Programme for Government 2016 to 2017

The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2016 to 2017 sets out the actions we will take in the forthcoming year and beyond.

This document is part of a collection

1. Making Our Education System World Class With Equal Opportunities For All

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

The Scottish Government's focus is on transforming the lives of our children and young people, closing the educational attainment gap, and opening the doors of opportunity to all. Our aim is to make Scotland the best place to grow up and our policies are designed to give all of our children the best possible start in life.

There are many strengths in Scottish education reflecting the hard work and commitment of teachers, educators, parents, and children and young people themselves. Our efforts also extend beyond the classroom and across our communities and wider public services to help us succeed in our ambition. We can build on those strengths and our approach to delivery to ensure Scotland's education system has pride of place as one of the very best in the world.

It is vital that the education and training system supports our children and young people throughout their lives, offering equal opportunity to go on from school to university or college, work-related training or employment.

The recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( OECD) review 'Improving Schools in Scotland' confirmed that Scotland has been bold and innovative. We already lay claim to an impressive track record of improvement and reform delivered by a highly professional workforce - but more can, and must, be done. That is why we have established an International Council of Education Advisers, bringing together internationally recognised educationalists from around the world to give government access to the best available advice as we seek to drive further improvement.

This Government was elected to deliver excellence and equity for all. We will achieve that goal by raising standards for all and closing the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from better off backgrounds. We intend to make significant progress on closing the attainment gap within the course of this Parliament and substantially eliminate it within a decade. Achieving excellence and equity is a national endeavor - all parts of the public sector and communities must work together for the benefit of our children and young people.

This Government was elected to close the attainment gap and rise the bar for all

This starts in the early years. Evidence shows us that flexible, high-quality Early Learning and Childcare ( ELC) for three and four year olds gives all our children the best opportunity to achieve in later years. It also enhances children's all-round development. We will continue to link to the work being done through the Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative and use evidence to continually improve this service.

We currently provide 600 hours of free ELC for all three and four year olds and those two year olds who stand to benefit most. Over the next year we will work towards our commitment to double this provision to 1,140 hours by 2020.

This will require substantial levels of investment in infrastructure over the period 2017 to 2020, and the recruitment of up to 20,000 additional qualified workers.

We are also concerned that, for some parents in low income households, upfront childcare costs may be a real barrier to them starting or returning to work, after a period caring for young children. The expansion in the entitlement of free ELC provision to 1,140 hours a year will help to reduce this burden. In the meantime we will pilot, during 2017-18, approaches to providing support for parents in low income households with the upfront costs of childcare. This will focus on the initial deposit that often has to be paid to secure a childcare place through, for example, the introduction of a deposit guarantee scheme.

We know that young children who face the greatest disadvantages benefit most from high-quality provision. From the earliest stage, the aim is to equip every child with the highest standards in literacy and numeracy. Increasing the amount of time that children from disadvantaged backgrounds spend with highly qualified practitioners can contribute to our efforts to close the attainment gap in school.

We will maintain at least 116,000 full time equivalent college places

20% of university entrants will be drawn from the 20% most deprived communities by 2030

Therefore, by 2018, nurseries in our most deprived areas will benefit from an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate.

The goal of giving children the best start in life continues in school education. Over the next year, we will take forward our Delivery Plan for Education. As part of our drive to raise standards for all and close the attainment gap, we will continue to invest additional resources through our Attainment Scotland Fund. We will also empower teachers and parents - within a strong national framework of policy and inspection - to be the key decision-makers in the life of a school.

We will introduce standardised assessment at primaries 1, 4 and 7 and in the third year of secondary school. We will also oversee a revolution in transparency about school performance with the regular publication of data on the percentages of children meeting the required level of Curriculum for Excellence. This will enable us to accurately measure the attainment gap and set precise targets for closing it. We will place the health and wellbeing of all our children at the heart of our efforts and we will improve the information we gather to understand progress and focus our actions. A review of school governance, the direction of more funding to headteachers and a focus on de-cluttering the curriculum will aim to empower schools and free teachers to focus on standards and attainment.

