Attendees and apologies
Chaired by Deputy First Minister/Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney.
The Chatham House Rule applies to this group, so attendees will not be listed.
Items and actions
One Year On
The Panel reflected on developments which had taken place over the past year and suggested areas where further improvement can be made. The following points were made by the Panel:
- the pace of change in the system, and the immediate impact of policies including the Scottish Attainment Challenge and Pupil Equity Funding were noted positively by the Panel
- it was noted that it is important that the impetus for change is filtered down to classroom level and that all levels of the profession feel they have access to the opportunities offered by the reform agenda
- it was suggested that there needs to be a more concentrated effort to share the positive stories of our education system, including on the impact Curriculum for Excellence is having for young people. The Panel agreed this there is a role for the profession to lead this from the middle
- the importance of ensuring that learners are being appropriately presented for qualifications was acknowledged. The benchmarks and standardised assessments were mentioned as key mechanisms to support accurate assessment of learner progress
- the Panel noted that the profession is engaging well with the benchmarks and welcomed the clarity these provide. However, the Panel agreed that there was a need for the role of the benchmarks to be reinforced nationally and for further clarity from Education Scotland on the Moderation Cycle
- the implications of the removal of unit assessments from national qualifications were discussed and the extent to which the implications of this were widely understood by and communicated to the profession early. The Panel agreed they would welcome a further discussion on the rationale for the changes
The Panel closed with a discussion on defining what success looks like in the Scottish education system. It was agreed that there is a need to provide a clear vision on the outcomes Scotland wants for its children and young people and how the system, working collaboratively across sectors, aims to deliver this.
Education reform: next steps
Members heard a brief summary of the key proposals in the education reform programme, including the areas which would be covered in the forthcoming Education Bill and the timescales for the Bill’s introduction. It was explained that the reforms seek to provide greater empowerment and flexibility for schools alongside a greater support offering from all levels of the system. A number of issues were raised in the subsequent discussion including:
- the positive practice already present in the Northern Alliance was discussed, including how the Alliance engages with individual schools and teachers. It was noted that it would be crucial for the Regional Improvement Collaboratives to be clear as to how they will give direct support to schools, how they will involve teachers in their work, and how this aligns with the new responsibilities for headteachers. It was acknowledged that it will be important that Education Scotland can provide effective challenge to the Collaboratives in order to ensure equity of provision and support
- the importance of interagency work, including across health, justice and education, to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) was discussed. It was noted that future proposals relating to collaboration would need to include inter-agency collaboration, to ensure education partners are better equipped to deal with ACEs and trauma
- it was noted that Pupil Equity Funding had allowed schools to unleash their creativity and apply innovative approaches to closing the attainment gap, and that further powers which enable teachers to make more choices to better meet learner needs are to be welcomed. Some members suggested it still requires to be made clear in some areas that PEF should only be used to support actions which will lead to improved learning and teaching. It was agreed that if there are issues with PEF in individual schools, then members should inform Scottish Government officials who will pursue this further
- members commented positively on the alignment of functions between Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland
- the Panel discussed the role of SQA in the new reformed education landscape. There was general agreement that is a requirement for better communication and collaboration between SQA and the profession
National Improvement Framework: measuring the attainment gap
The Panel were provided with a short summary of proposals to measure the attainment gap. It was explained that the measurements outlined seek to be tangible and meaningful without being unduly complicated. The Panel welcomed the proposal to have a suite of key measures rather than a single measure. It was suggested that senior phase measures should cover a broader range of achievements than just national qualifications (e.g. foundation apprenticeships) so the suggested use of SCQF levels was welcomed. It was also suggested that it might be useful to include Insight tariff points as a more nuanced measure of achievement.
The Chair thanked attendees and noted that the next meeting of the Panel would be held in December.