Investing in a world class education system

Key points:

  • We are delivering a refreshed narrative for Scotland’s curriculum with a strong emphasis on skills for life, learning and work
  • We are overseeing a review of the Senior Phase, between S4 and S6, to identify any areas for improvement in how we deliver for Scotland’s pupils at this stage
  • We are investing £750 million during this Parliament to tackle the attainment gap and ensure every child has an equal chance to succeed
  • We continue to deliver the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Programme, Learner Journey Review and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Education and Training Strategy

Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence is the bedrock on which all future learning and skills are built, enabling our young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. In so doing, it provides a strong foundation for growing Scotland’s economy. Scotland’s Curriculum is delivering for children and young people across Scotland as well as employers, parents and families. This is illustrated by:

  • Over 138,000 Higher passes in 2019;
  • Over 64,000 skills-based qualifications being awarded in 2019;
  • Over 5,000 Foundation Apprenticeship opportunities available this academic year with an increasing number of enrolments compared to previous years;
  • 94.4% of Scottish learners going onto positive destinations within 3 months of leaving school; and
  • The OECD endorsing Scotland’s Curriculum as the right approach for Scottish education in the 21st century

We will ensure the curriculum continues to meet the needs of children and young people, parents, employers and Scottish society. The National Improvement Framework sets out how we will help deliver our aims of excellence and equity in education. The Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) will continue in their aim to improve education and close the poverty-related attainment gap in the schools in their areas by building on the support and expertise provided by individual local authorities.

Our empowerment reforms in schools will help to ensure that schools are able to take a range of decisions, including in respect of curriculum and staffing, that reflect the local circumstances of the school and the wider community, enabling head teachers to engage with local employers and wider partners.

In September 2019 we announced that new schools will be built from Aberdeenshire to Ayrshire in the first phase of a nationwide £1 billion learning estate investment programme. The Scottish Government will contribute funding of between £220 million and £275 million in partnership with local authorities across the country to replace 26 schools, with a further phase of investment to be announced within 12 months. Tackling the climate emergency is central to Scotland’s new Learning Estates Strategy, with lessons learned from previous education infrastructure projects informing future construction to create low carbon digitally enabled schools and campuses.

In 2019, we published a Refreshed Narrative for Scotland’s Curriculum. This provides those working in early learning and childcare, schools, communities and further and higher education with a single point of entry to the principles, aims and ideas in Scotland’s curriculum. Skills for learning, life and work are a key part of the Narrative. Partnership is one of the key principles, including the valuable role employers have to play in partnership with schools. Alongside our network of 21 employer-led DYW Regional Groups which will continue to support industry to engage with the education system, the Narrative will support the ever increasing number of new and innovative approaches to education-employer partnerships in schools, which are creating a broader curriculum offer, an enhanced offer of work inspiration activity in schools, and greater development opportunities for young people preparing to enter the workforce.

We have commissioned a review of the Senior Phase. This will help us better understand how the curriculum is being implemented in schools and identify any areas for improvement.

The Scottish Attainment Challenge will help to ensure equity in education. It will ensure every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap. This includes the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund, a targeted initiative supporting pupils in those local authorities and schools with the highest concentrations of deprivation. As announced in our 2019/20 Programme for Government, we will continue funding for the Scottish Attainment Challenge at current levels beyond the end of this parliamentary term for a further year into 2021/22.

We will continue to implement the Developing the Young Workforce Programme, which has delivered a new Career Education Standard, Work Placements Standard and school/employer partnerships, as well as the Learner Journey Review, which is helping to ensure a fully aligned education and skills system for 15-24 year olds. Our young people are now able to access career advice at an earlier point in their school career and to learn in a range of settings in the Senior Phase of their education. This work will ensure that our education system continues to respond to the needs of young people and employers, offering a wider range of exciting industry-led technical professional courses and qualifications, at a range of SCQF levels, alongside existing, well-established pathways. This gives young people the opportunity not only to study different things, but also to participate in different ways of learning many of which are specifically designed to help them enter the workforce.

Our STEM Education and Training Strategy (2017 – 2022) will help more people in Scotland to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for helping to grow Scotland’s economy. The strategy covers learning that takes place in the early years, in schools, community settings, colleges, universities and in apprenticeships and public science engagement in Scotland. It promotes excellence in STEM learning and teaching, addresses equity gaps in participation and attainment in STEM are addressed, inspires young people and adults to pursue STEM careers and builds connections between STEM education and training, and the needs of Scotland’s labour market. Through the strategy we are providing bursaries to support career-changers to re-train as STEM teachers and extra support for STEM learning in schools. Further actions include:

  • The development by Scotland’s colleges of 13 regional STEM Hubs to strengthen collaboration between partners including universities, science centres and employers;
  • Regional STEM Advisers and “Improving Gender Balance and Equalities” Officers in Education Scotland to tackle unconscious bias and gender stereotyping; and
  • Greater engagement between early learning settings, schools and colleges with employers and promotion of work based learning opportunities such as the Apprenticeships.