United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - concluding observations 2023: SG initial response

This report sets out the Scottish Government’s (SG) initial response to the UN Committee’s Concluding Observations. It outlines the progress made in relation to children’s rights in Scotland since the publication of the Position Statement of November 2022

7. Education, Leisure, and Cultural Activities

7.1 Educational Attainment

No: 47a

UN Concluding Observations

Strengthen measures to address inequalities in educational attainment and improve educational outcomes for children in disadvantaged situations, including children in socioeconomically disadvantaged situations, children belonging to ethnic minority groups, asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children, children with disabilities and “young carers”, including by:

No: 47a(i)

UN Concluding Observations

providing financial and other support for such children to finish school.

No: 47a(ii)

UN Concluding Observations

developing guidelines for responding to cases of school absenteeism.

No: 47a(iii)

UN Concluding Observations

collecting and analysing data disaggregated by ethnic origin, educational outcomes and other relevant indicators on completion rates, educational outcomes and exclusions to inform policies and programmes.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 7.29 – Child Poverty
  • Sections 8.1 – Equal Access to Education
  • Section 8.2 – Access to Higher Education

Progress since November 2022

Poverty-related Attainment Gap

The Scottish Government has committed to investing £1 billion in the Scottish Attainment Challenge this parliamentary term. This continues and includes over £520 million Pupil Equity Funding for headteachers, direct funding for all 32 local authorities, and additional funding to support care experienced children and young people’s attainment and wellbeing. This investment further empowers headteachers and local government to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty. Measures being taken forward to tackle child poverty are discussed at section 6.13 of this Report. Support with the cost of the school day, including the Education Maintenance Allowance, is discussed at section 2.1.

Pre-pandemic, the poverty-related attainment gap in primary schools was closing, but the negative impact of COVID cannot be ignored. Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels (ACEL) data for 2022-23 shows improvements at secondary level, with increases in attainment compared to the previous year across the board and a reduction in the gap between those from most and least deprived areas. At primary level there have also been improvements across the board compared to the previous year. The proportions of primary pupils achieving literacy and numeracy are at record highs and the gaps between those from the most and least deprived areas have narrowed. The summer 2023 Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) results showed the poverty-related attainment gap at grades A-C has narrowed from pre-pandemic (2019) levels for National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers.

Care needs to be taken when comparing the poverty-related attainment gap since 2019 due to the different assessment and grading approaches taken in each year due to the pandemic. Evidence from the experience of alternative approaches during the pandemic will be taken into account as part of the reform of qualifications in Scotland.

Promotion of School Attendance

Education Scotland have undertaken work to better understand the current barriers and challenges experienced by schools, children and young people, and their families which influence school attendance. The Improving Attendance in Scotland: Understanding the Issues report was published in November 2023.


Data on educational outcomes is published by ethnicity and disability and/or additional support need in the following reports:

Next Steps

Poverty-related Attainment Gap

  • As stated above, we will continue to take forward our £1 billion investment in the Scottish Attainment Challenge this parliamentary term.
  • Local authorities set stretch aims for progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap in 2022-23. Stretch aims for 2025-26 were published in December 2023. If these stretch aims are realised, compared to 2016-17, we would see the poverty-related attainment gaps in primary school literary and numeracy narrow by around 30% over the lifetime of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

School Attendance

  • The Scottish Government will consider the findings of the Education Scotland review on attendance to determine what further support may be necessary.

7.2 Additional Support for Learning

No: 47b

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure inclusive education in mainstream schools for all children with disabilities, including by adapting curricula and training and assigning specialized teachers and professionals in integrated classes, so that children with disabilities and learning difficulties receive individual support and due attention.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 8.3 – Additional Support for Learning
  • Section 8.4 – Children and Young People with Disabilities

Progress since November 2022

The Scottish Government is clear that children and young people should learn in the environment which best suits their needs, whether that is in a mainstream or special school setting. Legislation on the presumption of mainstreaming contains clear exceptions to enable children and young people to learn in a special school or in a specialist unit. 95% of children with additional support needs (ASN) were educated in mainstream classes in 2022.

