'What the report published today describes is an educational system in which local authorities are providing the direction, public accountability and drive for improvement to support individual schools and teachers to deliver a world-class comprehensive education for Scotland's young people,' said Convention of Scottish Local Authorities education spokesman Ewan Aitken.
'Inspection over the past three years has, by and large, validated self-evaluation by councils and schools. Inspectors confirm areas of strength and areas for improvement and assess the impact of subsequent actions but it is councils and teachers who take the actions and achieve those improvements.
'Indeed, councils have now picked up much of the follow-up work which inspectors used to undertake. Whilst this has generated a considerable workload for officers, it has ensured councils remain in the driving seat in supporting their schools, in listening to parents, and in ensuring that all children's services work together to deliver common outcomes for young people.'
Mr Aitken continued: 'These improvements illustrate councils' effective management in ensuring that areas of greatest need get the resources they require; that PPP programmes continue to bring significant benefits to children, young people and wider communities through high quality provision; and that the massive expansion of ICT in our classrooms transforms the learning environment, organisational efficiency and opportunities for increased pupil attainment and achievement.
'There remain challenges for all of us, not least to improve outcomes for our lowest attaining young people to help them fully develop and realise their potential. But what this report tells us is that we are well positioned to meet those challenges and to ensure that Scotland's education system remains up there at the top of the class.'
Scottish Executive press release follows.
Inspectors report on education
Scotland's strong educational system stands up well to international comparisons and produces many young people who perform well in school and beyond according to education inspectors.
But - in a report published today - inspectors also call for a determined drive to tackle underperformance and raise standards.
In Improving Scottish Education, inspectors set out their findings based on education inspections since 2002. The publication is the first ever to look at all stages of Scottish education from pre-school to community learning. It sets out strengths and areas where education must improve in the future.
Key strengths include:
confidence in the education system expressed by stakeholders, including parents and learners themselves
achievements of many learners
overall good quality of the curriculum, learning and teaching
high quality and commitment of staff, and the quality of the support and care they provide for learners
positive climate and relations between staff and learners in all sectors
much high quality leadership
a commitment to self-evaluation which is internationally admired and emulated
The report also highlights challenges that apply across sectors, including:
ensuring consistently high quality learning and teaching
meeting the needs of all learners, particularly the most vulnerable
reasserting the professional roles and responsibilities of teachers
working in partnership across children's services
rising to the challenge of radical change
Senior Chief Inspector Graham Donaldson said:
''Education in Scotland has changed, is changing and must continue to change. It is vital that our schools and colleges prepare all of our young people and adult learners for a future which will be both exciting and challenging. The future wellbeing of our people and the economic success of the country demand that we keep improving.
'Inspection shows that Scottish education already does many things well and some things particularly well. We know that Scottish pupils perform well internationally and that parents generally have confidence in their local school. Most learners in Scotland are well served. At the same time there are still areas of underperformance which must be addressed. A small but significant number of learners are let down by weaknesses in the education they receive.
'Success depends on high quality learning and teaching. We are fortunate to have many able and dedicated people who are working to provide a better education for pupils and students. We need to see this high quality in every classroom across Scotland, so that we can continue to drive up standards in Scottish education and provide excellent education for all.
'Our evidence clearly shows the central importance of intelligent and imaginative leadership if we are to meet the challenges of the future. It is encouraging that we are able to report high quality leadership across all sectors but there still remain too many instances where significant improvement is needed.
'We need to be very clear about what we want Scottish education to provide for our young people and adult learners and to be resolute in securing high quality for all. That means tackling difficult problems with determination. It also means ensuring that the curriculum, national qualifications, the professionalism of educators, and the quality of leadership are good enough and flexible enough to respond to the challenges of the future.'
The full report and additional factual appendices are available on the HMIE website.