The focus on excellence and equity continues into further and higher education, training provision, and the workplace itself. We will review student support to make sure the system is fair and effective.

We will maintain at least 116,000 full time equivalent college places and ensure that our college sector continues to add real value to our economy and offer opportunities to adults of all ages.

We will protect the principle of free university tuition. Full-time Scottish-domiciled undergraduate students taking their first degree will not pay a penny in tuition fees and we will widen access to ensure that a child born today in one of our most deprived communities will, by the time they leave school, have the same chance of getting to university as a child from one of the most well-off parts of our country. We have set the Government and our universities, along with the wider education system, the challenge of ensuring that by 2030, 20% of university entrants are drawn from the 20% most deprived communities. We will set clear targets and appoint a Commissioner for Fair Access to help drive progress.

We will continue to support Developing the Young Workforce ( DYW), our early intervention youth employment strategy, to bridge the gap between education and industry, to produce more work-ready young people and promote the value of work-based learning.

By 2018, nurseries in our most deprived areas will benefit from an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate

We will review the learner journey for 16-24 year olds to ensure that young people are supported to make well-informed choices

We will review the learner journey for 16-24 year olds to ensure that young people are supported to make well-informed choices, have equal opportunities to access the right options for them, and can move more easily through the education system, towards employment.

In all that we do, we will listen to the voice of young people. It is crucial to achieving excellence and equity, as evidenced by great work already under way in Scotland. Children and young people should be involved in the life of their school but also more widely in their communities and nationally. For example, young people have informed the plans for the Year of Young People 2018 which aims to celebrate the very best of Scotland and it's young people.

Programme detail

Early Learning and Childcare (ELC)

To give our children the highest quality start to their learning and reduce the cost parents face in paying for childcare, we will by the end of this Parliament double provision of fully funded ELC to 1,140 hours a year for all three and four year olds and those two years olds who stand to benefit most. As part of the journey towards this commitment, over the next year we will:

  • publish a policy blueprint, setting out clear milestones for the delivery of our early learning and childcare commitment by 2020
  • commence a programme of ELC trials starting in January 2017 and supported by £1 million of Scottish Government investment to test different delivery models to achieve the expansion to 1,140 hours
  • pilot approaches to reducing upfront childcare costs for parents in low income households. The pilots will focus on the initial deposit that often has to be paid to secure a childcare place and will take place in locations across Scotland. One potential approach that will be piloted is a deposit guarantee scheme
  • ensure that, by 2018, every nursery in our most deprived areas has an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate
  • develop a targeted marketing campaign to recruit additional ELC workers
  • publish good practice design guidance for the building work required for ELC expansion
  • develop and publish a new induction and professional learning framework for childminders to deliver best practice in the profession. The programme of ELC delivery model trials will include models with an enhanced role for childminders
  • encourage early learning providers to organise a 'Daily Mile' run or age-appropriate equivalent activity for all children, including one hour a week outside

We will double provision of fully funded, early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours a year for all three and four year olds and those two years olds that stand to benefit most

Schools - attainment

Over this Parliament, we will invest a total of £750 million through the Scottish Attainment Fund.

In 2017-18, investment of £150 million will be allocated as follows:

  • £100 million (generated by our local tax reforms) will be allocated directly to schools, on the basis of the numbers of children in each primary school and S1-3 in each secondary school, who meet the eligibility criteria for free school meals
  • £50 million will be allocated through our existing Challenge Authorities and Schools Programme to more than 300 primary schools and 100 secondary schools that are in the areas of greatest deprivation across 21 local authorities

We will also continue to support raising attainment in the early years and in schools through quality improvement methodology supported by our Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative. We will work with identified communities within the Challenge authorities to develop and implement, by December 2017, a programme of family learning to ensure that parents are fully involved in their children's learning.

We will accelerate efforts to share what is working to close the attainment gap through the new National Improvement Hub.

From April 2017, we will extend Read, Write, Count to P4-P7 in areas of high deprivation

To support decision-making by schools on how best to spend the additional funds that they will control, and how best they can track the impact on children's progress. We will publish, by December 2016, a new framework of proven educational interventions and strategies to improve attainment.