There is a range of provision available to support the needs of learners. This includes 109 local authority special schools across Scotland, in addition to specialist provision within mainstream schools. It is for authorities to determine the most appropriate educational provision, taking account of their legal responsibilities and the individual circumstances and wishes of children, young people, and their families.

There is also a requirement under the Equality Act 2010 for responsible bodies to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils and provide auxiliary aids and services. Education authorities also have duties under the Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils’ Educational Records)(Scotland) Act 2002 to develop and publish accessibility strategies to: increase pupils’ access to the curriculum; access to the physical environment of schools; and improve communication with pupils with disabilities.

Guidance for authorities is provided by the statutory supporting learners’ Code of Practice and guidance on mainstreaming. We are currently working with partners to update the Code of Practice to ensure it fully supports schools and local authorities to fulfil their duties under the Education (Additional Support for Learning)(Scotland) Act 2004.

Spending on additional support for learning by authorities reached a record high of £830 million in 2021-22 (a 5.9% increase in cash terms, 6.6% in real terms from 2020-21). The Scottish Government has invested an additional £75 million since 2019-20 (£15 million per year). The attainment gap between mainstream school pupils with ASN and with no ASN achieving 1 or more national qualifications at SCQF Level 5 (National 5) or better by the time they leave school has reduced by more than half from 40 percentage points in 2009-10 to 18.8 percentage points in 2021-22.

We are continuing to ensure that teachers and support staff can access appropriate professional learning and development to support the needs of all pupils. The professional teaching standards include specific reference to Additional Support Needs and the teacher’s role in supporting all learners. Education Scotland has developed two online resources for practitioners, providing free professional learning on inclusion.

Next Steps

  • We are continuing to take forward actions in our Additional Support for Learning Review: Action Plan (2022). This is discussed further at section 2.6.
  • We are also continuing to work with partners to update the statutory Supporting Learners’ Code of Practice.

7.3 Use of Exclusions

No: 47d

UN Concluding Observation

Monitor the use of exclusions and ensure that they are prohibited in primary schools and used in secondary schools only as a measure of last resort; prohibit the use of informal exclusions and so-called “off-rolling” and provide for appropriate alternatives; and develop measures to address their overuse in general as well as their disproportionate use on children belonging to ethnic minority groups and children with disabilities.

No: 47e

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure the right of children to appeal against their exclusions and provide them with legal advice and representation, where appropriate, in line with the Committee’s previous recommendations.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 8.7 - Exclusions

Progress since November 2022

The national exclusion rate in Scotland is published biennially. Although cases of exclusion have increased from 8,323 for 2020-21 to 11,676 for 2022-23, cases in 2020-21 were significantly lower due to COVID-19. The 11,676 exclusions recorded in 2022-23 is 22% lower than in 2018-19 (pre-COVID-19) and is consistent with the overall downward trend since 2006-07.

Our national guidance, Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2: Preventing and Managing School Exclusions (2017) makes clear that exclusions should only be used as a last resort. Scotland does not use the policy approach of ‘off-rolling’. Our guidance also makes clear that all exclusions from school must be formally recorded and that children and young people must not be sent home on an ‘informal exclusion’ or sent home to ‘cool-off’. Section 14 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 requires that children and young people’s right to education is maintained and should be supported during any period of exclusion.

Section 8.7 of the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement (2022) provides information on the range of strategies and programmes which schools can use to improve relationships and behaviour in schools and prevent the need for exclusions. The Position Statement also discusses the right to appeal an exclusion.

In June 2023, in response to concerns about behaviour in schools, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills convened a Head Teacher Taskforce to discuss exclusions. This work has informed the development of a summit on relationships and behaviour. A multi-stage approach to the summit has been taken, with events held in September 2023 on recording and monitoring of incidents in schools; in October 2023, which focused on relationships and behaviour approaches; and in November 2023, which discussed the findings from the Behaviour in Scottish Schools research (2023).

