Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment


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Reforming qualifications and assessment

The Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment was set up to ensure that the achievements of all senior phase learners in Scotland (predominantly learners aged 15-18) are equally and fairly recognised.  

Led by Emerita Professor Louise Hayward, the Review was committed to the principle of inclusive policy design and to the development of final recommendations which are both principled and practical. 

The aim of the Independent Review was to ensure that all senior phase learners have an enhanced and equal opportunity to demonstrate the width, depth, and relevance of their learning.

The Review:

  • established an Independent Review Group (IRG) see below for more information
  • created 13 Collaborative Community Groups (CCGs) which are meeting regularly, see below for more information
  • created a series of allied discussion groups
  • engaged with schools and colleges
  • hosted a public consultation
  • hosted webinars with teachers
  • hosted focus groups with young people
  • undertook a programme of school and college visits

Phases of the Review

There were three phases to the Review and three points at which comments and views from stakeholders were sought:

  • phase one: summer 2022 - consultation on vision and principles

  • phase two: October 2022  - public consultation on options for change

  • interim report: early March 2023 - publication of Interim Report setting out future direction of travel

  • phase three: March 2023 - engagement on a preferred model

  • final report: has now been submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

  • on the 22 June the final report - It's Our Future - was published. 

Phase one: Draft vision statement and principles

Phase one of the Review was live between August and September 2022. Phase one sought views on a draft vision statement and principles. Responses were received from 12 Collaborative Community Groups and 2 allied discussion groups. A total of 221 responses were received from a survey sent to schools and colleges. A number of schools and colleges held group discussions with multiple teachers/lecturers and learners, and these responses were submitted on behalf of the group. The feedback from phase one has been independently analysed. Read the associated report (December 2022).

Our intention was that decisions taken in the future should always be considered in the context of the vision and principles which we have developed and continue to iterate as we progress through phase three.

Phase two: Exploring options for the future of qualifications and assessment

Phase two of the Review opened in October 2022 and the Review held a public consultation which closed on 13 January 2023. Views were gathered on different ways on which the vision and principles might be put into practice. It also included the opportunity to suggest other approaches. The purpose of phase two was to identify a preferred model for qualifications and assessment. 

The public consultation received over 700 responses but we know that a great many of these responses, in particular those from schools and colleges, involved group discussions and therefore the total number of individuals who participated in the consultation was far greater than this. We have published all consultation responses where permission to do so has been granted, alongside a final copy of the independent consultation analysis (April 2023).

Phase three: Testing the preferred model

Phase three took place during March and April 2023. The aim of phase three was to test the preferred model for qualifications and assessment identified in phase two. We sought views on a proposed approach and the practical steps that would be needed for implementation to be successful. During phase three the Review also took into account relevant findings from the National Discussion on Education. Phase three operated in a similar way to phase one. Materials were made available and circulated to all schools and colleges and discussions took place with the IRG and CCGs. We have published the independent consultation analysis of phase three and the consultation - supplementary analysis (June 2023).

Final report: May 2023

Professor Hayward has submitted the final report - It's Our Future - to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. The final report and recommendations will be published shortly, and the Scottish Government will respond in due course. 

Read a summary of the final report

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills has committed to publishing a Scottish Government response later this year.

Gathering evidence - inclusive policy design and development 

The Review adopted an inclusive approach that draws on the thinking of individuals and communities.

Independent Review Group and Collaborative Community Groups 

Professor Hayward has invited individuals from a range of backgrounds and experiences, including teachers and learners, to join the IRG. Members did not represent any group or organisation but acted as a ‘link’ to their respective community. The IRG met monthly. Membership of the IRG can be found below.

Each IRG member was tasked with creating a CCG. An important principle of the CCG is that they should be inclusive and involve individuals and groups which reflect the diverse make-up of all of Scotland’s communities, including those who are often missing from the national discussions. CCGs met regularly to discuss issues relating to qualifications and assessments. CCG membership can be found below.

Engagement via schools and colleges

Materials were issued to all Scottish schools and colleges reflecting each of the three phases of the Review. Schools and colleges were invited to lead discussions within their own communities throughout the Review period. 

Phase three materials are available (PDF)

Public consultation

The public consultation focused on options for change ran between 21 October 2022 to 13 January 2023. The public consultation invited responses from:

  • all learners in Scotland
  • their parents/carers
  • teachers/lecturers
  • users of qualifications, such as colleges, universities, voluntary sector and employers
  • designers, developers and those who offer qualifications (national bodies, the extended profession and policy)
  • other opportunities

A range of other engagement opportunities include:

  • convener led meetings
  • school and college visits
  • webinar events for young people and teachers

Background to the Review

The former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills announced the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment in October 2021. 