Implementation of the National Improvement Framework is underway and on track. We will use new data available through the framework in primaries 1, 4 and 7 and S3 at school, local authority and national level to identify the attainment gap and agree targets to reduce this.

We have developed a detailed specification for the National Standardised Assessments and will begin testing them in schools before the end of 2016.

Assessments will be used by all schools in 2017-18. High quality assessments that fit with Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) will mean better and more consistent information for teachers and parents to ensure that children get the help and support they need to succeed.

There is a direct link between a strong family learning environment and progress in reading, writing and counting. The Play, Talk, Read, and Read, Write, Count campaigns provide parents with resources and advice intended to help them support their child's learning in the crucial early years before and during primary school.

We will ensure parents and teachers are the key decision makers in the lives of their school

Actions will include:

  • by the end of 2016, more than 230,000 gift packs of reading, writing and counting materials will have been distributed, either through the enhanced Bookbug packs for P1 or the dedicated Read, Write, Count packs
  • from April 2017, we will extend Read, Write, Count to primaries 4 to 7 in areas of high deprivation and will link this to the First Minister's Reading Challenge in order to help improve literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing
  • the Making Maths Count Group will deliver their final report to Ministers in early autumn, with recommendations for encouraging greater enthusiasm for maths amongst children and young people, their parents and carers, and the wider public
  • we will continue to implement additional support for learning to ensure that all children and young people who experience barriers to their learning are supported to reach their full potential

We will allocate an additional £750 million to close the poverty-related attainment gap, including £100 million which will go directly to schools

Schools - governance

We will ensure parents and teachers are the key decision makers in the lives of their school. There is strong international evidence that greater parental and community involvement promotes attainment and achievement. Key actions will include:

  • a governance review this autumn to examine the system changes required to empower schools, decentralise management, establish school clusters and create new educational regions. This process will run in parallel with a review of the impact of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 by the National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • implementing proposals arising from these reviews at the earliest opportunity. In particular, we will support the development and expansion of school clusters and increased regional working throughout 2017-18
  • using the information gathered through these reviews, and the National Improvement Framework, to develop a National Improvement Plan for Parental and Family Engagement by early 2017

Currently, legal responsibilities for delivering education and raising standards in our schools sit largely with education authorities, not with the schools and teachers that teach our children and young people every day. The governance review will start with the presumption that decisions about individual children's learning and school life should be taken at school level and will explore how support at every level of our education system can be aligned to deliver that empowerment and drive improvement.


We will launch a consultation on a STEM strategy in Autumn 2016

We will implement proposals arising from the Governance review at the earliest opportunity. Where those proposals require legislative change, we will deliver this through a new Education Bill.

In order to support the future allocation of funding, we will consult on proposals for a fair and transparent national funding formula in March 2017.

Schools - staffing and teacher education

We remain committed to ensuring we have the right number of teachers, with the right skills, in the right places to educate our children and young people. All local authorities have been allocated a share of £88 million additional funding to maintain teacher numbers and support probationer teachers in the 2016-17 school term. In addition, we will:

  • work with key partners to address issues of staffing supply and capacity at a national level, maintaining the gold standard of Scottish teacher qualifications while introducing a range of new and innovative routes into teaching
  • work with the Scottish College for Educational Leadership to put in place by March 2017 a new package of support for aspiring, new and experienced headteachers
  • support up to 160 aspiring headteachers each year to go through the 'Into Headship' programme, with an investment of £1.5 million over the next three years, and continue to support teachers' professional learning through further investment of £1 million in 2016-17 in Masters level learning
  • work with the General Teaching Council for Scotland to review, by April 2017, Initial Teacher Education programmes, and ensure they provide appropriate content for literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing, data literacy and equality across both primary and secondary sectors
  • require all new guidance and promoted teachers - and eventually all teachers - to undertake training so that they are confident in tackling prejudice-based bullying in schools. We will work with the General Teaching Council for Scotland to provide more support on equality issues by August 2017, and ensure that schools address the important issues that LGBTI young people face, and that teachers have the skills, knowledge and confidence to embed inclusive approaches in their schools