Next Steps

  • Headline statistics on school exclusions for the 2022-23 school year were published in December 2023. Further breakdowns of school exclusions will be published in March 2024.
  • The Scottish Government, together with the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS), will consider the outcomes of the relationships and behaviour summits, and findings of the Behaviour in Scottish Schools research, to identify any actions which should be taken to address concerns raised.

7.4 Discrimination and Bullying

No: 47f

UN Concluding Observation

Increase efforts to eliminate discrimination and bullying, including cyberbullying, on the grounds of race, sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, disability, migration or other status in the school context, and ensure that such measures:

(i) are adequately resourced and developed in consultation with children;

(ii) address the root causes of bullying; and

(iii) encompass prevention, early detection mechanisms, awareness-raising on its harmful effects, the empowerment of children, mandatory training for teachers, intervention protocols and consistent and robust recording and monitoring of bullying behaviour

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 8.6 – Anti-bullying

Progress since November 2022

Our national anti-bullying guidance Respect for All: The National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People (2017) continues to provide the overarching framework for all adults working with children and young people to effectively address anti-bullying concerns.

In March 2023, we began a planned review of Respect for All, supported by a working group made up of a wide range of stakeholders, to understand what updates are required to the guidance to better support schools to prevent and respond to bullying. This review includes consideration of the current guidance around prejudice-based bullying, online bullying, and recording and monitoring of incidents.

In February 2023, Education Scotland published the findings of its thematic inspection on approaches to the recording and monitoring of incidents of bullying in schools. This made a number of recommendations for how approaches to recording and monitoring could be improved. Its findings are being considered as part of the review of Respect for All. Education Scotland has undertaken a second phase of its inspection, looking at good practice in how schools are responding to bullying, which is in its final stages.

In addition, as part of a wider piece of work on relationships and behaviour, a summit was held in September 2023 with a focus on recording and monitoring of incidents in schools. The findings from the summit will also inform the Respect for All update.

The Scottish Government continues to fully fund respectme, Scotland’s anti-bullying service. respectme continues to provide direct support to local authorities, youth groups and all those working with children and young people to build confidence and capacity to address all types of bullying effectively, aligned to ‘Respect for All’. We also provide funding to Childline to offer a helpline providing confidential advice and information to children and young people affected by issues including bullying.

Next Steps

  • The updated national anti-bullying guidance is expected to be published in 2024.

7.5 Inclusive Education

No: 47g

UN Concluding Observation

Develop guidance, with the participation of civil society and children, for the inclusion of trans and gender-questioning children in schools in all constituent countries, and ensure that such guidance fully respects their rights, including their rights to identity and to privacy.

No: 47h

UN Concluding Observation

Remove “colonising” and discriminatory language from textbooks and curricula and develop educative materials that foster respect for and appreciation of racial, cultural, gender and other diversities.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 3.2 – Equalities and Inclusion in Relation to Particular Groups

Scottish Government Position

Anti-Racism in Education Programme

The Scottish Government’s Anti-Racism in Education Programme (AREP) includes a focus on the importance of decolonising the curriculum; embedding inclusion and diversity in the ethos and life of schools and early learning settings; and creating guidance and resources that further support this. The AREP is discussed in detail at section 2.1 of this report.

Principles for an Anti-Racist Curriculum: Breaking the Mould (June 2023), which was co-produced with anti-racist educators, set out what is expected from the education system. There are no prescribed textbooks and curricula in Scotland, instead a framework and capacities span a broad range of skills and knowledge. Inclusion, diversity, respect, and global citizenship are key components of this and are reinforced in all aspects of the education system and in specific programmes such as Rights-Respecting Schools and Learning for Sustainability.

