committed to reviewing the CLD regulations in 2021. The Minister for Higher and Further Education has requested this commitment to be taken beyond the legislative requirements for CLD with a focus on how the CLD service offers support and development to learners in Scotland’s communities.


There has been extensive work carried out across the Scottish Government to develop an education and skills system that is fit for the future. As this work continues to develop, our ambition is to ensure that all parts of the system work in synergy to provide the right level of support to help learners to achieve the best possible outcomes to maximise their potential. The independent review of CLD will consider recommendations outlined by Professor Ken Muir, Professor Louise Hayward and James Withers to fully understand the extent to which the skills of CLD practitioners and the impact of CLD practice on marginalised learners are delivering outcomes towards the shared priorities of education and skills reform.

Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) sets out the priorities for Scotland’s economy as well as the actions needed to maximise the opportunities over the next decade to achieve our vision of a wellbeing economy. It states: “There has been a variety of interventions implemented to improve outcomes for people in the most marginalised communities across Scotland. However, significant inequalities still persist in educational attainment.”

The ambitions for NSET coincide with reform of the education and skills landscape where CLD interventions have a distinct role to play. The Post-school education, research and skills - purpose and principles report confirms our drive to “recognise and strengthen the incredible difference that our institutions, employers, third sector partners, schools and local authorities can make when they all work together - making the most of our shared assets to deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Referring to careers advice and education, James Withers recognises that we cannot solely focus on young people or those in school or college. He expands to focus on those who face barriers for a variety of reasons and advises there should be “high quality, impartial support” out with the formal education sector stating: “Instead, it should become a structural part of the learning system, and an embedded resource within local communities.”

Professor Louise Hayward also confirms the importance of learning in communities through the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment offering recommendations for a personal pathway: “Making sure that every learner in Scotland has opportunities to engage in social, cultural, well-being and economic activities is a crucial part of what it means to be educated in Scotland.”

The personal pathway would be supported by a range of educators and the report details the skills that would be required in supporting learners on their journey.

As the foundation of reform, professional development is at the heart of Professor Ken Muir’s report which recommended a focus on leadership for practitioners providing services and for the ”retention of the CLD Standards Council within the new agency.” This review will build on this further to offer recommendations on how CLD practitioners can be supported effectively and coherently in their roles and functions to meet the needs of learners.

Whilst Ministers consider the recommendations from the Hayward and Withers reports, the potential for significant changes to Scotland’s education and skills system and practices offers an opportunity to ensure that CLD is delivering better outcomes for the individuals and groups it is intended to support, and is effectively integrated into the wider education and skills system.


The reviews carried out by Professor Hayward and James Withers both highlight an important role for CLD in the context of education and skills reform. Professor Hayward stressed the importance of informal learning and the achievements that young people have gained through youth awards and how some people excel through community based learning. 

In the evidence gathered through the Withers review, the report specified the role of CLD: “the CLD workforce engages the hardest to reach communities, including some of the most vulnerable learners across all ages” alongside this, Withers recommended that this work required better alignment alongside Local Employability Partnerships “to ensure these support delivery of individualised learning profiles and adapted curriculums”.

Withers takes this description further, outlining a clear purpose for CLD as we move forward with an ambitious agenda of reforming post-16 education and skills: “The Community Learning and Development sector (CLD) is an important aspect of this. By supporting all individuals to make positive changes in their lives and in their communities, CLD can help support the lifelong journey of acquiring skills and knowledge.”

The review of CLD will consider the extent to which CLD is currently delivering desired outcomes and how it is placed to contribute towards the recommendations set out by Professor Ken Muir, Professor Louise Hayward and James Withers for developing an education and skills system that is fit for the future.

The review will make recommendations on where changes may be required to deliver those outcomes through CLD practice in the context of wider education reform, whilst ensuring sector readiness to meet future known or unknown challenges, whilst being mindful of current challenges around public finances.

Building upon the work and recommendations of earlier reviews carried out by Muir, Hayward and Withers, the review will avoid any duplication of these reviews - although references to recommendations in a CLD context are likely and would be welcome. The review will work to the overarching recommendations set out by Professor Ken Muir to “further embed the principles of life-long learning throughout our learner journeys and wider society”. 

More specifically, the review will:

  • consider the extent to which CLD is contributing to delivering positive outcomes in line with Scottish Government priorities, including examination of the respective roles and responsibilities of those involved and
  • provide information and recommendations relating to:
  1. Effective and consistently measured outcomes delivered through CLD and reported across the sector. This includes data on the CLD workforce, engagement opportunities and outcomes for learners.
  2. Delivering positive outcomes and improved life chances for marginalised and vulnerable learners in communities, in the context of wider education reform and public finance constraints.
  3. A strong and suitably professionalised CLD workforce equipped to deliver high quality outcomes for learners.

This will help us to understand the breadth and impact of CLD on learners in Scotland’s communities, and where services support outcomes for marginalised learners.

This links to the priority set out in Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation to ‘reorient our economy towards wellbeing and fair work, to deliver higher rates of employment and wage growth, to significantly reduce structural poverty, particularly child poverty, and improve health, cultural and social outcomes for disadvantaged families and communities’.