Education - curriculum

In order to assist teachers in making the best and most effective use of the CfE, we will work with Education Scotland and partners to undertake the following actions in the coming year:

  • monitor the effective implementation of the recently published statement of the basic framework within which teachers teach. This sets out the role of the various elements of CfE, and the use teachers should make of them. It also sets out that the clear priority for primary schools is to ensure that every child achieves the best possible progress in the key areas of literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing, and that the commitment to physical education is maintained
  • support the effective implementation of the benchmarks for literacy and numeracy for each level of CfE published at the start of the new school term. By the end of 2016, Education Scotland will provide similar advice on every curriculum area
  • publish by January 2017 a new, simpler set of key guidance resources for CfE, based on feedback from teachers
  • from September 2016, the Scottish Qualifications Authority will consult stakeholders on how best to streamline its course documentation for the national qualifications

We are committed to ensuring that unnecessary and unintended workload is removed from the classroom, so teachers have the freedom to teach. We will formulate a new programme designed to reduce workload in schools. HM Inspectors will carry out a review of the demands placed on schools by each local authority in relation to CfE, reporting by autumn 2016.

We have also reconvened the Assessment and National Qualifications Group, chaired by the Deputy First Minister, to further explore what more can be done to reduce workload associated with the new qualifications as quickly as possible. We will work with the Group to consult on the design of assessment within the qualifications system - involving teachers, parents, young people, employers, national partners and other stakeholders.

We will use the First Minister's Reading Challenge to help improve literacy and to encourage young people to read for pleasure.

High quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths ( STEM) education and training is vital to Scotland's intellectual and economic future and to a fairer society. We will launch a consultation on a new STEM strategy in the autumn. The strategy will aim to raise the levels of STEM enthusiasm, skills, and knowledge in order to support attainment and aspirations in learning, life and work and to meet labour market needs. We will work with the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland to champion the importance and benefit of STEM throughout education and training experiences.

Introducing a range of new and innovative routes into teaching

To ensure our children are equipped with the language skills they need to flourish in a global economy, and have an awareness of cultures and languages beyond their own, we will support learning of a first additional language to start no later than primary 1, with a second additional language to be offered by all schools no later than primary 5. We will work with the Languages Strategic Implementation Group to agree an implementation plan by the end of 2016 to deliver this commitment by the end of the Parliament.

We will take a range of actions in the coming year to support the Gaelic and Scots languages, including:

  • supporting the development of Gaelic Medium Education by implementing new rights for parents by February 2017 and providing more resources for Gaelic teachers and learners
  • delivering funding for the Gaelic Schools Capital Fund, Gaelic Education and MG Alba
  • funding to support Scots language bodies and Scots language coordinators

Tha mi toilichte do choinneachadh

Nì sinn sreath de gnìomhan sa bhliadhna a tha romhainn airson taic a chur ris a' ghàidhlig agus ri albais

Education - improving learning for 16-24 year olds

By the end of 2016 we will commence a review of learning for all 16-24 year olds to ensure education provision for young people is as effective and efficient as possible and that it provides more stepping stones for those needing most support. The review will consider improvements to the current choices across school, college, university and training.

We will maintain the Education Maintenance Allowance as an entitlement to ensure that school pupils, college students and young people on Activity Agreements can receive support to overcome any financial barriers to remain in learning

We will aim to increase the proportion of looked after children moving on from school into education, training, or employment by four percentage points per year. This will mean that by 2021 looked after children will be just as likely to be in college, in training or in a job as other children.

Education - Further Education, Higher Education and student support

Starting in October this year and reporting by autumn 2017, we will undertake a thorough review of student support to ensure that the entire system is firmly focused on meeting the needs of students in further and higher education, particularly the most vulnerable. We want all students at university or college to benefit from a fair and effective package of appropriate support. Among the areas the review will consider are:

  • opportunities to make use of new social security powers to support the poorest students, including disabled students
  • the balance of support available to those in Further and Higher Education
  • the current repayment threshold and period for student loan debt for Higher Education students with the intention of increasing the threshold to £22,000 during the Parliamentary term

We will make Education Maintenance Allowance an entitlement in Scotland to ensure young people from financially disadvantaged households, and for the first time part-time college students, receive support to overcome financial barriers to stay in school, college and Activity Agreements.

