International Council of Education Advisers: report 2016-2018

This is the first formal report of the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) following the initial two-year period of their appointment.

Impact Of The Icea On Policy Development And Improving The Scottish Education System

61. At the first meeting on 31 August and 1 September 2016, the ICEA gathered a wide range of information about education in Scotland in order to offer well-informed advice to Ministers. The ICEA consequently focused its initial work on examining three key themes:

  • Capacity building in educational leadership and professional learning.
  • Building collaboration and collective responsibility in Scottish education.
  • What works educationally to close the equity gap.

62. These themes were the focus of the second meeting, after which the ICEA produced its initial report identifying three priority areas where it felt the Scottish Government needed to concentrate its efforts to deliver the improvements set out in the NIF, whilst retaining the vision and holistic approach of CfE.

63. The three priority areas were:

  • Improving pedagogy for specific subjects, using clear evidence to identify what works in the classroom
  • Developing effective leadership at all levels in Scottish education – unleashing untapped potential within the system
  • Ensuring a culture of collaboration exists throughout Scottish education, at classroom, school, regional and national level.

64. The ICEA welcomes the fact that the Scottish Government has taken these recommendations into account and is using them to implement policies that will secure the achievement of excellence and equity in the Scottish education system, and to establish a school and teacher led education system designed to empower the workforce, parents, pupils, and communities.


65. The ICEA’s initial report highlighted the need to focus on pedagogy at the centre of schools. There is a risk of becoming too focused on evidence-based interventions aimed at reducing the poverty-related attainment gap, without also consistently making sure that learning and teaching are at the forefront of everything that is being done to ensure excellence and equity in Scottish education. The ICEA suggests that there is a need for a far better understanding of what pedagogy looks like within Scotland’s schools, what is working and what the areas of difficulty are, in order to inform the sharing of good pedagogical practices and to provide professional learning along with the resources to support pedagogical development.

66. The ICEA notes that it is very encouraging that improving pedagogy is now at the epicenter of the work of Education Scotland in supporting improvements in education in Scotland. In addition, Scotland has taken advanced steps in bringing free outdoor play closer to all children, especially in urban neighborhoods. Collaborative support for pedagogy and play-based learning is fundamental to the new role of Education Scotland, and much of the work will be delivered through the RICs which should have the singular focus of helping teachers to improve their practice.


67. In terms of leadership, in its initial report, the ICEA recommended that the Scottish Government consider:

  • ways of making the teaching profession, particularly entry into leadership roles, more attractive, through a clearer career progression;
  • how to make use of high-performing teacher leaders within schools e.g. creating a system of peer support to support and mentor other teachers; and
  • establishing clear, broad and multiple career pathways for teaching professionals, and to look at ways for teachers to contribute to leadership practices while remaining in the classroom.

68. The ICEA notes that the Scottish Government continues to work with the teaching profession and other partners (including Education Scotland, GTCS, further and higher education institutions and specialist groups) to develop new career pathways for teachers, allowing greater opportunities for development and progression into leadership, specialist, or improvement roles. This policy direction has been agreed jointly with the professional associations as part of Scotland’s country commitments for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession (2017 and 2018) and will be taken forward by an independent panel linked to the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers.

69. Another consistent theme in the advice the ICEA has provided to the Scottish Government has been the need to ensure a school and teacher-led education system. The ICEA has consistently emphasised the importance of capacity building and cultural change at all levels in the education system, and these themes run throughout this report.


70. In its initial report, the ICEA stated that collaboration among teachers and schools was uneven, and was not sufficiently established throughout the education system in Scotland. The ICEA reflected on collaborative improvement initiatives and was introduced to the work of the Northern Alliance and the Tayside Collaborative as examples of partnership activity. The ICEA noted that such examples of collaboration needed to be developed further, and potentially shared throughout the country. The ICEA notes the potential of the 6 RICs, to embed collaboration for improvement across the whole of Scotland.

71. Scotland has a strong track-record of collaboration and consensus in implementing education policy, as was evidence by the delivery of CfE. The ICEA recommends, therefore, that this collaborative imperative should be the central focus of system improvement.

72. Throughout the discussions with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister the ICEA has been clear that, in order to secure meaningful improvements in the three priority areas outlined above (pedagogy, leadership and collaboration), the Scottish Government has to address structure, culture and capacity. In its considerations thus far, the ICEA has put forward a range of advice to the Scottish Government which fall under these three broad headings. While it is recognised that structure, culture and capacity are inter-related, their separation in the upcoming sections of this report is intended to assist the work of Scottish Government in these three areas.


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