Research Strategy to Improve Attainment

Date: 2nd May 2017

This new report sets out the identified priorities for a research strategy to support improvement in Scottish Education, particularly regarding schools, in order to deliver the objectives of the National Improvement Framework.

The Research Strategy for Scottish Education sets out research priorities in Scottish education, including the promotion of independent research and research infrastructure, sharing evidence on what interventions are most effective, and ensuring effective use of data at all levels of the school system.

The research challenge

In order to support the delivery of the National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan and to ensure that research activities make a difference, actions will be focused on:

  • Supporting the research infrastructure through better access to data and training of researchers;
  • Effective commissioning and dissemination of evidence on "what works" and improving system performance; and
  • Improving the understanding of the use of data and evidence at all levels of the school system.

Key actions

These three areas are the key themes for potential projects to deliver improved research evidence to underpin the achievement of the four priorities. In particular:

Supporting research infrastructure and independent research

  • Promoting the use of existing datasets through easier access, networks with academic colleagues and promoting collaborative research;
  • Developing improved data on Health & Wellbeing and ensuring that new data is gathered on social background and the non-attainment aspects of CfE.

System characteristics and performance: What works and what has worked?

  • Deploying the best available international evidence through partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation;
  • Translating international lessons into the Scottish context and developing new Scottish research evidence;
  • Examining the capacity and structure of education professionals to receive and implement the lessons of research and recommend necessary changes.

Empowering practitioners to produce and use evidence and data

  • Study how to make best use of data produced in the schools system, e.g. through the National Improvement Framework or school-level assessments;
  • Ensure that the best evidence effectively informs the knowledge mobilisation strategy being developed by Education Scotland as well as associated actions;
  • Promote opportunities for academic and practitioner collaboration and interchange at all levels of the system.

Delivery and costs Significant research activity is already underway. This Strategy clarifies its direction and sets out potential additional activity to add value to the implementation of the National Improvement Framework. Key existing projects include:

  • Continued participation in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 2018;
  • Development of Health & Wellbeing data as set out in the Improvement Plan.
  • Development of a partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation to support the National Improvement Hub hosted by Education Scotland;
  • Completion of the 2016 round of the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research;
  • Evaluation of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

A full action plan for research in 2017-18 will be developed following the first meetings of the National Advisory Group and Academic Reference Group in mid-2017 and consideration by the International Council of Education Advisers.


Given the Strategy's relevance to the Framework's key objectives, governance arrangements for the Strategy will be developed in conjunction with partners, building on existing programme management structures that support the National Improvement Framework.

A National Advisory Group containing key partners, including those who manage existing research programmes and data, will advise on development and delivery of the Strategy. The group will work closely with groups with similar interests, such as Education Scotland's Knowledge into Action Strategic Stakeholder Group, in order to ensure maximum synergy and minimise duplication.

Academic input and scrutiny will come from two organisations, firstly through regular reporting to the International Council of Education Advisers, and an Academic Reference Group containing a wide selection of academics who will be invited to comment on progress and suggest the future direction of research.


The purpose of this Strategy is to contribute to the achievement of the aims in the National Improvement Framework and improving the capacity of the education system in Scotland to produce and use research, evidence and data.

The current research strategy is primarily focused on the work that is being conducted in schools and school age children. However, the aim is to expand the focus of the strategy in the long term is to encompass the full educational journey in Scotland.

The Scottish Government will review its impact on an annual basis and formally evaluate after five years.