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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.2 Administration and governance

Last update: 25 January 2021
On this page
  1. Governance
  2. Cross-sectoral cooperation




Broad national policy for all aspects of Scottish education is laid down by the Scottish Government through the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and the Directorates for Learning; Advanced Learning and Science; Children and Families; and Fair Work.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills is responsible for all phases of education, including non-advanced vocational qualifications, with support from three Ministers:

  1. Minister for Childcare and Early Years
  2. Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science
  3. Minister for Employability and Training.

The Learning Directorate is responsible for:

  • promoting quality implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence
  • developing the teaching workforce
  • leadership in schools, communities and nationally
  • ensuring infrastructure and access to digital technology is available
  • implementing a system that focuses on performance improvement, innovation and good practice.

The Advanced Learning and Science Directorate is responsible for further and higher education provision in Scotland. This includes student support and science. Its responsibilities include:

  • developing the young workforce and tackling youth unemployment
  • maintaining access to higher education based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay
  • creating the educated workforce required to help drive sustainable economic growth.

The Children and Families Directorate works across government and with delivery partners to support systems and behavioural change to improve outcomes for children, young people and families. Its responsibilities include:

  • implementing policy priorities for children, young people and families
  • prioritising action that supports early years and intervention principles
  • promoting the rights and views of children and young people.

The Fair Work Directorate is responsible for promoting a culture of fair work and producing the skilled workforce necessary to realise Scotland's Economic Strategy.

Public agencies with a role in education and training are:

  • Education Scotland is an executive agency that supports quality and improvement in Scottish education. It delivers support activities such as working in partnership with education authorities, advice on curriculum, learning, teaching, assessment and support across sectors. It also delivers challenge activities, such as evaluation, inspection and review.
  • The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (generally referred to as the Scottish Funding Council) is the national, strategic body that is responsible for funding teaching and learning provision, research and other activities in Scotland's colleges, universities and higher education institutions. It is a non-departmental public body that plays a role in supporting national priorities in widening access to learning, skills, research, knowledge exchange and innovation.
  • Skills Development Scotland, also a non-departmental public body, is the national skills body supporting the people and businesses of Scotland to develop and apply their skills. It is one of the delivery partners for the Scottish Government's guaranteed offer of a place in education or training for all 16 to 19-year-olds through Opportunities for All (See 'National strategy' in the article 'Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)').
  • The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is an executive non-departmental public body. It develops, assesses and awards qualifications taken in workplaces, colleges and schools. Along with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland it is involved in implementing Curriculum for Excellence. 

Local authorities have statutory duties to:

  • provide adequate and efficient school education
  • meet additional support needs
  • provide the teaching of Gaelic in schools in Gaelic-speaking areas
  • make arrangements for pupils who are excluded from or cannot attend school
  • provide adequate facilities for recreational and sporting activities
  • provide buildings, equipment and teaching materials
  • employ teachers and other school staff
  • take responsibility for the curriculum taught in schools, taking account of national guidance.

Many local authorities also have a lead role in the governance of partnership arrangements supporting Community Learning and Development.The voluntary sector is a significant provider of community learning and development services, especially those working with young people.

Scotland’s colleges (previously called further education colleges), which provide much of the country’s vocational education and training, as well as a wide range of higher education courses, are publicly funded through the Scottish Funding Council.

Higher education institutions are private bodies that, subject to their degree-awarding powers, are free to design their programmes and awards and to determine the conditions on which they are awarded. They are also responsible for their own staffing, admissions and research.

For further details, see the articles ‘Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level’ and ‘Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level’ in the Eurydice national education system description for Scotland.

Cross-sectoral cooperation

There is no formal mechanism for policy cooperation across sectors, but the comprehensive remit of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills assists in developing a coordinated approach to education and training. The Children and Families Directorate works across government to achieve its policy aims.

The Curriculum for Excellence Implementation Group is chaired by the Chief Executive of Education Scotland. It brings together key organisations who are directly responsible for major aspects of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, such as Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the College Development Network  and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.

At local level, community learning and development (CLD) is provided through Community Planning Partnerships, organisations that cooperate to plan and provide public services in accordance with the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003.