Schools - impact of Regional Improvement Collaboratives on pupils and practitioners: review

Summary of the evidence captured in a review of the impact of Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) on pupils and practitioners. This includes information and examples from the RIC Returns, and a summary of key themes identified in the interviews and focus group sessions.

Executive Summary

About this Report

This report sets out the key themes and findings of a rapid Review of the impact that Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) have had on supporting pupils and practitioners. This review was commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, as part of the education reform programme, to inform decisions on roles, responsibilities and relationships across the system in the delivery of educational improvement support.

Further detail on the Review approach and context is set out in Part 1 of this report.

Key Themes

  • RIC engagement with, and support to, pupils and practitioners across early years, primary, special and secondary settings has continued to expand and deepen since the last evaluation of the RICs[1].
  • evaluation of RIC supports by practitioners who are directly engaged with RICs are consistently strong.
  • while, as with other parts of a complex system, the collective impact of RIC supports on improved outcomes for children and young people cannot be quantified, a wide and increasing range of practitioner and pupil programmes are clearly evidenced.
  • while the number of staff engaged in regional activities at any time remains a minority, support has continued to increase with evidence suggesting that approximately 30% of schools engaged in some form of RIC activity across a school year, whether directly or through supports provided to school leaders and practitioners.
  • the use of research, data and evidence to focus and shape RIC supports, including evaluation from practitioners and others, is evidenced strongly
  • RICs have continued to strengthen collaboration across and between local authorities, between RICs and with other partners

Summary Findings

Engagement and Impact – Pupils and Practitioners

RICs have evidenced a wide range of engagement with, and support to, leaders and practitioners across early years, primary, special and secondary settings. This includes evidence on the sharing of information and best practice, the facilitation of staff networks, the on-line and in-person provision of leadership and pedagogical training, production and dissemination of guidance, toolkits and other resources. In some cases this included more bespoke, session-long collaboration and cohort-focussed programmes of support.

In the most recent session for which each RIC has provided evidence, RICs have evidenced varying levels of network, workstream and programme supports to around 17,450 practitioners and leaders and with approximately 640 schools across Scotland. While it has not been possible in this Review to confirm the breakdown of all interactions across leaders, teachers and other school and ELC staff, the information provided indicates that RIC programmes may be engaging with approximately 30% of schools across a session/year (through direct school engagements and/or via leader and practitioner supports).

While a majority of evidence provided to this review focuses on professional learning and leadership support provided directly to practitioners, each RIC has also provided evidence of support provided directly to and/or designed around the needs of pupils, including the provision of online learning support and advanced higher courses. In considering this evidence, readers may wish to note that RICs were established primarily to provide improvement support to leaders and practitioners and not directly to pupils.

User evaluation and feedback on RIC supports is consistently positive and some programmes have evidenced or reported direct improvements as a result of specific interventions. However, RICs operate within a complex system and a number of overlapping factors and supports will contribute to improved learning outcomes for children and young people. Similar to other parts of that system and recognising that the impact of some supports can be more clearly evidenced than others, it is not possible to robustly differentiate or quantify the totality of RIC impact in relation to learning outcomes.

Deepening Collaboration

Collaboration between local authorities within each RIC continues to deepen, with evidence of firmly embedded governance and reporting structures providing strategic oversight and accountability and strengthening buy-in across local authority members. Cross-RIC working has also evolved and expanded, with multiple RICs collaborating across a range of initiatives, to share learning across the system, including supports for pupils and practitioners.

All RICs have demonstrated engagement with academics and educational research, to inform collaborative approaches, strengthen the evaluation of regional support, and to ensure that design and delivery of pedagogical and other supports to practitioners and establishments are informed by latest research.

All RICs have also evidenced increased engagement with a range of external partners and with other systems, to further strengthen regional learning supports and widen access for practitioners to other system networks and resources.

RIC Capacity and Resources

The use of data and evidence to evaluate, inform and shape RIC supports and the prioritisation of regional resources has been strongly evidenced. Evaluation informs all RIC programme levels, with a strong focus on structured evaluation, reflection and feedback from practitioners and other recipients of RIC supports.

RICs have also evidenced to this review and through the Scottish Government RIC funding process, that the funding provided by the Scottish Government to support RIC capacity and regional working has been fully and appropriately directed towards regional teams, plans and supports.

While RICs have evidenced increased engagement with and supports to practitioners and pupils since the previous RIC Review, further significant expansion of regional supports to the majority of pupils, practitioners and establishments would require further investment and/or the redeploying of additional resources.


Since their establishment, RICs have continued to strengthen their support to pupils and practitioners, deepen collaboration within their regions and across the system, and ensure that regional resources and supports are prioritised by robust evaluation of the needs of pupils and practitioners.

The evidence provided to this Review also demonstrates that RIC supports are evaluated strongly by participating practitioners, and that regional programmes and supports have continued to evolve in response to identified needs and circumstance, including current regional focus on absence, on strengthening support for learning, teaching and assessment, and on the provision of more cohort and session-long supports to deepen and embed learning for practitioners and pupils.

The evidence also suggests that, while those accessing regional resources remain a minority, RIC engagements and supports to pupils and practitioners have increased, and that further extending access would require additional investment and/or the redeploying of existing resources.



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