We will appoint a Commissioner for Fair Access to provide strategic leadership and help drive progress across the education system

We will maintain the minimum income guarantee for higher education students from the lowest income households in academic year 2016-17. The highest Higher Education bursary will now be available to students with a household income up to £19,000, instead of the previous level of £17,000.

We will introduce an updated package of support for eligible postgraduate students from academic year 2017-18.

Widening access

To achieve our aim of fair access to higher education, we are committed to implementing in full the recommendations set out in 'Blueprint for Fairness - the final report of the Commission on Widening Access'. As part of this we will:

  • appoint a Commissioner for Fair Access to provide strategic leadership and help drive progress across the education system
  • implement targets to achieve our goal that, by 2030, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of university entrants
  • provide full, non-repayable bursaries for care-experienced young people from academic year 2017-18 and ensure that those with the minimum qualification requirements are guaranteed a university place
  • work with stakeholders and the Commissioner for Fair Access to develop an implementation plan for all of the Commission's recommendations

Higher Education

In 2016-17, the Scottish Government will invest over £1 billion in our universities to enable excellent teaching, world class research and cutting edge innovation.

We will continue to support the world class research that exists in our universities and boost collaboration between academia and business, thereby maximising benefits for society and the economy.

In order to maximise the benefit for Scotland from our direct investment, and the work of universities, we will frame a new agreement with our universities, capturing a shared vision and ambitions for higher education and its contribution toward opportunity for all and an inclusive economy.

We will maintain our commitment to free education by continuing to ensure that no full-time Scottish domiciled student taking their first degree at a Scottish higher education institution will have to pay a penny towards their tuition.

Innovation is one of the four central pillars of Scotland's Economic Strategy. As part of our work in this area, the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) has commissioned an independent review of the Innovation Centre programme which is expected to report in autumn 2016.

The outcome of the EU referendum raises a number of challenges for Scotland's universities. These include maintaining the strong reputation of Scottish institutions with EU students and academic staff, supporting opportunities for students to study abroad and for research collaborations with the rest of the EU, and accessing EU funding.

We have worked with the sector to provide reassurance to institutions, staff and students, confirming the tuition fee status of continuing and new EU students this year, clarifying that opportunities for Scottish students to study abroad will continue, and sending out a clear message that we remain committed to collaborating with our European partners and to attracting the best international talent. We will continue to work with the sector and the wider stakeholder community to get these messages across.

Further Education

Over the course of the last Parliament we invested over £2.6 billion of teaching and student support funds in our colleges. We also invested over £150 million directly in college estates, as well as committing to supporting investment of over £300 million in new college campuses through the Non-Profit Distributing ( NPD) pipeline. Colleges are at the centre of our efforts to build the workforce Scotland's employers need, achieving improved outcomes for learners, and focusing on job-related skills. To ensure continued opportunities for young people to improve their skills, future employment prospects, or progression to further study, we will:

  • build on the success of our colleges by maintaining our commitment to maintain 116,000 full time equivalent ( FTE) college places in the current year
  • continue to align FTE places with regional employment needs and recognised skills gaps, with a particular focus on STEM
  • continue implementation of Developing the Young Workforce
  • ensure that the Good College Governance Task Group report is implemented effectively. A consultation paper will be issued by the end of this year

Looked After Children and Kinship Carers

We will implement the Getting it Right for Looked After Children Strategy in full, including through the following actions:

