International Council of Education Advisers report 2016-2018: Scottish Government response

Our response to the recommendations in the International Council of Education Advisers' report 2016 to 2018.

The International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) published its formal report on 26 June 2018. The Scottish Government’s response to the recommendations of the Report is set out below.

Recommendation 1

Consider how the current policies aimed at improving the education system, and those in the future, support the full aspirations of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) so that young people in Scotland can continue to fulfil their potential.

The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. We recognise the need to retain and ensure clarity in relation to the vision and holistic approach of CfE. We will continue to place this at the heart of all we do in the development and delivery of education policy to ensure that we deliver the aspiration for all young people that they should be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors.

Recommendation 2

Develop the skills and attributes of the 4 capacities of CfE - successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors - and pursue them alongside the important National Improvement Framework (NIF) priorities.

The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. CfE remains at the heart of the Scottish education system, and we will ensure that the specific improvement activity in the NIF and Improvement Plan 2019 places greater emphasis on continuing to enhance the effective delivery of CfE and the importance of the 4 capacities.

Recommendation 3

Consider how improvement in the health and wellbeing of young people is defined, gauged, and evaluated so any progress can be clearly established and validated with any negative effects avoided.

The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. We are moving forward with plans to introduce a brand new Health and Wellbeing Census, covering children from late primary through to secondary schools, starting in the 2019/20 academic year. This Census will cover all aspects of Health and Wellbeing for children and young people, which is defined in Scotland by the SHANARRI indicators of wellbeing (Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included) that are an integral part of the GIRFEC model.

Recommendation 4

Continue the work being taken forward as a result of the Attainment Scotland Fund, to ensure that it is sustained within the system. In addition, examples of how it is being used most effectively, within schools in different settings, should be captured to share as important additional guidance to schools.

The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. The Scottish Government is committed to continuing to continuing the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC), which is supported by the £750m Attainment Scotland Fund, including Pupil Equity Funding (PEF), to develop approaches to close the poverty related attainment gap.

To help inform the decisions local authorities and schools make on how best to use the funding they receive, Education Scotland provides a range of national support through the Interventions for Equity Framework, as well as practice exemplars on the National Improvement Hub (NIH). The Interventions for Equity Framework provides access to evidenced and proven educational interventions and approaches to help tackle the poverty related attainment gap.

Education Scotland has recently published its ‘Live Narrative Project’ on the NIH.

These resources will explore how each school is working towards raising attainment, and closing the poverty related attainment gap, taking a live narrative case study approach. It includes case studies, regular communication about the schools, opportunities for collaboration between practitioners and school leaders with these schools and updates on progress. This resource can be found at Education Scotland also evaluates the quality of schools’ approaches to raising attainment through every school inspection, and intends to strengthen how it identifies and shares good practice arising from inspections.

Recommendation 5

Take more systematic steps to strengthen fairness, inclusion, and equity in education through ongoing investments in excellence.

The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. The NIF and Improvement Plan is designed to help us deliver the twin aims of excellence and equity, and there will be specific measures in the NIF and Improvement Plan 2019 to strengthen fairness, inclusion, and equity.

For example, highly effective leadership is key to ensuring the highest possible standards and expectations are shared across schools to deliver excellence and equity for all. The Attainment Scotland Fund is already delivering results by empowering the teaching profession. Teachers and headteachers are taking radical, focused and innovative approaches to improve outcomes – because this funding puts them in the driving seat.

The interim evaluation of the Attainment Scotland Fund showed that 78% of headteachers had already seen an improvement in attainment and wellbeing as a result of the fund. And nearly all headteachers (97%) expected to see further improvements in the coming five years.

We want all children and young people to get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential, however, we are aware that we must improve the experience of inclusion for all pupils. We have listened to the experiences of children and families about getting the support they need and will be taking action to secure more positive experiences for those receiving support.

This will include: improving consistency of support across Scotland, through improved guidance; building further capacity to deliver effective additional support; and improving career pathways and professional development, including new free training resources for school staff on inclusive practices. These strategic actions seek to support improved consistency in the delivery of additional support for pupils and the implementation of mainstreaming; provide further capacity for schools and education authorities to deliver support; and improve career paths for those working in additional support for learning and support for continued professional development. These will be supported by a national summit in early 2019 which will bring together key stakeholders to reinvigorate the approach of implementation of additional support for learning.

Recommendation 6

Formulate a detailed implementation plan for furthering educational improvement according to the agreed education policy framework, with co-ownership and engagement across the system, that would ensure that each of the components could be sufficiently embedded and sustained for the benefit of future generations.

The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. We have developed an implementation plan which reflects all of the commitments made as part of the Next Steps document which was published in June 2017. This has been further enhanced by a School Empowerment Steering Group which brings together all of those across the system with collective responsibility for implementation of our shared commitment to school empowerment.

Recommendation 7

Replace the terminology of reform with the language of improvement. The Scottish Government partly accepts this recommendation. The way we communicate about our work is very important, and we will consider carefully the language we use going forward. We remain committed to addressing cultural, capacity and structural barriers in Scottish education.

Striving for continuous improvement in outcomes for our children and young people is a strong feature of Scotland’s education system. It is reflected in the legislation, the wider policy landscape including SAC and NIF, and in the work schools and local authorities are engaged in every day. The work currently under the “reform” banner, particularly that associated with school empowerment, is a step change in the way in which schools are empowered to make decisions affecting their pupils and, as such, is distinct from the ongoing improvement work. For that reason, we will continue to draw the distinction between “reform” work for the immediate future with a view to incorporating it into ongoing improvement work when that is appropriate.

We have provided a combined response to the following three recommendations, as the ICEA invited the Scottish Government to think about these three aspects of its current educational improvement programme together.

