Scotland’s public sector spends more than £5m a year developing its leaders of the future

Scotland’s public sector has good examples of investment in leadership but many individual organisations do not have clear policies and most are unable to link the spending to improvements in their performance.

Public bodies need to do more to track this investment and make sure it results in better managed organisations and better public services, says Audit Scotland.

An Audit Scotland report published today, How government works: Leadership development, says good leadership is essential in Scotland’s public sector to ensure it provides high-quality services and effectively manages public resources.

The report finds that the country’s public sector spends at least £5m a year on identifying and training leaders. It says there are clear examples of good practice and of collaborative working, particularly between the NHS and councils.

However three-quarters of bodies are unable to say what impact their spending on leadership development has on their organisations’ performance.

Further, 60 per cent of organisations have no policies to direct their spending, and one in five does not know how much it spends on leadership development.

The report also finds that bodies rarely share their examples of good practice or experiences and expertise with the rest of the sector.

Auditor General for Scotland Robert Black says: “The need for effective leadership of public services is now widely accepted and it is encouraging to find some excellent Scottish examples of leadership investment programmes.

“But the picture across Scotland is highly variable. There needs to be a more rigorous approach to tracking this investment and evaluating whether it is improving public sector organisations.

“The Scottish Executive is well placed to develop a clear policy framework that will ensure a consistent and effective approach. I hope that this report will help to encourage and inform thinking about how to deliver effective leadership development across Scotland’s public sector.

“I would invite the Executive to consider how best it can build on the work of the Scottish Leadership Foundation. Working with other employers the Executive might consider sponsoring a co-ordinating body that can support the development of cross-sector training and spread best practice in the procurement, delivery and evaluation of leadership development programmes.”

Case study: The report contains a study of Dalry Primary School in North Ayrshire. The strong leadership of head teacher Maureen Denningberg has directly affected the achievements and experiences of the children and staff.