  • ensuring that care-experienced young people with the minimum required qualifications have a guaranteed place at university and qualify for a full bursary from academic year 2017-18
  • implementing, by autumn 2016, the provisions of Part 12 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 requiring local authorities to provide services to families with a child at risk of becoming looked after
  • trialling new methods of family-based preventative support
  • ensuring that the deal agreed between the Scottish Government and COSLA - backed by £10 million - to ensure parity for kinship carers is fully implemented in 2016-17 and that, as Universal Credit is rolled out, allowances are reviewed to ensure that equality and the need to tackle poverty continue to be prioritised
  • re-tendering the national advice line and assistance services for kinship carers from spring 2017 so that they are in line with the results of a recent kinship carer survey. This will lead to a reduction in costs as they will be more focused on kinship carers' actual needs
  • continuing a national roll-out of the Permanence and Care Excellence ( PACE) Programme, to ensure that secure and permanent homes are found more quickly for children who need them. Our aim is to secure adoption of the programme by the majority of local authorities by the end of 2016-17
  • implementing changes to Scotland's Adoption Register to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the adoption sector including the introduction of adopter-led matching from autumn/winter 2016-17
  • providing Scotland's National Mentoring Programme for Children and Young People with £750,000 initial funding to promote healthy relationships and to prepare our most vulnerable young people for the best start to life and learning. This will complement the Attainment Challenge to provide targeted support for looked after children at home, to raise attainment and improve literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing
  • launching a Corporate Parenting Improvement Programme to bring together corporate parents - formal partnerships between services responsible for looked after children, young people, and care leavers - to test ways to raise the average age at which a young person leaves care
  • publishing, by the end of this year, the independent report into the configuration and funding arrangements for young people in or at the edge of secure care and establish a strategic board to link secure care provision to our Getting it Right For Looked After Children ( GIRFEC)Strategy and the overall GIRFEC approach

National campaign launched in January 2016 to raise public awareness of child sexual exploitation

Disabled Children

We will begin work in 2016-17 on a strategy for families with disabled children, linking to activity to develop the Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Strategy. We are funding a number of third sector organisations to support children and families with additional support needs through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund.

Child Protection

We will ensure better support for children with particular needs and concerns and lead improvements in child protection, including a review of the law surrounding all forms of abuse and exploitation.

We will take forward a range of actions to improve Scotland's child protection system, including:

  • publishing initial recommendations from the Child Protection Improvement Programme in early 2017. The Programme includes a system review to be carried out by an expert group of professionals, and a reducing neglect improvement programme to test how evidence-based practice on neglect can be implemented in different areas
  • undertaking a range of actions as part of the new National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, including:
  • working with partners to extend the reach of the £350,000 national campaign launched in January 2016 to raise public awareness of child sexual exploitation
  • developing guidance for night-time workers and medical guidance for practitioners by the end of this year
  • publishing a new framework for Child Protection committees and guidance on identification and risk assessment, and holding regional workshops to share best practice by end 2017
  • providing £300,000 in the coming year to Barnardo's Scotland to deliver 150 community events across Scotland to raise public and practitioner awareness of child sexual exploitation
  • supporting the Stop to Listen Pilot, led by Children 1st, to test by autumn 2017 new ways of supporting children and young people to disclose sexual abuse
  • fund partners such as the Lloyds Partnership Drug Initiative (£600,000 in 2016-17) and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (core funding of £97,000 in 2016-17, with up to £172,000 between 2016-19) to support vulnerable children
  • publish a refreshed internet safety action plan by March 2017 to ensure appropriate training, support and information is in place

Early Intervention and Named Person

Our approach is founded on the vision and practice of Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC) and empowers those working with children and families to operate across professional boundaries to provide support and to identify and address need at the earliest opportunity to prevent problems escalating.

We will continue to focus on action to support early intervention and prevention and will promote improvement through the continued use of advisors and the sharing of good practice and through the work of the Children and Young People's Improvement Collaborative.

We will make changes necessary as a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling to enable new duties in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 to be brought into force and the Named Person service to be made available for children.

Youth justice

We have seen some striking successes in youth justice with reductions of over 80% in referrals to the Children's Reporter, the numbers of young people offending and the number of 16 and 17 year-olds in custody.

We will implement our refreshed youth justice strategy: 'Preventing Offending - Getting it Right for Children and Young People'.

Our priorities will be to advance the whole system approach, improving life chances and developing capacity and improvement in the workforce. We will report on progress by June 2017.

We will look afresh at the disclosure of early childhood offending to enable young people to move beyond early mistakes.