The Programme for Government (September 2023) includes a commitment to further advance inclusive education in our schools through the AREP, 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.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Children and Young People

In 2018, the Scottish Government accepted in full the 33 recommendations of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group on how to effectively deliver inclusive education across the curriculum. Good progress has been made in delivering the Group’s recommendations. For example, the LGBT Inclusive Education Implementation Group, in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), has promoted effective delivery of LGBT inclusive education in all Scottish schools and engaged with young people to seek their views and experiences.

The Scottish Government also published guidance in 2021, which seeks to help schools support their transgender and gender-questioning pupils and secure their rights, alongside those of all pupils. The guidance was developed in consultation with a range of organisations, including LGBT Youth Scotland and the National Parent Forum of Scotland. Section 3.2 of the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement (2022) provides further information on the steps taken by the Scottish Government to support LGBTI pupils in schools.

Key Resources & Initiatives

Key initiatives that foster respect for and appreciation of racial, cultural, gender and other diversities include the following:

  • Strengthening Curriculum Design for Social Justice, Rights and Equalities: A Big Ideas Approach - A national co-design group of educators and partners has been exploring how we can strengthen and align curriculum design messages across the social justice, rights, and equalities space.
  • LGBTeducation website - is an important resource that contains a toolkit of inclusive education resources and a basic awareness e-learning course for education staff on LGBT inclusive education.
  • Improving Gender Balance and Equalities Self Evaluation Framework – Education Scotland’s self-evaluation framework aims to support early learning and childcare establishments, primary, additional support needs and secondary schools to reflect, discuss and plan for an ongoing and sustainable approach to improving gender balance and equalities for all learners. Further information on Improving Gender Balance and Equalities is also available on the Education Scotland website.
  • Education Scotland’s resource on promoting anti-racism in education with a curriculum which reflects diversity. It is important that all children and young people are represented and see themselves in Scotland’s Curriculum and recognise that it is relevant to them. The Education Scotland Glow Blog includes ideas for curriculum areas around anti-racist education.

Next Steps

Anti-Racism in Education Programme

  • Education Reform offers opportunity to further embed anti-racism and inclusion in the system. The Anti-Racism in Education Programme of activity and investment continues to address a range of issues across leadership and professional learning, enhancing diversity in the workforce, and responding to and preventing racism and racist incidents. This work will continue to be framed in the context of the UNCRC, preventing discrimination and promoting social justice.


  • The Scottish Government will continue to ensure guidance remains relevant and up‑to‑date.

7.6 Rights Education in Schools

No: 47i

UN Concluding Observation

Ensure the teaching of children’s rights and the principles of the Convention within the mandatory school curricula in all educational settings and in the training of teachers and education professionals.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 2.9 – Raising Awareness of Children’s Rights
  • Section 8.8 – Curriculum for Excellence

Progress since November 2022

The detail of Scotland’s curriculum is not prescribed in legislation, with the exception of religious and moral education and observance for which there is some provision. Children’s rights are referenced in the Experiences and Outcomes of the Curriculum for Excellence, most notably in the areas of Social Subjects and Health and Wellbeing.

Learning for Sustainability (LfS) is a theme across Curriculum for Excellence and an approach to learning within it. LfS includes human rights education, global citizenship, climate and sustainability education and other related concepts and is an entitlement to all learners. The Scottish Government published a refreshed and strengthened LfS Action Plan in June 2023. Rights is a key theme throughout the Action Plan, specifically under the theme of Learner Voice, Choice and Action, recognising the fundamental relationship between rights and the concept of LfS.

In May 2022, the Scottish Government announced three years of funding for UNICEF UK to offer their Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA) programme to all 2,400 state primary and secondary schools in Scotland. Prior to this, participation in the programme was funded at a local level by schools and local authorities. As of January 2024, 77% of Scottish Schools have signed up for the Award (RRSA is discussed further at section 1.10.).

Education Scotland has provided professional learning to all staff who support schools, community learning and early learning settings with curriculum delivery and design, to ensure educators understand the UNCRC and how it aligns with their own specialisms. There is an extensive range of professional learning offers and resources that can be accessed for free by education practitioners, including local authority leads who have undertaken training, and third sector partners who work with Education Scotland.

