Programme for Government 2023 to 2024

Focuses on equality, opportunity and community.

This document is part of a collection

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

Jenny Gilruth MSP

Delivering excellence and equity in Scottish education is my top priority, and I know that to do so will require the highest quality of learning and teaching in our classrooms. It is also essential that we have strong leadership and meaningful engagement with the students, teachers, families, support staff and communities that rely on our globally recognised education system. We need to collaborate with our partners – parents and carers, Local Government and the third sector – in delivering an education system that works for all of Scotland’s young people and adult learners.

We have seen good progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap since the pandemic, particularly in primary school attainment. Supported by the £1 billion investment in the Scottish Attainment Challenge, local authorities have set ambitious goals for improvement. We are proud of our achievements, but raising attainment for all and making further progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a project on which we remain absolutely focused.

The Scottish Government remains steadfastly committed to keeping The Promise to Scotland’s care-experienced children and young people and has made good progress towards this. The new Scottish Recommended Allowance, recently agreed with COSLA, will ensure that foster and kinship carers across Scotland will receive at least a standard, national allowance to support them in caring for the children and young people they look after, which will benefit more than 9,000 children. We must, and will, keep more children at home where that is safe for them, and ensure that for those children that do require time in care settings they experience love, kindness, and compassion. To direct and support this commitment we will establish a Cabinet Sub-Committee, chaired by the First Minister, to enable the cross-portfolio change required to improve outcomes for Scotland’s care experienced children, young people, adults, and families. The Cabinet Sub-Committee’s early tasks will include exploring the role that both prevention and philanthropy might play in delivering better outcomes.

Scotland needs a childcare system that works for all families. High quality, accessible and affordable childcare is critical to helping more parents and carers to take up, or sustain employment. Working together with Local Government and other partners, we want to transform the childcare system to make it fairer and more affordable.

Over the coming year, we will work with our partners to significantly expand our childcare programme, building on our existing School Age Childcare early adopter communities, adding new areas in Fife and Shetland and starting to test innovative models of childcare from 9 months to the end of primary school. We will also build on our national early learning offer to expand provision for families with a two‑year‑old, focused on those families who need it most.

Through our holistic programme of education and skills reform we are continuing our work to reshape the national public body landscape – reflecting on the conclusions from the National Discussion on Education and the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment led by Professor Hayward – and through the publication of the Purpose and Principles for Post-School Education, Research and Skills.

However, we know that we must do more to ensure Scotland continues to build on its reputation for innovation, high quality further and higher education, and apprenticeships, underpinned by our world-leading universities and colleges.

We have introduced extended student financial support to those currently residing in Scotland who have been granted leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom where they have also been resident for three years.

Through our investment and reforms, our priority will remain giving everyone the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, values and attributes that will enable them to fulfil their potential – protecting free tuition and continuing to take action to widen access to university.

Delivering in the year ahead

In the coming year, I will take forward the following critical activity.

Supporting children and young people

  • Work with Local Government and other partners to develop the local infrastructure and services needed to provide childcare from nine months to the end of primary school in specific communities in six local authority areas.
  • Through this community-based approach, test a new digital service to help parents and carers find, access and pay for childcare that best suits their needs, laying the foundations to transform the childcare system in the longer-term in a way that empowers parents and supports greater choice.
  • Provide funding to uplift pay in the PVI sector to £12 per hour for those delivering funded Early Learning and Childcare – this action is needed now to support effective recruitment and retention of staff working in the sector.
  • Scale up innovative pilots for recruiting and retaining childminders to grow that essential part of the workforce by 1,000 more.
  • Work with local authority and other sectoral partners to phase in an expanded national offer for families with two-year-olds, focused on those who will benefit most. This will build on the foundations of the existing 1140 programme, which makes high quality early learning and childcare available to around a quarter of families with two-year-olds on the lowest incomes.

Reforming our education and skills system

  • Set out plans for implementing reform of our education and skills bodies and put the voices of children, young people, and adult learners at their core, including responding to the recommendations of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment by Professor Hayward, the National Discussion on Education and the Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape by James Withers, and the priorities arising from ‘Purpose and Principles for Post-School Education, Skills and Research’.
  • Recruit an interim HM Chief Inspector who will play a critical role in driving quality improvement, providing strategic guidance and leadership to education inspection as part of a reform agenda.