We will consider the case for raising the age of minimum criminal responsibility to 12 years, accompanied by safeguards and exceptions for the most serious cases.

Historic Child Abuse

We have set up Scotland's first in-depth public inquiry into in-care historic child abuse.

We will continue to meet the full costs of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry as required by the Inquiries Act 2005 and ensure that it operates independently of government.

We have also made real progress in delivering the priorities that survivors of in-care abuse told us they wanted, including preparing legislation to remove the time bar on survivors seeking civil redress where the abuse took place after 1964 and an expanded support fund of £13.5 million over five years to better meet their needs. A further £1 million in innovation and development funding has been announced to develop services that support all survivors of child abuse across Scotland.

Development of the Social Services Workforce

Linked to our focus on improvement of the child protection system, is our wider and continuing commitment to have in place a skilled and competent social service workforce across all services, which can deliver high quality, personalised, safe, continually-improving services for people and communities in Scotland. This workforce is also critical to our delivery of a holistic approach to health and wellbeing through integrated health and social care and to our ambition for high quality public services. To deliver on our commitment and in making our contribution to implementation of the co-produced Vision and Strategy for Social Services 2015-2020, in the coming year we will:

  • work with partners to address issues of staffing supply and capacity and promote the social work profession and wider social service workforce
  • support the Scottish Social Services Council ( SSSC) to revise the framework and standards in social work education
  • appraise options and investment required for the introduction of a mandatory supported first year for qualified social workers
  • provide support for further uptake of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF) level 11 award for Chief Social Work Officers and those who aspire to the role, which was introduced with our support in 2015
  • work with the SSSC and sector partners to develop a refreshed approach to strengthening leadership in social services
  • commission work to identify any gaps in key skills of the children's social work workforce and in availability of related training, building on work already done to establish core competencies
  • work with the SSSC and other key partners to provide more support on equality issues by December 2017, ensuring that all employers support their workers to have the skills, knowledge and confidence to embed inclusive approaches in all aspects of their work

Giving children the best possible start in life

Supporting children and families is at the heart of this Government's programme. We know that investing to create the conditions for the best start in life pays dividends: enabling each child to develop fully his or her potential, to learn, to contribute, and enjoy a happy, fulfilled life. It also helps to build a strong and cohesive society, promoting equality of opportunity and reducing inequality, and is fundamental to raising attainment and meeting our aspiration for positive destinations for young people.

This begins at pre-birth, with appropriate pre-natal care and advice for mothers and continues throughout the child's journey.

A baby box with essential items for all new-born babies

The promotion of the health and wellbeing of our children is a key aspect of Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC) and Curriculum for Excellence and over the next year we will begin setting the direction for policy for the next decade through our Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing strategy. We will:

  • offer free vitamins to all pregnant women from spring 2017. This will include the new recommended dose of Vitamin D, as part of the Healthy Start Vitamins
  • deliver a baby box offering essential items for a child's first weeks to the families of all new-born babies in Scotland, to promote the fair and equal start we want for every child regardless of circumstance. We will consult with key stakeholders and with parents in autumn 2016, with full roll-out in 2017
  • support our children's development through child health reviews
  • extend the provision of universal free school meals to all young children in funded early learning and childcare as part of our expansion of ELC to 1,140 hours a year by 2020. New guidance on good design for ELC settings, to be published by summer 2017, will include advice on catering
  • continue to ensure that the nutritional guidance in ELC 'Setting the Table' is up to date and relevant to the needs of our youngest children and that it ensures they receive healthy and nutritious food in their earliest years
  • coordinate and promote good practice on physical activity and outdoor play, particularly to ensure that communities have places and green spaces where children can play safely outside, including ensuring that all new ELC settings developed as part of the expansion to 1,140 hours have dedicated outdoor space
  • continue to support the Scottish Book Trust to deliver the Bookbug Outreach Programme
  • fund and take active membership of the Family Friendly Working Scotland partnership to support employees to manage the responsibilities of work and family, including encouraging the take-up of parental leave


Email: Gavin Henderson,

Back to top