Next Steps

  • The Scottish Government will continue to take forward the Learning for Sustainability: Action Plan (June 2023).
  • Education Scotland is working with the Initial Teacher Education institutions to explore how they can further promote understanding of the UNCRC amongst student teachers.

7.7 Qualifications, Assessment and Learning Environment

No: 47k

UN Concluding Observation

End practices, including academic selection and testing measures, which contribute to the high levels of stress felt by students owing to academic pressure, and ensure that children benefit from a creative learning environment.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • NA

Scottish Government Position

State-funded schools in Scotland do not make use of academic selection in their admissions policies.

Curriculum for Excellence

Scotland’s curriculum is founded on a number of key principles: challenge and enjoyment, breadth, progression, depth, personalisation, choice, coherence, and relevance in planning learning. These principles empower teachers to provide creative, engaging, and challenging learning experiences for children in the ways which best suit their individual needs, helping children to develop a life-long love of learning.

In Scotland’s curriculum, we define creativity skills in a way that educators across all sectors can identify, value, and discuss with learners. These include: curiosity; open-mindedness; imagination; and problem solving. The development of creativity skills is a responsibility of all educators, with Creativity in Learning and Teaching guidance provided.

Qualifications and Assessment

In Scotland, learners are assessed in a variety of ways, not just through exams. National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses use a combination of externally assessed coursework and exams. Through the growth of vocational and technical qualifications over the last decade, learners are able to access courses and awards which offer a broader range of assessment methodologies.

Many studies from around the world evidence the value of exams in applying a consistent and objective standard as part of an overall approach to assessment. We are clear that exams will continue to form part of the approach in Scotland. Where grades are wholly reliant on teacher assessment, some learners worry that they may not be treated in the same way as their peers, introducing issues of fairness across learners and centres. Some learners do also report that they would like a reduction in the number of exams they take in Scotland.

In October 2021, the Scottish Government commissioned an Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment led by Professor Louise Hayward. The Review included consideration of what a better balance between internal and external assessment might look like, and how the qualification and assessment system could be reformed to ensure that it meets the needs of all our learners. The Review's final Report, which included the voices of young people, was published in June 2023. The Scottish Government is currently seeking views of stakeholders before providing a formal response.

Learning Environment

It is the statutory responsibility of all local authorities to manage and maintain their school estate. However, the Learning Estate Strategy (2019) outlines the strategic approach for managing Scotland’s learning estate. This embeds a more flexible approach to using the learning estate and includes the following guiding principles:

  • Learning environments should support and facilitate excellent joined-up learning and teaching to meet the needs of all learners.
  • Learning environments should support the wellbeing of all learners, meet varying needs to support inclusion and support transitions for all learners.
  • Good consultation about learning environments, direct engagement with learners and communities about their needs and experiences, and an involvement in decision making processes should lead to better outcomes for all.

Next Steps

  • The Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment, led by Professor Louise Hayward, reported in June 2023. The Scottish Government is carefully considering the evidence and recommendations and will respond in due course.

7.8 Support for Play and Leisure

No: 48a

UN Concluding Observation

Develop a strategy, with sufficient resources, aimed at ensuring children’s right to rest, leisure and recreation, including free outdoor play.

No: 48b

UN Concluding Observation

Integrate children’s right to play into school curricula and ensure that children have sufficient time to engage in play and recreational activities that are inclusive and age-appropriate.

No: 48c

UN Concluding Observation

Strengthen measures to ensure that all children, including children with disabilities, young children, children in rural areas and children in disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, have access to accessible, safe, public outdoor play spaces.

No: 48d

UN Concluding Observation

Involve children in decisions regarding urban-planning processes, including public transportation, and in the development of spaces for children to play.

Relevant section of Scottish Government’s November 2022 Position Statement

  • Section 8.10 – Support for Play

Progress since November 2022

Support for Play

The Scottish Government is continuing to take steps to promote and support children’s right to play. The UNCRC Act incorporates the UNCRC directly into Scots law subject to the limits of devolved competence, including Article 31 on the right of the child to rest, leisure, play and culture, see section 1.2.

