Local authority role and duties

​The provision of education in Scotland is the responsibility of local authorities who are under a statutory duty to ensure that there is adequate and efficient provision of school education in their area.

In that context, local authorities may review their school stock and how the location and condition of their schools meet with population patterns and educational needs. When local authorities are proposing a change in education provision, there is a statutory requirement on them to engage in a formal consultation process, in line with the requirements of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.

In Scotland, 32 Education Authorities are responsible for ensuring that statutory requirements are met and that they are diligent in taking forward nationally agreed policies and guidelines. They are also responsible for the spending and accountability for educational funding. They have responsibility for the continuous improvement of services to meet the needs of their local communities. 

Across Scotland, local authorities adopt different service structures. Increasingly, education is part of a wider department, which can also include services such as leisure, culture, sports, the arts, community learning and social work services. 

HM inspectors, working across all areas of learning, support and challenge the work in the 32 authorities, through the process and impact of rigorous inspection. 

Key documents

Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 - Guidance for local authorities on exercising their functions under the Schools (Consultations) (Scotland) Act 2010. Applies to consultations on changes to schools (including nursery schools) such as closing, relocating or opening a new school.

Devolved school management - Local Authorities devolve the management of certain elements of the expenditure on education down to school level. Devolved School Management (DSM) was introduced in 1993 with the twin aims of improving local decision making and providing more flexibility to head teachers in responding to the needs of individual schools. The revised DSM guidelines 2012 empower head teachers to meet local needs and deliver the best possible outcomes for young learners, in line with the objectives of Curriculum for Excellence, GIRFEC and the Early Years Framework.

Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 - This legislation places health promotion at the heart of a school's activities and details a number of duties on local authorities such as to promote school meals and consider sustainable development guidance when providing food and drink. 

Better Eating, Better Learning (March 2014) - Guidance to help drive further improvements to school food and children and young people's learning about food and its contribution to their overall health and wellbeing. It is built on a vision to improve the life chances of our children and young people through the food choices they make now and in the future.