Foreword by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
Improving the education and life chances of our children and young people is the defining mission of this Government. Our vision for education is to close the unacceptable gap in attainment between our least and most disadvantaged children and to raise attainment for all.
While there are many strengths in Scottish education, and much to celebrate, it is also clear that we can, and must, achieve more. The attainment gap is not unique to Scotland and will not be closed easily, but we must have an education system which allows children to achieve their full potential whatever their background. This is critical for Scotland to succeed in tomorrow's world.
Children and young people are at the heart of our system and their success fundamentally depends on the quality of learning and teaching in our classrooms, the quality of our early learning and childcare centres, and leadership in our schools supported by parents and communities. The people best placed to work with parents and communities to drive improvement for our children are our teachers, practitioners and learning professionals. We undertook to review the governance of our system to ensure that each part of it - from early learning and childcare provision through to secondary school education - has a relentless focus on improving learning and teaching. Teachers must be free to deliver what the children in their care need. To achieve this, we need a system where teachers are the leaders of learning in our schools, with the responsibility for delivering excellence and equity, and with greatly enhanced support available to them.
Scotland's diverse communities mean that there is no 'one size fits all' solution. We know, however, what must be consistent across Scotland: excellent school leaders and teachers, strong curriculum and improvement support, more transparent measures of progress, and engaged parents and communities. We are determined to achieve this and recognise that schools, teachers and parents are best placed to decide what will work best for the children in their communities.
The role of the Scottish Government, and local government, is to provide the right support for teachers and practitioners to deliver excellent learning and teaching. They must have the freedom to make decisions - and government must ensure they have the training, resources and skills to deliver.
We know that the best education systems in the world benefit from a collective determination within the teaching profession and within all levels of government to drive improvement; it is the culture of continuous improvement that will deliver results.
We also know that excellent schools have great leadership and we need to support, empower and build the capacity of brilliant leaders in every school. We need teachers to have opportunities to develop their careers in different ways, whether that is in the classroom, in specific curriculum areas, or in leadership roles. In driving these reforms we intend to provide teachers with the freedom and support to reach their own potential. We will introduce new pathways in the teaching profession to develop different and exciting careers which will be more satisfying for teachers and deliver more for our children.
We accept that the responsibility of this Government is to work with our partners in local government to create the culture and capacity for teachers and practitioners to improve the learning outcomes in their classrooms - and across our schools and early learning centres. We expect to be held to account for this, just as parents expect schools to be accountable to them.
The structure of the present system is too complex and support for improvement varies to an unacceptable extent across the country. Teachers and schools need consistently excellent education support services and consistently excellent improvement services. They do not all have these now and we must change that as quickly as we can. It is a collaborative effort, which starts with leadership in our schools and should be complemented by our local authorities and supported by new regional improvement collaboratives which are relevant to, designed by, and close to the communities they serve.
We also want parents to have a crystal clear understanding of who has lead responsibility for their child's school experience: their children's teachers. Parents have a right to expect their local school to engage fully with them throughout their children's education. With more consistent information than ever before available to parents, they will be empowered to demand and see delivered the education that their children rightly deserve.
We must all work together to move from a good system to a great system, with strong collaboration and collective responsibility for the progress and attainment of every child in Scotland. Advice from the International Council of Education Advisers has been clear - to improve our education system we must tackle culture, capacity and structure. This Next Steps paper addresses all three.
This will not happen overnight, but the work has already begun and our determination is clear: to deliver the world-leading education system our children and young people deserve.
John Swinney MSP
Deputy First Minister and
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
Email: Stephanie Gray
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House