Following recommendations from the play sector, a working group was convened in 2022 to oversee a refresh of the Scottish Government National Play Strategy (2013), through the development of a vision statement and action plan for play in Scotland. To date, the group has guided the production of a report on the views of children and young people on play and play opportunities in Scotland. The report is compiled following a literature review of existing research and will be published in 2024. The views of children and young people will be central in informing the development of the vision statement and action plan.

Education Scotland supports practitioners to engage in meaningful and interactive learning that best fits children’s age and stage. Within the Early Level of Curriculum for Excellence, practitioners and teachers are supported to provide responsive and intentional planning and a continuous play-based curriculum for children aged three to six years, with a blend of child-initiated and adult-initiated learning experiences. This emphasis on child-centred play pedagogy seeks to ensure continuity in children’s curriculum experiences across the early level and beyond. Education Scotland has worked with stakeholders to support the implementation of ‘Realising the Ambition: Being Me (2020) through programmes of professional learning at national, regional and local level, and the development of the Early Level Play Pedagogy Toolkit.

Outdoor Play

The National Health and Social Care Standards/Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard Interim Guidance (2021) set out quality criteria that all funded early learning and childcare (ELC) providers are required to meet to deliver the funded entitlement. Criteria 3, which relates to the physical environment, requires that children have daily access to outdoor play and regularly experience outdoor play in a natural environment as part of their funded ELC offer. It is our policy vision that children in ELC will spend as much time outdoors as they do indoors and time outdoors will happen every day, in every setting.

The recent launch of Caring for Our Outdoor Spaces (October 2023) builds on our ‘Out to Play’ national guidance series that aims to support ELC practitioners to provide high quality outdoor play experiences for children. In this new chapter, we focus on supporting practitioners to create safe, nurturing, and inspiring outdoor learning experiences which help foster a true love of the outdoors in our young people that stays with them for a lifetime. This resource focuses on embedding Learning for Sustainability in everyday play and learning by providing practical tips, factual information about the world around us and suggestions to extend the children’s active engagement with the natural world. Section 8.10 of the Embedding Children’s Rights in Scotland: Position Statement (2022) includes additional information on the steps that the Scottish Government has taken to further support and promote outdoor play.

We are investing £60 million to renew play parks in Scotland, so children have access to high-quality outdoor play in their own communities. This funding is for public, free-to-access parks and will be distributed to local authorities over the course of this parliamentary term. The funding will improve play opportunities for children everywhere in Scotland, so that they can experience more play and better play.

We have worked with COSLA to set out the national principles against which spending plans should be developed. These set out how local authorities should review their existing estate, prioritise renewal work, and design play parks that offer improved play opportunities for all children and families, ensuring that engagement of children and young people, inclusion and accessibility are core parts of the programme’s design.

Access to Youth Work, Culture and Sport

The Scottish Government recognises that youth work plays an important part in our education system. It helps young people to learn about themselves, others and society through non-formal educational activities which involve enjoyment, challenge and learning. Youth Work has an important role in supporting young people furthest from inclusion to reach their full potential in learning, life and work.

The Scottish Government provides a range of funding for youth work including grants, programmes and special initiatives. It is important to also recognise the key role local authorities have in delivering local youth work services – such as youth centres, youth groups and youth projects. Local authorities are best placed to make decisions related to spending priorities to meet the needs of young people across their local area.

Participation in cultural and creative activities helps young people grow into confident citizens and plays an important role in fostering wellbeing and supporting attainment. A Culture Strategy for Scotland, published in 2020, set out our commitment to ensuring access to arts for children and young people. While the vision and ambitions of the Culture Strategy remain very relevant, we have refreshed the supporting action plan to set out what steps we will take to deliver the Strategy, taking into account the changed landscape since its publication in 2020. A Culture Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan, published in December 2023, includes workstreams on children and young people’s access to culture, with reference to their rights under the UNCRC. These workstreams will consider engagement with children and young people as they develop their work.

