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Scottish Government strengthens profile of Learning for Sustainability in the 2023 National Improvement Framework 

Wed 4th January 2023 - Blog Posts, News, Policy Advice and Responses

We warmly welcome the news that the Scottish Government has strengthened the profile and visibility of Learning for Sustainability in the 2023 Achieving Excellence and Equity: National Improvement Framework and improvement plan‘ (or ‘NIF’).

Published annually, this document ‘sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education that have been agreed across the system, and the national improvement activity that needs to be undertaken to help deliver those key priorities.’

We have highlighted some of the key points from this document below:

“As a result of last year’s review, we (Scottish Government) made changes to the NIF vision, 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. As a result of the changes last year, there was less appetite for significant change this year in order to ensure that the refreshed focus has the chance to become fully embedded.”

“However, stakeholders did suggest increasing the profile and visibility of Learning for Sustainability in the NIF, in line with the findings in Professor Ken Muir’s Report, Putting learners at the centre: towards a future vision for Scottish education‘. In that report, young people emphasised the need for the development of values, attitudes, knowledge and skills to be strengthened in the context of Learning for Sustainability, particularly given the increased profile and relevance of climate change to the current and future generations of children and young people.”

Learning for Sustainability: a national entitlement

“All learners have an entitlement to Learning for Sustainability (LfS): a cross-curricular approach that weaves together distinct but closely-related themes of sustainable development education, climate education, global citizenship, children’s rights and outdoor learning. Providing every learner with their entitlement to LfS is key to ensure they gain the knowledge, skills, values and attributes needed for life in the 21st Century; an understanding of their environment, culture and heritage; their role in the local, national and global community; the importance of connection and care to the natural world; and the significance of their choices, now and in the future, to live in a sustainable way.”

“Children and young people have repeatedly asked us to put LfS at the centre of their learning experiences, calling for a greater emphasis on climate education, biodiversity and youth participation. This is clearly articulated in Professor Ken Muir’s Report; where he highlighted that the current generation of learners sees climate change and social justice as key drivers influencing the future of our education system.”

“The Scottish Government has been working with children, young people and their educators to strengthen the LfS Action Plan; ensuring their views are taken forward and that LfS is better embedded across the curriculum. Scottish Government is also working with Education Scotland to develop the LfS Professional Learning Directory, where educators will be able to access training and resources that will support them to embed LfS better in their practice.”

“Despite the very strong policy framework of LfS, there is still variation in the quality of learning that children and young people receive. A new refreshed LfS Action Plan will be published in March 2023. This is being developed in collaboration with children, young people and their educators, and the LfS Leadership Group. The LfS Leadership Group will work on the development and delivery of the refreshed Action Plan and will monitor its implementation through the development of a new Key Performance Indicators system.”

A whole-system refresh

This refreshed NIF has been published during a time of system-wide reform in Scottish education and Learning for Sustainability Scotland has engaged with several key aspects of this:

  1. The National Discussion on Education was launched at the Scottish Learning Festival on 21 September, and closed on 5 December 2022. It was co-convened by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). Professor Alma Harris and Professor Carol Campbell from the ICEA were appointed as independent facilitators. The initial findings from this will be published in Spring 2023.” You can read Learning for Sustainability Scotland’s response to the Discussion by clicking here.
  2. A review of qualifications and assessment is also being carried out by Professor Emeritus Louise Hayward. The aim is to ensure all senior phase learners have an enhanced and equal opportunity to demonstrate the breadth, depth and relevance of their learning.” The closing date for submissions is Friday 13 January and Learning for Sustainability Scotland will also be responding to this. We will share our submission in due course.
  3. “Professor Muir’s review also recommended the creation of three new national education bodies to replace the SQA and Education Scotland. These include a qualifications body, a national agency for Scottish education, and an independent inspectorate body. Work is underway with partners, including a wide range of stakeholders, to ensure these are in place during 2024.”