Guidance - Chapter 3: Delivering the priorities of the National Improvement Framework
Guidance made under section 13 of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000
Summary of new education authority duties
To carry out the duty to secure improvement in quality of education, with a view to achieving the strategic priorities in the NIF (see section 3D of the 2000 Act)
- Education authorities must ensure the delivery of improvement activity within schools which is consistent with the strategic priorities of the NIF.
- The four strategic priorities of the NIF are:
- Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy,
- Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people,
- Improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing, and
- Improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school leaver destinations for all young people
- Education authorities will have to be able to demonstrate how they have sought, and continue to seek, to deliver against the strategic priorities of the NIF. This is linked to the planning and reporting duties set out at chapter 4 of this statutory guidance.
This duty supplements, rather than replaces, an existing duty on education authorities in section 3 of the 2000 Act (to deliver improvement in the quality of school education and to raise standards of education).
3. Introduction and context
3.1. As already stated at paragraph 2.1, the central purpose of this Government is to create a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. Scotland's children and young people are our greatest asset and investing in their education is essential to ensuring their wellbeing as well as achieving their aspirations and our ambitions as a country.
3.2. The "National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education and Improvement Plan" was published on 13 December 2016 and set out the Scottish Government's vision for Scotland's children and young people's progress in learning:
- Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring that every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, set out within Curriculum for Excellence levels, and the right range of skills, qualifications and achievements to allow them to succeed; and
- Achieving equity: ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
3.3. Further, the NIF sets out the four strategic priorities we must focus on if that vision is to be realised:
- Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy;
- Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people;
- Improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing, and;
- Improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school leaver destinations for all young people.
3.4. In focusing on strategic priorities through the NIF we seek to build on the success delivered through a series of key reforms including: Getting it right for every child, Curriculum for Excellence, investment and expansion of early learning and childcare provision, Teaching Scotland's Future, the Youth Employment Strategy. More specifically, the NIF represents a key strand of our response to the 2015 OECD review focussing on Scottish Education "Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective". That review identified the need to develop an integrated Framework for assessment and evaluation which encompasses all system levels and ensures all partners are focused effectively on key priorities.
3.5. New section 3C of the 2000 Act (as inserted by section 2 of the 2016 Act) requires the Scottish Ministers to place the NIF on a statutory footing (the NIF being "a statement setting out the strategic priorities and objectives in relation to school education"). The first statutory NIF was published on 13 December 2016. The NIF is then to be reviewed annually and revised where necessary to reflect emerging trends and priorities within the education system. It is to provide evidence to help parents, teachers, education authorities and the Scottish Ministers better understand how children and young people are progressing at all stages of their education. That evidence will then be used to identify successes and areas where improvement is possible, both for individual children and for the education system as a whole. This model is consistent with the findings of the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services and the Scottish Government's approach to public service reform which called for greater emphasis on prevention and early, appropriate intervention to address emerging needs. Of course, some of those needs may be poverty or attainment related, in which case education authorities will wish to make links to wider local authority responsibilities under the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and so on, as adopting solely an education focus may not in itself be adequate in addressing such issues.
Duties the education authority must fulfil
3.6. Section 3D of the 2000 Act (as inserted by section 2 of the 2016 Act) introduces a requirement on education authorities to carry out their duty to ensure the delivery of improvement in the quality of school education which is provided in the schools they manage, with a view to achieving the strategic priorities of the NIF.
3.7. When education authorities are providing education, they must do so in a way which ensures it is directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential.
3.8. This duty, set out in section 2 of the 2000 Act, is consistent with Curriculum for Excellence which encourages an approach to learning whereby teachers and schools are empowered to develop and deliver a curriculum - a plan for learning - which is tailored to meet the needs and aspirations of each individual child. This model of learning is essential if we are to be successful in creating an education system which is capable of delivering for all learners.
Approaches education authorities may take to fulfil their duties
3.9. The duty included at section 3D supplements, rather than replaces, the existing duty on education authorities in section 3 of the 2000 Act to deliver improvement in the quality of school education and to raise standards of education. It achieves this by requiring that an identified set of strategic priorities as set out in the NIF be given particular focus when improvement activity is being undertaken locally. Whilst this targeted activity should not be to the detriment of all other improvement activity, section 3D recognises it is legitimate that action to deliver against these priorities be given a degree of precedence over other improvement activity.
