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
International Council of Education Advisers
The Panel reflected on their recent meeting with the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) and, in particular, discussed the priorities the ICEA had identified around developing leadership capacity, promoting collaboration and strengthening evidence-based pedagogy.
The following points were made by the Panel:
- It was suggested that there is leadership capacity in the system but fewer opportunities for teachers to become influential at a system level and to gain managerial positions compared with other professions. Some Panel members reflected on the benefits which had accrued from Charted Teacher status
- It was noted that whilst it is important to encourage flexibility and the empowerment of the teaching profession, it may be helpful if Government were to be more directive on some issues. The benefits of having “tight” national guidance with a “loose” application, particularly in relation to implementation of BGE, were discussed
- The importance of emphasising the strengths of Scotland’s education system and teaching profession was mentioned by several members. It was noted that a culture of negativity can be discouraging to teachers, learners and those considering joining the profession
- It was acknowledged that there is an important role for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) to contribute to capacity building for the profession
- Panel members suggested that there is a need to develop structures to support collaboration at all levels. It was noted that existing contractual arrangements or inflexibility in the use of time for CPD could act as a barrier to collaboration
Pupil Equity Funding (PEF)
The Panel discussed the introduction of PEF as an important tool to empower schools to take action to close the attainment gap. Several Panel members commented that the benefits of more directive guidance were particularly applicable to the introduction of PEF.
It was suggested that it should be made clear that PEF should only be used to support actions which will lead to improved learning and teaching. It was suggested that future PEF events could bring greater benefits by providing a forum for purposeful collaboration among participants based on their proposed use of PEF.
The Panel agreed that in order to inform practice reliably the National Improvement Hub should be a credible bank of evidence-based practice rather than a collection of anecdotes. The utility of the National Assessment Resource flowchart as an empowering tool for planning learning and teaching was noted. It was requested that this be reinstated on the National Improvement Hub.
Changes to National Qualifications
The Panel received an update on the proposed changes to National Qualifications and discussed draft guidance intended to clarify the changes. In general, the Panel welcomed the clarity it provided. It was noted that the guidance would prove useful to schools, many of which are already planning for the changes coming into effect. The Panel’s discussion focussed on the impact the changes may have on aspiration and on workload.
The following points were made in relation to aspiration:
- some Panel members suggested that the changes may have a detrimental impact on aspiration due to the removal of the fall-back to National 4. It was acknowledged that concerns were in part due to the fact that some schools have not fully embraced the intended 3 year senior phase model
- it was also suggested, conversely, that the changes may mark an opportunity for schools to become more aspirational for pupils, encouraging attainment of National 5 or Higher over two years
- some members suggested that schools would benefit from more time to plan learner progression routes before the changes were initiated
- it was suggested that there should be a suite of pathways available for learners which included the units, but that these should not be mandatory for all learners
- it was noted that the issues raised mainly applied in respect of candidates who were considered a “borderline” pass at National 5
The following points were made in relation to workload:
- some Panel members noted that the changes could result in increased workload, particularly for content-based subjects, which would be required to gather evidence of learning over the full year
- other Panel members suggested the changes could reduce workload as the number of unit assessments had been large and had proved difficult to mark holistically. It was acknowledged that assessment is a core part of the role of the teacher and the changes would enable a return to more effective and worthwhile assessment
- it was noted the proposal to allow additional time for some exams could be disadvantageous for some learners, particularly those with additional support needs
Review of guidance on mainstreaming
The Panel discussed the principle of pupils with additional support needs studying in mainstream schools and the review of the relevant guidance.
The following points were raised:
- it was agreed that mainstreaming is the right approach but that there was room for improvement in its implementation. It was noted that resourcing is a key issue which can make it more difficult to develop creative models to support learners’ progress. The Autism Unit at Ardrossan Academy was mentioned as a positive example which allowed learners to receive more targeted support
- it was noted that mainstreaming requires appropriately skilled staff. The request for enhanced resourcing was not solely in relation to funding but encompassed greater support for enhancement of skills, attitudes and culture. It was commented that there are training programmes which schools can access but that lack of cover can restrict the ability of staff to attend
- the importance of inclusive practice was discussed. It was commented that this means in part looking at each learners’ skills and needs individually and exploring alternative pathways much earlier. The importance of ensuring sound pedagogical understanding for those dealing with the youngest children was emphasised
- some Panel members noted the importance of GIRFEC and of facilitating better connections across services, including health, to enable a positive, holistic and developmentally appropriate approach to be put in place for each child. The work being undertaken in Highland to better integrate education and health service provision was noted as a positive example
- it was noted that work is underway in some areas to upskill practitioners to be able to address speech and language needs, acknowledging that practitioners do not have to be experts in language development to make a difference. Practitioners were being encouraged to form networks to share best practice collaboratively and sustainably
The Chair thanked attendees and noted that the next meeting of the Panel would be held in June 2017.