The future of education in Scotland?


I still haven’t received my copy of the The OECD report of Quality and Equity of Education in Scotland but I accessed the read only version as advised by John Connell.

I’ve had to type up the following – as I couldn’t cut and paste – apologies for any errors.

As I suspected it’s much more positive than any of the newspaper reports I read and sets out some very exciting recommendations. I think we are moving in many of these directions within East Lothian and it was very gratifying the see that they mentioned the potential of Student Evaluation of Learning – which was developed in East Lothian.

I’ll be returning to this report over the next few weeks but I just wanted to capture its essence in one place for ease of reference.

The report was compliled by educators from  Australia, Finland, New Zealand and Belgium – a point worth noting when reflecting upon the recommendations.


Few Countries can be said with confidence to outperform Scotland in Maths, reading and science.

Scotland has one of the most equitable school systems in the OECD.

Headteachers are amongst the most positive of school principals in the OECD in judging the adequacy of staffing and teaching resources and students are generally positive of their schools.

On national tests many children are one or two years in advance of expected levels.

The OECD examiners were impressed by the capacity of Scottish primary schools to respond to public expectations of continuously improving standards and consistency of outcomes.

Indicators of improvement as well as high international standards also show that Scotland’s confidence in its comprehensive system is well placed.
It is through Scottish Local Authorities that an equitable distribution of resources is managed, and they are also responsible for ensuring that schools are responsive to community needs, adaptive, and effective. The community Assets represented by schools are in capable hands. The professionalism and commitment of the education departments of the local authorities makes a wider reliance on them a good strategy.

Scotland’s approach to teacher induction is world class and the Scottish qualification for Headship is an outstanding and demanding programme.


One major challenge facing Scottish education is to reduce the achievement gap which opens up about Primary 5 and continues to widen throughout the junior years secondary years (S1 to S4)

Children from poorer communities and low socio-economic status homes are more likely than others to under achieve.

Inequalities in staying-on rates, participation at different academic levels of national courses and pass rates on these courses are a concern

Understanding the challenges
Who you are in Scotland is far more important than what school you attend so far as achievement differences on international tests are concerned.

Children from poorer homes are more likely to under-achieve, disengage from school work, leave school earlier than others, and – if they continue to study at lower academic levels and record lower pass rates.

Curriculum innovation is appears to be modest and schools only have limited flexibility in teaching resources. These are two key instruments of change and adaptation in schools. So lack of more freedom in them makes achieving g high standards for all groups of students more difficult.

Schools should be able to build the mix of staffing they need to tackle the particular challenges they face and offer programmes which best address these challenges.

There is concern about the lack of reliable data on student achievement and school performance throughout Scotland..


These strategies aim at greater flexibility for the agencies which exercise the most direct responsibility for how schools work. We have sought a balance between greater freedom of action on the one hand, and greater transparency and accountability on the other.

National priorities funding through local government compacts

Some of the recommendations include:

A national innovation plan to fund educational improvements and outcomes through agreements with local authorities; fundin g for schools of ambition is more selective and targeted; that the Scottish Survey of Achievement be extended to all children.

Greater school autonomy in a local government framework

Some of the recommendations include:

 each local authority develops a policy framework which defines the priority targets it seeks to make including improvements in student opportunities and outcomes; where a local authority provides additional resources for equity purposes it should do so within a the framework on the national innovation plan; local authorities should negotiate agreements with schools under which greater management autonomy in staffing and curriculum is established in return for an agreed platform of improvement in learning opportunities and outcomes

A comprehensive , structured and accessible curriculum

Some of the recommendations include:

Each local authority develop an explicit policy framework which contains a charter of learning opportunities – a commitment to provide a wide range of education and training places which best suits the needs of the community; vocational courses should be available to all young people from S3 and that sequences of courses be developed spanning the compulsory and post compulsory years; the \Scottish government should support school based provision of school-based courses; each local authority establish a curriculum planning and pathways network which links schools, colleges and employers groups; Standard Grade examinations should be phased out as the 3-18 curriculum is implemented; that Scottish Certificate of Education be developed to sanction completion of an approved programme of studies of training – this graduation certificate would have defined minimum requirements to reflect the new purposes of the new 3-18 curriculum; young people pre S5 should undertake programme of studies with specified minimum standards leading to the SC of E at the and of that year or S6; young people who choose to leave at the age of 16 negotiate an individual plan for further education and training;.

Continuous review of the curriculum and teaching:Some of the recommendations include:Education authorities in Scotland should examine current approach to gathering student feedback on the quality of teaching (e.g. Student Evaluation of Learning Software) and that they work with teachers to gain wider acceptance of the most promising approaches; rolling consultations should be undertaken with teachers from a cross-section of schools regarding their classroom experience in delivering courses.


Monitoring school leaver destinations

Some of the recommendations include:

Consideration should be given to extending the scope of the Scottish survey of school leavers to make contact with children before they leave school and to provide fuller information about school achievement and experience; Careers Scotland should investigate approaches to providing all schools and local authorities with comprehensive pint-in-time data.

3 thoughts on “The future of education in Scotland?

  1. A small and specialised point, but it’s interesting that pupils begin to separate into the respective camps of achievers and underachievers around P5, the exact time that they are considered ready for instrumental instruction (with the exception of bowed strings which begins in P4). I wonder what it is about this age which simultaneously allows some to be sufficiently switched on for the multi-disciplinary nature of instrumental tuition and others to begin to switch off from the larger process of achievement in formal education.

  2. Alan

    Not a small point at all. We are considering making this age a key target point by which time children will be functionally literate and numerate and have the confidence to accept the challenge to learn new things

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