Implementing the National Improvement Framework (NIF)

The National Improvement Framework, launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on 6 January 2016, is one of the most significant policy developments in Scottish education over the last 10 years. The 2020 National Improvement Framework (NIF) and Improvement Plan replaces last year’s NIF and Improvement Plan. Together with the National Improvement Framework Interactive Evidence Report (NIFIER), the NIF has improved the availability, quality and consistency of data, and extended understanding of what works to drive improvements for children and young people across all parts of the Scottish education system.

Scottish Ministers have a statutory duty, introduced by the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, to review the NIF and publish a plan on an annual basis. As part of the review, we provide education authorities, teachers, young people, and parents with the opportunity to express their views, and these have been taken into account in the drafting of the NIF and Improvement Plan. Following the review process in Autumn 2021, there was universal support for renaming some of the priorities and drivers of improvement. As a result of the review, changes have been made to the vision of the NIF, the priorities, and drivers of improvement, retaining six drivers of improvement but increasing the number of priorities to five with the inclusion of the rights and needs of children and young people.

The Framework sets out a vision based on achieving excellence and equity for all learners:

  • Excellence through raising attainment and improving outcomes: ensuring that every child and young person achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, as well as the knowledge and skills necessary to shape their future as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors;
  • Achieving equity: ensuring every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed, no matter their background or shared protected characteristics, with a particular focus on closing the poverty related attainment gap.

Key priorities of the National Improvement Framework

  • Placing the human rights and needs of every child and young person at the centre of education
  • Improvement in children and young people’s health and wellbeing
  • Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people
  • Improvement in skills and sustained, positive school-leaver destinations for all young people
  • Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy.

The drivers of improvement in the outcomes achieved by children and young people through education are:

  • School and ELC leadership
  • Teacher and practitioner professionalism
  • Parent/carer involvement and engagement
  • Curriculum and assessment
  • School and ELC improvement
  • Performance information

Implementing the National Improvement Framework

The Framework is delivered through a joint programme between Education Scotland, the Learning Directorate in Scottish Government and, in relation to specific key drivers, other national partners, such as the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

Evidence is collected from a range of sources including, national censuses, local authority self-evaluation information, inspection and other evidence from Education Scotland itself. The evidence is analysed by Scottish Government to inform Scottish Ministers and policy makers of the status of Scottish education and to support the identification of the next steps for improvement.

As part of the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, the reporting procedures for the Framework have been placed on a statutory footing.

National Improvement Framework Officers

Scotland has six National Improvement Framework (NIF) Officers within Education Scotland’s regional improvement teams, led by a Senior Responsible Officer who is responsible for national improvement priorities. NIF Officers contribute to providing professional, comprehensive and informed advice and guidance to Scottish Government policy colleagues and Scottish Ministers to inform the development of policy in specific areas of education provision which support the implementation of the six key drivers and four priorities of the National Improvement Framework.

NIF Officers have a strong understanding of emerging developments across all aspects of Scottish education and work alongside a range of stakeholders to provide current relevant information on key educational developments; to plan for improvement and drive forward change.

Related links

Additional downloadable material for parents and practitioners is available from the Parentzone Scotland website and the National Improvement Hub.