This was influenced by:

  • recommendations in the OECD’s Independent Review of Scotland’s school curriculum (2021)
  • the COVID-19 pandemic and a renewed debate around assessment following the cancellation of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams in 2020 and 2021
  • Professor Gordon Stobart’s OECD paper setting out possible options for Scotland’s future approach to assessment and qualifications (2021)
  • Professor Ken Muir’s report (2022) – Putting Learners at the Centre

The Cabinet Secretary said that the Review would look at the purposes and principles that should underpin the reform of national qualifications and assessment, and provide advice to Scottish Ministers about how agreed principles can be translated into a design for delivering assessment and qualifications, while ensuring that externally assessed examinations will remain part of the new system.

Read the Review’s terms of reference which includes information about secretariat support and sponsor arrangements for the Review.

Related information 


Members of the Independent Review Group


Those for whom qualifications matter most 


  • Beinn Grant (Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament)

  • Ruby Cardie (Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament)


  • Cheryl Burnett, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • Barry Sheppard and John Semple (NPFS)
  • Eileen Prior from May 2022 until March 2023, then Patrick McGlinchey from March until May 2023 (Connect)

 Design, development and delivery of qualifications

Teachers and lecturers

  • Andrea Bradley (General Secretary, EIS Union) 

  • Peter Bain (Headteacher)

  • Andrew Findlater (Principal Teacher)

Design and development

  • Douglas Hutchison (local government)
  • Dr Gill Stewart (SQA) 
  • Martin Ware (SQA) 
  • Aileen Ponton from May 2022 until December 2022, then Pauline Radcliffe from January until May 2023 (SCQF, National qualifications alignment)

Informing the process: research base

  • the process of change – Professor Chris Chapman (University of Glasgow) 

  • curriculum – Dr Joe Smith 

  • qualifications – Professor Jo-Anne Baird (Oxford University) 

  • inclusion and equity – Dr Edward Sosu (Strathclyde University) 

Informing the process: policy base

  • Putting Learners at the Centre (2022) – Professor Ken Muir (University of the West of Scotland)

  • Upper-secondary education student assessment in Scotland (2021) – Professor Gordon Stobart (University of Oxford)

  • Curriculum for Excellence/Teaching Scotland’s Future (2010)– Professor Graham Donaldson (University of Glasgow)

Those who use qualifications

  • employers – Business/industry – Tracy Black (CBI)

  • further education – Professor Ken Thomson (Forth Valley College)

  • higher education – Professor Jonathan Powles (University of the West of Scotland)

Adviser to the Review - Professor Mark Priestley (University of Stirling) 

Members of the Collaborative Community Groups (CCGs)


Learners group

Led by Beinn Grant and Ruby Cardie

  • SYP
  • Young Scot 
  • Youthlink Scotland 
  • Home Education Scotland 
  • Dyslexia Scotland young ambassador 
  • Kelty Youth Group 
  • Stills Gallery Youth Advisory Panel
  • The Big Project 
  • An Independent School pupil
  • East Ayrshire Youth Cabinet 
  • North Coast Youth Forum 
  • Fast Forward 
  • Who Cares? Scotland
  • Carers Trust
  • Intercultural Youth Scotland
  • Gaelic Medium (Gaelic and Scots Group via Young Scot)

Parents and carers group

Led by Cheryl Burnett and Elieen Prior 

  • Connect – Eileen Prior and Patrick McGlinchey 
  • National Parent Forum of Scotland – Chery Burnett
  • Children in Scotland – Annie Watson
  • Contact – Donna Tomlin
  • Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection – Linda O'Neill
  • Comann nam Pàrant – Magaidh Wentworth
  • Home Education Scotland – Mark Nixon
  • Bobath Scotland – Sharon Collie


Led by Andrea Bradley 

  • Eileen Imlah – Education Institute for Scotland  
  • Simone Coetser – Education Institute for Scotland 
  • Pamela Manley – Education Institute for Scotland 
  • Kristine Dempster – Education Institute for Scotland 
  • Julie Ferguson – Education Institute for Scotland 
  • Matt Hodgman – Education Institute for Scotland 
  • Andy Harvey – Education Institute for Scotland 
  • Scott McGimsey - National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
  • Afifa Khanam - National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
  • Mike Corbett - National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
  • Tara Lillis – National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
  • Catherine Nicol – Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association
  • John Guidi – Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association
  • Seamus Searson – Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association 
  • Jim Thewliss – Senior Leaders Scotland
  • James Cowan – Senior Leaders Scotland