A More Active Scotland: Scotland’s Physical Activity Delivery Plan (2018) outlines the actions that the Scottish Government and a wide range of partner organisations will take to support and enable people in Scotland to be more physically active. This includes actions which particularly target the needs of girls and young women and those children and young people who face barriers to participation.

The Scottish Government is committed to breaking down the barriers, financial or otherwise, that keep too many people from leading active lives. Scotland’s national agency for sport, sportscotland, works in partnership with all 32 local authorities to invest in and support the Active Schools Network. Data published by sportscotland shows significantly increased participation levels across the past academic year (2022-23) in the Active Schools programme, with 4.6 million visits this year, a 34% rise from 2021-22.[15]


The National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) was approved by the Scottish Parliament and adopted by Scottish Ministers in February 2023. It includes a long-term spatial strategy, along with a comprehensive set of national planning policies. It forms part of the statutory development plan for an area, together with the relevant local development plan(s) and will influence planning decisions across Scotland. The intent of NPF4 Policy 21: Play, recreation and sport is to encourage, promote and facilitate spaces and opportunities for play. The policy expects local development plans to identify sites for sports, play and recreation for people of all ages, including children.

The Town and Country Planning (Play Sufficiency Assessment)(Scotland) Regulations 2023, which came into force in May 2023, require planning authorities to assess the sufficiency of outdoor play opportunities for children in their area when preparing an evidence report for informing the preparation of their local development plans (LDPs). The Regulations set out the form and content of the play sufficiency assessment and require planning authorities to engage children locally during the assessment process.

In addition, the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 was amended, the change came into force in May 2023, to require planning authorities to engage with children and young people as part of the preparation of LDPs across authorities in Scotland, ensuring children’s voices are heard and views are taken into consideration.

Next Steps


  • Following the final report on children and young people’s views, due to be published in 2024, the working group will draft a vision statement and action plan for play. These will set out how the Scottish Government views play and its benefits for children’s development and wellbeing, and the actions we will take in order to realise our vision. The vision statement and action plan will reflect, as far as possible, the views of children and young people from the Children and Young People’s Views of Play report.
  • Education Scotland will continue to respond to requests for information and support, as well as planning and facilitating professional learning opportunities and networking in partnership with educators across Scotland.

Outdoor Play

  • We have committed £20 million since May 2021 to renew play parks in Scotland and have written to all 32 local authorities to confirm their full allocation of funding until 2026.

Youth work, Culture and Sport

  • In the spirit of the Verity House Agreement (2023) between COSLA and the Scottish Government, we will work closely with local authorities to update strategic guidance offered to local authorities to support them to develop their statutory Community Learning and Development Plans for 2024-27, which set out local needs and priorities.
  • The Minister for Higher and Further Education and Minister for Veterans announced on 5 December 2023 an independent review of Community Learning and Development provision across Scotland. The review will identify strengths in our current approach to Community Learning and Development, including community-based youth work, and provide recommendations to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government in June 2024 as work continues towards reforming Scotland’s education and skills system.
  • We will implement our Culture Strategy Action Plan published in December 2023.
  • We will continue to take forward our Programme for Government 2021-2022 (2021) commitment to ensure that Active Schools programmes are free for all children and young people by the end of this Parliament, providing more opportunities for more children and young people to take part in sport before, during and after school.
  • We are currently refreshing our Active Scotland Delivery Plan based on new global guidance from the World Health Organisation on what works to improve levels of physical activity across all age groups, including children and young people.


  • All local authorities and the two national park authorities now have statutory duties to carry out play sufficiency assessments (PSAs) for their areas when preparing the evidence report that informs the local development plan-making. The planning guidance to support planning authorities in preparing PSAs was published in December 2023. We continue to encourage the sharing of good practice to facilitate implementation.


Email: UNCRCIncorporation@gov.scot

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