Recommendation 8

Ensure that the current policies and related improvement efforts, and those in the future, are sufficiently contextually nuanced and contextually embedded.

Recommendation 9

Set out an explicit theory of change that underpins and supports the current strategies and approaches to educational improvement, which will help to identify the conditions that need to be in place for the aims of the educational improvement programme to be achieved.

Recommendation 10

Ensure the educational improvement programme, together with CfE, provides the conditions necessary to move towards an empowered, and self-improving learning system.

The Scottish Government accepts these recommendations. We recognise the need for a systemic and coherent approach to improvement, taking cognisance of the fundamental principles of CfE and the Scottish approach, and ensuring that these are sufficiently embedded within the work being undertaken to ensure continuous improvement for children and young people.

The theory of change and optimal conditions for success were set out in the Next Steps document, and these have been developed through the published draft legislation, and further refined by a joint steering group of national and local government. This led to a joint agreement between the Scottish Government and local government on school empowerment, collaboration, parental involvement and engagement and pupil participation which is being implemented collaboratively with a wider group of stakeholders. The Scottish Government agrees that it is important to continue to keep these under review and communicate them effectively.

We have responded to the following three recommendations together, as they relate to collaboration, and consensual approaches to delivering a more empowered system.

Recommendation 11

Consider how further development and deepening of the implementation of its future approaches to educational improvement can be achieved by the collaborative approach that has achieved the progress to date, rather than pursuing a legislative approach.

Recommendation 12

Focus on capacity building that will contribute to deep and lasting cultural and practical change within the system, building on the work done on structural reform thus far.

Recommendation 13

Consider three key policy imperatives for the next phase of improvement that will help to create a self-improving learning system. These are: professional empowerment, responsibility, and ownership.

Recommendation 14

Ensure that Scotland’s strong track record of collaboration and consensus in implementing education policy, remains the central focus of system improvement.

The Scottish Government accepts these recommendations. We are empowering schools and school leaders through our decision to invest in consensus building and collaboration across the education system, rather than through legislation at this time. An outcome of this collaborative approach is the joint agreement which commits the Scottish Government and local government together to deliver:

  • meaningful empowerment of schools and school leaders to make key decisions on curriculum, staffing, improvement, and budgets at school level
  • this will be achieved through the establishment of a Headteachers’ Charter and associated guidance to provide clarity and ensure consistent application of the Charter across all education authorities
  • a framework for self-evaluation by education authorities to enable them to test the extent to which school empowerment is undertaken successfully in their area; and
  • a strategy for the evaluation of the implementation of the joint agreement.

Work is already underway to progress this through a steering group chaired by the Chief Inspector of Education, and involving the key bodies responsible for delivering the joint agreement, and wider organisations such as the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), the Improvement Service, the Chief Social Work Adviser and a number of practicing headteachers.

We have responded to the following recommendations together, as they all relate to capacity building within Scotland’s education system.

Recommendation 15

Together with Education Scotland and local government, ensure that all the Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) are providing additional capacity, within the system, to support sustainable innovation and collectively charged change.

Recommendation 16

Together with Education Scotland and local government, work with the RICs to ensure that they have adequate capacity and resources, and that they are flexible enough and sufficiently motivated to support innovative ways of working that directly impact on learning and teaching.

Recommendation 17

Together with Education Scotland and local government, provide funding and support for RICs to take forward regional pedagogical networks linked to teaching and learning, to share and develop promising practices linked to CfE.

Recommendation 18

Work with universities and other providers to further develop and implement the educational research strategy published in 2017. This will enhance the system’s capacity for independent research and evaluation, and build a Scottish empirical evidence base.

The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. We are liaising with the Scottish Council of Deans of Education (the body which represents Schools of Education in the universities in Scotland that contribute to initial teacher education accredited by the General Teaching Council of Scotland) regarding their proposal for a way forward for educational research in Scottish Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs). The proposal outlines how educational research can contribute to the research strategy, and build a Scottish empirical evidence base and research capacity within HEIs. We are also refocusing the Academic Reference Group for the research strategy to help facilitate a positive and constructive dialogue between the educational research community and the Scottish Government. As such, for this year’s meeting (1 November 2018) we have decided to keep membership to academic colleagues. This in turn will in turn help us to continue to take forward the work of the research strategy.

Recommendation 19

Work with Education Scotland and local government to strengthen efforts across all RICs to continue to support professional collaboration and trust in and across schools and classrooms.

The Scottish Government accepts these recommendations. The Scottish Government recognises that enhancing regional capacity for improvement is critical and that is why we have made available up to £10 million through the RICs and Education Scotland during this school year. To help address the ICEA’s recommendations, we have agreed with local government that this funding should support the collaboratives in enhancing regional capacity, which directly impacts on learning and teaching, including in the following areas:

  • to establish and embed collaborative approaches to improvement across each region – this could include activities to support professional collaboration, pedagogical networks and new ways of working
  • to deliver region-wide activities which address poverty related disadvantage, including mitigating the impact of rural poverty
  • to embed and support leadership development and school empowerment across each RIC; and
  • to put in place the necessary infrastructure to increase their reach, in order to provide responsive and enhanced educational support to schools across their region

Education Scotland is evolving to deliver hands-on advice, support, and guidance via the RICs. Education Scotland will support the RICs and through them, schools, over this academic year and beyond. Education Scotland is currently making the transition to a regional delivery model, with a collective and collaborative approach at national, regional and local levels. In time, Education Scotland will deploy most its education staff to work alongside leaders and other frontline practitioners through the RICs, motivating change and providing specialist support. Education Scotland is currently recruiting for a significant increase in staff and the regional delivery model will evolve over time as new staff are recruited.


Scottish Government
September 2018


ICEA response covering letter
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