Led by Peter Bain

  • Kirsty Ayed - Kings Park Secondary School, Glasgow
  • Tony Breen - Portree High School, Skye
  • Barry Graham - Wallace Hall Academy, Dumfries
  • Graham Hutton - Grove Academy, Dundee
  • Stephen Ross - Beath High School, Cowdenbeath
  • Julie McDonald - Nairn Academy, Nairn
  • John O’Neill - High School of Glasgow
  • Jon Reid - Larbert High School, Falkirk
  • Andrew Sharkey - St Kentigern’s Academy, Blackburn
  • Andy Smith - Larkhall Academy, Larkhall
  • Pauline Walker - Royal High School, Edinburgh


Led by Andrew Findlater 

  • Kirsty Hair - University of Strathclyde
  • Scott Hunter - Turriff Academy
  • Caroline McFarlane - Banff Academy
  • Lynsey McNamee - Queen Anne High School
  • Marc McWhirter - Speyside High School
  • John Schmidt - Currie Community High School
  • Darren Brown - Inverness High School
  • Rachel Richards - Currie Community High School
  • Sandy Lunan - Dunblane High School
  • John MacInnes - Ardnamurchan High School

Local government

Led by Douglas Hutchison 

  • Stewart Nicolson – Head of Service, South Lanarkshire Council (Chair)
  • Matthew Sweeney/Matthew Sweeney – COSLA
  • Grace Vickers – SOLACE
  • Gerry Lyons – Head of Service, Glasgow City Council
  • Maria Lloyd – Head of Service, Fife Council
  • Lyndsay McRoberts – Director of Education, South Ayrshire Council
  • Julie Calder – Head of Service, Renfrewshire Council
  • Adam Stephenson – Education Officer, Inverclyde Council
  • Campbell Hornell – Acting Education Officer, Lasswade High School
  • Andrew Brown – Senior Education Officer, West Dunbartonshire
  • Fiona Robertson-  Midlothian  Executive Director Children, Young People and Partnerships 
  • Linda McAulay - Griffiths, East Ayrshire

Scottish Qualifications Authority

Led by Dr Gill Stewart 

  • Sally Smith – Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Ollie Bray – Strategic Director, Education Scotland
  • Andy Creamer – Head of Learning, Teaching and Assessment, Education Scotland
  • Maeve MacKinnon – Education Scotland
  • Tracy Johnston – Senior Education Officer Health and Wellbeing ,Education Scotland
  • Pauline Stephen – General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • Victoria Smith – General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • Louise Campbell – General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • Alison MacDonald – HMIE, Education Scotland
  • Joe Mulholland – HMIE, Education Scotland
  • Ann Floyd – HMIE, Education Scotland
  • Ken Edwards – Education Programme Lead, Skills Development Scotland
  • Eleanor Wilson – Head of Outreach, Glasgow Caledonian University

National qualifications alignment

Led by Pauline Radcliffe

  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Connect
  • Education Scotland
  • Lantra
  • Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
  • Scottish Prison Service
  • Skills Development Scotland
  • Scottish Funding Council
  • Student Partnerships in Quality, Scotland
  • Scottish Qualification Authority
  • Scottish Social Services Council
  • Scottish Training Federation
  • Youth Link Scotland
  • Youth Scotland

Process of change

Led by Professor Chris Chapman 

  • Professor David Hopkins – The University of Bolton
  • Professor Mel Ainscow – University of Glasgow,
  • Professor in Education, Professor of Educational Leadership 
  • Jenny Langley – Kingsway Park High School 
  • Professor Melanie Ehren – Governance of Schools and Education director and honorary professor at University College, Institute of Education.
  • Professor Andy Hargreaves – Research Professor at Boston College, Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa


Led by Dr Joe Smith 

  • Alice Crawford – Curriculum Leader for Social Subjects - Forrester High School 
  • Daniel Alvunger – Professor of Curriculum Studies Linnaeus University, Sweden – International scholars in Curriculum Studies 
  • Julia Liesse-Fernandes – Curriculum Leader for Wellbeing - Forrester High School 
  • Kathryn Hibbert – Professor of Education, Western University, Ontario, Canada – International scholars in Curriculum Studies 
  • Martin Ennis – Depute Headteacher – Forrester High School 
  • Mhairi Sheail – Curriculum Leader for Music & Drama – Forrester High School 
  • Molly Fray – Curriculum Leader for Enhanced Support Base – Forrester High School 
  • Sarah Jarvis – Inveralmond High Qualifications and Assessment 

