Collaboration is key to school empowerment

​Empowerment, leadership and collaboration are key for schools, headteachers and local authorities to maximise their potential in coming years – that’s the recommendation from the School Empowerment Working Group in new support materials.

The materials​, released for all in the education system today (Thursday, February 7), highlight that mutually supportive, respectful relationships will make the most of collaborative efforts.

According to the guidance in the agreed drafts, there are three key areas to focus on: taking the lead in learning and teaching; empowering the learning community; and ensuring the best use of each school’s resources.

But this guidance is just the first step in an ongoing suite of support, guidance and advice reaching parents, support staff, teachers, local and national government as well as partners and stakeholders.​

The Headteacher’s charter’s release comes during a visit from the International Council of Education Advisers who have previously hailed Scotland’s commitment to collaboration within education as ‘impressive’

It also follows a report into Regional Improvement Collaboratives which highlights that overall Scottish school staff are very positive about the idea of learning from one another and welcome the opportunity to network, build skills and develop teaching practice.

Delivering the best results for learners

Gayle Gorman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector and chair of the steering group, said: “These materials have one simple aim – to let the best people at each level deliver the best results for learners. Progress towards empowerment should enable the system to be more responsive, decisive and agile when meeting individual and local needs.

“At the heart of this system’s change is the development of teacher agency and professional voice; and ensuring that professional leadership and reflective practice are key drivers for Scottish education. Successfully taking forward such an empowerment agenda will require universal engagement.

“Empowerment recognises that all parts of the system – including teachers, learners, parents and carers, support staff and stakeholders - have a role in delivering an empowered system for all of our young people.

Empowered culture at all levels

“An empowered system will grow stronger and more confident when we work in partnership to achieve it. As we move forward with the charter and later stages of subsequent support plans we should see improvement at all levels of the system.

“Through collaboration, everyone should feel far more invested in the education system, parents and learners, teachers, school leaders and local authorities.”

Collaboration in action

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “These publications are the product of collaboration in action and I am grateful to all who have been involved in their production. They demonstrate a strong shared commitment to headteacher and school empowerment and an ambition to ensure decisions about the day to day life of a school are taken at a local level.”

A real opportunity

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the EIS said: "The empowering schools agenda creates a real opportunity for professional voice and agency to be made central and critical to how our school system works.

“This extends from formal leadership posts, which are clearly of major importance, to leadership at all levels. As ever, the litmus test for any change is how it impacts on practice in the classroom. The EIS is keen to work with partners to deliver opportunity and improvement through a refreshed practitioner led system.”

Partnerships driving change

Kenneth Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), said: “Partnerships are increasingly driving change in education. For example, GTCS works with partners across the system to deliver Professional Update; the Student Placement System; MyProfessionalLearning and other professional learning services to teachers.

“There is no doubt that partnership is key to empowering schools and we look forward to ensuring the services of GTCS further support headteachers to play a full role in this important work.”

Getting the best from education

Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA Children and Young People Spokesperson, said: “To ensure all of our children and young people get the best from their education, effective partnership between local authorities, schools, parents and children is crucial. We know collaboration is taking place at local and regional levels across Scotland - the Charter and related documents, builds on and consolidates those partnerships.”

Jim Thewliss, General Secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said: “The recommendations of the Working Group, by emphasising the powerful impact which can be achieved through a collaborative approach to supporting learners at the point of delivery, will further empower schools to meet the needs and aspirations of young people. School Leaders welcome the recommendations as an opportunity build on, and draw from, what is identified as the best in leadership practice in Scottish schools.”

The charter and support material can be found on 'An Empowered System' page ( Schools will be receiving letters in the coming days informing them of the charter and how they can develop it for themselves.


For further information please contact:
Craig McGill, interim Head of Communications, 07976 022 879
Martin Osler, GTCS Director of Corporate Services, 0131 314 6041,
Lesley Warren, EIS Campaigns, Policy and Research Assistant,
Jenny Scott, Scottish Government Senior Media Manager, 0131 244 2939,
Nicola Dickie, Chief Officer – Children and Young People,, 0131 474 9308

Notes for editors:

According to the charter, in an empowered system, headteachers should lead learning communities to determine the most appropriate approach in the following key areas:

In relation to leading learning and teaching, headteachers should:

  • ​Lead collaborative work to co-design and develop the curriculum and learner pathways which best meet the needs of all children and young people. This should take account of the national framework for Scotland’s curriculum along with the needs of local context, as agreed between schools and the Local Authority.
  • Empower staff to continually improve practice, encouraging professional dialogue, collaborative enquiry and the use of research and evidence-informed practice. Headteachers should model a commitment to lifelong learning through their own practice.
  • Lead change and improvement, making decisions in partnership with their learning community about the improvement priorities and plan for their school, reflecting and informing the local improvement plan and the National Improvement Framework.

In relation to empowering the learning community, headteachers should:

  • ​Be collaborative and collegiate, enabling staff to lead and co-creating a supportive and empowered culture.
  • Work collaboratively with their Parent Council and wider parent forum, encouraging and supporting parents to be involved in the life of the school and in decision-making.
  • Support and encourage children and young people to participate in decisions about their own learning and the life of the learning community.
  • Promote collaboration for improvement, seeking and building relationships with other schools and partners in order to improve outcomes.
  • Be active partners in multi-agency working to get it right for every child, working with the Local Authority and other services.
  • ​Champion high quality professional learning for all staff, including supporting students and probationers, and lead by example.
  • Participate in and contribute to the work of the Local Authority and the Regional Improvement Collaborative – accessing support and working collaboratively to lead improvement.​

In relation to making best use of the school’s resources, headteachers should:

  • Manage a delegated budget in a fair, equitable and transparent way, supported by the Local Authority and a fair, transparent and equitable local Devolved School Management Scheme.
  • Deploy the school’s budget in accordance with best value principles and Local Authority procurement arrangements, with appropriate support and guidance from their Local Authority.
  • Play an active role in designing and reviewing recruitment and staffing approaches, both for their own school/s and for the wider Authority.
  • Be empowered to design a staffing structure which best supports the school’s curriculum and leadership requirements, working within their delegated staffing budget and supported by their Local Authority and SNCT/LNCT guidance.
  • Be integral to the appointment of staff in accordance with the best interests of children and young people and work in partnership with the Local Authority to ensure good practice in recruitment and appointment, in line with SNCT/LNCT guidance.
  • Work in partnership with the Local Authority, and within clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, to ensure a highly professional school team is built and sustained to meet the needs of the learning community.