3.10. The duty takes account of the wide range of factors which can ultimately influence the level of improvement achieved over a specified period of time. At least some of these factors will be outwith the control of an education authority.
3.11. The strategic priorities that education authorities will seek to achieve (see paragraph 3.3) are intentionally focused on outcomes for children and young people.
3.12. Of course, the NIF goes beyond simply identifying strategic priorities. It also identifies key drivers for educational improvement and the evidence which will be gathered to analyse whether progress is being made and where further improvements are required. Education authorities will wish to take account of these drivers and the evidence in undertaking their planning and reporting duties.
3.13. The drivers of improvement and the evidence to be gathered under each are designed to add value to the range of other improvement activity that will be taken forward by individual education authorities, tailored to meet the needs of individual communities. Education authorities are encouraged to consider evidence under all of the drivers as part of their improvement activity.
3.14. This process allows the Scottish Government to ensure a degree of consistency in our approach to educational improvement by identifying areas of common consideration for the benefit of pupils. At the same time, it continues to afford education authorities the flexibility and autonomy they need if they are to build on the successes and address the challenges which are particular to their area.
3.15. It is important that, when seeking to deliver improvement activity, education authorities take account of the full range of evidence available to them. That evidence should include data on the effectiveness of past improvement activity undertaken across the authority area and wider improvement evidence.
3.16. Further, it should take account of learning from individual school improvement planning processes (see paragraphs 4.31 to 4.33) as well as evidence developed in other areas. Education authorities are encouraged to consider how they can expand the range of evidence available to them and to adopt an approach to improvement which recognises the central importance of data gathering and analysis, and broader evaluation activity.
Potential sources of evidence
- Achievement of CfE level data
- Scottish National Standardised Assessment data
- Insight data
- National Improvement Hub
- Local, national and international research
- Local and national annual plans/reports focussing on inequalities of outcome and the NIF
- Inspection findings
- Local authority self-evaluation/quality improvement processes, trends, changing profiles etc
- School Improvement Plans and self-evaluation reports
- National initiatives
- Scottish Attainment Challenge
- Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative (CYPIC)
- Local initiatives, such as family learning, training for young people etc
- Partnerships with other public services, employers, academia and the third sector
- Feedback and information from parents and pupils
- Pupils' learning plans and achievements
Corporate Parenting plans and reports for looked after children and care leavers
3.17. While this is particularly relevant in the context of the new planning and reporting duties introduced through sections 3F and 3H of the 2000 Act (see paragraphs 4.5 to 4.8), it is important that planning for improvement is not viewed as a periodic exercise, driven solely through the development of annual planning and reporting documentation.
3.18. Whilst such plans/reports provide a useful opportunity to ensure (and demonstrate) that the correct arrangements are in place to deliver systemic and sustained improvement, they should not inhibit the ability of teachers, education authorities and others to identify opportunities for innovation on an on-going basis. Further information on the process of effective improvement planning is set out at paragraphs 4.12 to 4.22 of this guidance.
3.19. Education authorities will have to be able to demonstrate how they have sought, and continue to seek, to deliver against the strategic priorities of the NIF. This will be achieved, at least in part, through the preparation of annual plans and reports under section 3F and 3H of the 2000 Act. In addition, authorities will wish to consider how best they can demonstrate their efforts through the inclusion of relevant information in the range of information materials they produce on an on-going basis as well as any other relevant planning and reporting documentation produced for scrutiny and improvement purposes. Authorities are likely to:
- maintain a clear statement of their ambitions in relation to the key priorities within the NIF, and which reflects the local context;
- model in their own practice and ensure that educational establishments are successfully aligning self-evaluation and planning activities with the NIF;
- provide a cycle of activities which will raise standards, promote engagement, address the impact of deprivation and improve outcomes for all learners;
- maintain an agreed action plan which will focus on defining specific objectives, targets and measurable outcomes. It will incorporate milestones which will support a measuring of progress against agreed success criteria;
- consult with parents on the quality of their child's learning and provide opportunities for meaningful, relevant and child focused engagement in order to support parents to actively engage in their child's learning and progression, and;
- liaise with partners in evaluating the impact of intervention and improvement strategies.