Investing in our schools

  • Continue to support schools and local authorities to improve the attainment of children and young people impacted by poverty through our investment in the Scottish Attainment Challenge, with a particular focus on literacy and numeracy – a progress update on ambitious local stretch aims will be published later this year.
  • Rejoin the Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), adding to the current evidence on Scotland’s education performance.
  • Support our teaching profession by delivering the historic pay deal for teachers, which has a cumulative value of 14.6% over 28 months, and work with our partners on a joint campaign to promote teaching as a highly rewarding career with the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of children and young people, improving recruitment and retention and attracting more high quality individuals into teaching in areas where they are most needed.
  • Continue to support reductions in the cost of the school day by funding the removal of core curriculum charges and continue to uplift the school clothing grant by inflation in 2024-25, which will mean that the value of the grant will increase again for the beginning of the next academic year.
  • Work with COSLA in the coming year to prepare schools and infrastructure for the expansion of universal free school meal provision to Primary 6 and Primary 7 pupils during 2026, starting with those in receipt of the Scottish Child Payment and work with local authorities to ensure that school meals meet the highest standards of nutrition, recognising that this is vital to our children’s effective learning.
  • Improve experiences and outcomes for children and young people with additional support needs by working with teachers to provide additional professional learning opportunities, continuing to support direct provision of services, and implementing and seeking to build on the Additional Support for Learning Action Plan.
  • Continue to invest in our school estate in partnership with local authorities through the Learning Estate Investment Programme, which will provide new, modern, state of the art learning environments.
  • Develop a digital strategy to help ensure digital provision supports the wider aims of the education system.
  • Implement the strengthened Learning for Sustainability Action Plan and as part of this ensure that all young people have the opportunity to learn about the causes and effects of climate change, the role we can all play in preventing it, and the importance of climate justice.
  • Further advance inclusive education in our schools through our Anti-Racism in Education Programme which will continue to embed anti-racist practice and principles in initial and ongoing professional development for teachers and educators, including the promotion of a decolonised curriculum which reflects diversity, social justice and Scotland’s role in trans-Atlantic enslavement, as well as the development of robust measures for tackling racist incidents in schools.
  • Publish a national framework to better support schools in tackling gender-based violence and sexual harassment, part of wider work to help ensure schools are safe spaces for all.
  • Use the latest iteration of our Behaviour in Scottish Schools research to understand the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on school culture, relationships, behaviour, and attendance, and work with local and national partners to ensure appropriate support is in place.

Investing in further and higher education and skills

  • Launch a new Scottish Education Exchange Programme – building on an initial test and learn project that we are delivering in 2023-24, prioritising placements for disadvantaged groups and further demonstrate our commitment to EU and global partnerships with schools, colleges and universities including through working with these sectors.
  • Lead development of a new funding model for post-school education provision which continues free tuition and improves the parity of living cost support on offer for those wishing to study part time or flexibly, and which continues to promote post-16 education as a positive destination for widening access students.
  • Work with colleges to promote good governance, including bringing forward a statutory instrument to ensure trade union representatives on college boards.

Keeping The Promise

  • Further support the facilitation and expansion of the Virtual School Head Teacher Network, formally respond to the recent review of the Children’s Hearing System, launch a consultation on the support for care experienced young people when they become adults, publish our Whole Family Wellbeing investment approach to supporting the provision of preventative, holistic family support, and by the end of 2023, The Promise Scotland will report on its work on the scoping of national lifelong advocacy services.
  • Continue to invest in primary prevention from pre-birth through the earliest years to ensure children have the nurturing care they need to improve their outcomes, ensuring we provide enhanced support for speech and language development during the critical window in the early years.

Scottish Languages Bill

  • Introduce the Scottish Languages Bill to Parliament providing legal recognition for Gaelic and Scots, strengthening requirements for provision of Gaelic Medium Education, introducing measures to provide further protection for Gaelic within communities and introducing provision to strengthen support for Scots.



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