Scope of review

The review will offer independent advice and recommendations to Scottish Ministers on the delivery of CLD services to ensure effective outcomes in the context of a reformed education and skills system. Aligning the review to the ambition set out by James Withers to reach people in Scotland’s communities who are economically inactive, the review should ensure that the voice of learners, and potential learners, facing barriers to learning and work is captured and communicated through consultation.

In doing this, the review will:

  • consider the skills and career pathways of the CLD sector workforce and hear the views of staff and volunteers who may be directly impacted by any recommended changes to the delivery of CLD
  • take account of available evidence related to the provision of CLD services; the impact of these services on learners and international perspectives where appropriate
  • consider how data across the CLD sector is gathered, measured and used to ensure the best possible outcomes for learners who represent the primary target groups of CLD interventions
  • make connections across the wider policy landscape and Scottish Government priorities whilst considering close alignment of CLD with the Purpose and Principles of post-16 education published in June 2023

Timescales, accountability and governance

The review will be carried out by an Independent Reviewer and will commence in December 2023. It should be complete and report by June 2024.

Publication of the review report will be by June 2024. The Reviewer will act independently however is individually accountable to the Scottish Ministers for their actions and decisions. In carrying out the review, the Independent Reviewer will:

  • ensure the review is independent and without intervention of Scottish Ministers, stakeholders or other parties
  • be supported by a small team of Scottish Government officials (the Secretariat) based within the Lifelong Learning & Skills Directorate.  The Secretariat will be mindful of the independence of the Review at all times and act accordingly to support the Independent Reviewer
  • determine the content of the reporting including any conclusions and recommendations seeking support from secretariat when required; and
  • provide direct advice to Scottish Ministers and authorise publication of the final report by the Scottish Government

Recommendations arising from the review  should have regard to the principles for public service reform as they apply to public bodies as set out in the Resource Spending Review (RSR), published on 31 May 2022, and ensure that any recommendations and advice on reform is in line with these priorities. In this context, the recommendations should seek to reduce duplication or unnecessary complexity across the CLD delivery landscape.

The RSR sets out an expectation that public bodies in Scotland will deliver recurring annual efficiencies of at least 3%, asks public bodies to demonstrate that they remain fit for purpose against the present and future needs of Scotland’s people, places and communities (place based and person centred) and notes that wider reform of the public bodies landscape in Scotland is inevitable.

Throughout the review, and specifically in providing recommendations, the Independent Reviewer will take account of the how the CLD sector can be strengthened to support delivery in the midst of the current and future economic climate.

This review is being undertaken in a period when the Scottish Government is considering wider education reform, and as such is intended to provide useful input on the role CLD plays, and will continue to play, as an integral part of Scotland’s learning landscape. Given that backdrop, the review Terms of Reference focus on the education elements of CLD. The cross-cutting nature of CLD provision means that there is a likelihood of the community development/empowerment element of CLD being raised by stakeholders in the course of the review. Nevertheless, the focus will remain on the educational elements. 

Communications and information sharing

The Reviewer is not a Scottish public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs) and will therefore not be required to respond to FOI requests. The Reviewer is appointed to be independent from Scottish Ministers, as reflected in their appointment letter and remit, and is therefore not considered subject to the Scottish Ministers’ designation under FOISA either.

Scottish Government officials will provide a secretariat function to the Reviewer. All information received as part of the Reviewer’s role will be stored electronically. The Secretariat will keep the Reviewer’s records in a separate electronic file with restricted access to officials who are providing secretariat to the review. This will clarify that, for the purposes of FOISA and the EIRs, officials are holding these records only on behalf of the Reviewer and not on behalf of the Scottish Ministers.

Information and papers sent to the Reviewer are intended for viewing by the Reviewer only. There should be an assumption that papers will contain Official Sensitive level information and thus should not be shared with third parties, either in hard copy or electronically and their content should not be discussed externally.  Minutes of meetings between the Reviewer and the Secretariat are confidential and will not be shared with third parties.

All records and personal data handled by the Reviewer in carrying out their role will be handled in accordance with the Scottish Government Information Security Policy, the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) together with the Data Protection Act 2018.

The Reviewer will be the Data Controller in relation to any personal data processed in the course of their own work in this role. However, the Scottish Government will be the Data Controller for all of the material that is stored in relation to the work of the Reviewer. The Reviewer and the Scottish Government will consider a joint Privacy Notice on how all data will be shared.

The Reviewer will engage widely and gather evidence to inform their recommendations. Public bodies participating in the Review will be expected to engage constructively and provide information and evidence to support the Reviewer’s work when requested.

The Reviewer will write to relevant parties, CLD stakeholders, health boards, local authorities and colleges, to provide a time limited opportunity to respond to any factual inaccuracies in relation to commentary on individual areas of the report referring to organisations included in the draft report/recommendations. This is intended to avoid the inclusion of factual errors, and will happen ahead of submission of a final report to the Scottish Government.

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