Improvement Service website header

Education is of crucial importance to the future of Scotland’s communities and in ensuring children and young people realise their full potential. As such, councils in Scotland play a vitally important role in managing local education services in the challenging financial climate for local government and the wider public sector.


In Scotland nearly half of council budgets are currently spent on school education, with a large proportion of this expenditure devolved to schools through local devolved school management (DSM) arrangements that are overseen by local elected members.


Devolved school management (DSM) is essentially where councils pass control of a large proportion of their education budgets (excluding salary costs to staff) to headteachers of secondary and primary schools or heads of early years establishments through detailed local DSM schemes which set out clear spending requirements.


The new DSM Guidelines set clear aims for devolved school management and provide the context for all key local stakeholders to work in a collegiate manner in delivering and improving education. The guidelines also set out that given the focus on outcomes and development of policy such as Curriculum for Excellence, devolved school management should not solely be considered a budgeting issue.


The principles for the new DSM Guidelines consist of four main themes:


•   subsidiarity and empowerment

•   partnership working

•   accountability and responsibility

•   local flexibility


They are also accompanied by advisory notes that set out areas that are generally not considered suitable for devolution in relation to budgets for schools.


The new DSM Guidelines were approved by the COSLA Convention in late March 2012 and also approved by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in June 2012. This section of the website provides a copy of the guidelines along with supporting resources to help councils and their partners to improve their local DSM arrangements.


The supporting resources include a DSM Self Evaluation Toolkit to be used in conjunction with the DSM Guidelines. This is accompanied by 10 examples of practice in DSM gathered from councils across the country, which highlight aspects of DSM such as effective partnership working with other education providers, pooling resources, engaging parents, making budget decisions that best suit local circumstances, etc.


Download the guidelines and supporting materials:


Devolved School Management (DSM) Guidelines

Devolved School Management (DSM) Self-Evaluation Toolkit

DSM - Examples of Practice

Devolved School Management Guidelines

Devolved School Management (DSM) Guidelines


Mike Callaghan

Chair, National DSM Steering Group & DSM Project Manager, COSLA

Tel. 0131 474 9200

Email Mike

John Fyffe

Depute Chief Executive, Perth & Kinross Council & Chair, ADES Resources Committee

Email John


phone icon
Our address
COSLA logo SOLACE logo

© Improvement Service, 2018. All Rights Reserved