Inclusion and equity

Led by Dr Edward Sosu 

  • Sara Spencer – Child Poverty Action Group
  • Prof Stephen McKinney – University of Glasgow
  • Anne Haggart – Schools for Higher Education Programme - Aspire
  • Alastair Wilson – University of Strathclyde
  • Dr Markus Klein – University Strathclyde
  • Prof Cristina Ianelli – University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Adriana Duta – University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Roxanne Connelly – University of Edinburgh 
  • Dr Geetha Marcus – University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Yvette Taylor – University of Strathclyde
  • Linda O'Neill – CELCIS – Inequalities in outcomes of children in care
  • Professor Sheila Riddell – University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Stephanie Thomson – University of Aberdeen
  • Professor Donald Gray – University of Aberdeen 
  • Professor Margaret Sutherland – Scottish Network for Able Pupils
  • Dr Fiona O'Hanlon – Gaelic Medium Education 

Policy and Process

Led by Professor Ken Muir 

  • Billy Burke – Head Teacher, Renfrew High School
  • Walter Humes – University of Stirling
  • Naomi Stanford – Naomi Stanford Organisation Design
  • Khadija Mohammed – University of the West of Scotland/Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators
  • Cathy McCulloch – Children's Parliament


Led by Tracy Black 

  • Allan Colquhoun – Leonardo MW Ltd
  • Anna Gillies – NatWest Group
  • Becky Nicholls – Babcock International Group
  • Gillian Collin – PwC
  • Helen Arthur – GlaxoSmithKline Plc
  • Jackie Archer – Balfour Beatty
  • Jacqueline Hall – BAE Systems plc
  • Jo Szulikowski – Phoenix Group Holdings
  • Jonathan McCreadie – Amazon
  • Mairi Elder – Scottish Power
  • Mandy McMillan – Glasgow Airport Limited/AGS
  • Mark Essex – KPMG
  • Matt Woods – Spirit AeroSystems (Europe) Ltd
  • Nikhil Sharma – Tata Consultancy Services
  • Raymond King – Babcock International Group
  • Richard Turner – BT Group plc
  • Steven Grier – Microsoft Limited
  • Suzanne Burns – STV Group plc

Further education

Led by Professor Ken Thomson 

  • Lorraine Cowan – NCLAN
  • Caroline Watson – SLC
  • B Dunn – NESCOL
  • Lisa Doonan – SLC
  • Stef Black and Ali McDade – Student Participation in Quality Scotland
  • G Graham and Katie Paget – Dundee and Angus
  • Ann Heron – Ayrshire
  • Rob McDermott – Forth Valley
  • Loraine Lyall – Edinburgh College
  • Lisa Calderwood – Fife College
  • B Browlee – West Lothian
  • J Gracier – Borders College
  • Jessica Borley and Liz Cook – UHI
  • Karen Gray – SRUC rep
  • Sarah-Jane Linton – West Lothian College

Higher education 

Led by Professor Jonathan Powles  

  • Professor Nazira Karodia - Napier University 
  • Professor Moira Fishbacher-Smith - University of Glasgow 
  • Shona Barrie - Stirling University 
  • Martin Gibbons - St Andrew’s University 
  • Emma Forster - University of Aberdeen 
  • Dr Stephanie McKendry - Strathclyde University 
  • Dr Sally Middleton - University of Aberdeen 
  • Kirsty Wadsley - LEAPS, Widening access partners 
  • Amanda Baldwin - Focus West 
  • Professor Catriona Cunningham - Napier University 
  • Dr Laurence Lasselle - St Andrews University 
  • Jim Thewliss - Senior Leaders Scotland 
  • Jane Lewis - University of Highlands and Islands 
  • Dr Pauline Hanesworth – Scotland’s Rural College  
  • Professor Alison Machin - Council of Deans of Health Scotland  
  • Ellie Gomersall - NUS President 
  • Dr Alison Nimmo - Glasgow Caledonia University 
  • Luke Millard - Abertay University 
  • Katrina Castle - Edinburgh University 
  • Stephen Watt - University of the West of Scotland 
  • Fiona Burns - Scottish Funding Council 
  • Mary Senior - University and College Union, Scotland 
  • Professor Vicky Gunn - Royal Conservatoire of Glasgow 


Led by Professor Jo-Anne Baird and Professor Gordon Stobart  

  • Dr Lena Gray - Consultant/Researcher 
  • Emeritus Professor Jenny Ozga - University of Oxford 
  • Professor Pasi Sahlberg - Southern Cross University 
  • Emeritus Professor Dylan Wiliam - University of London 
  • Professor Ewart Keep - University of Oxford, Education 
  • Professor Anne Looney - Dublin City University 

Discussion groups allied to the Community Collaborative Groups


 Secure units 

  • Good Shephard Centre
  • Kibble education centre
  • St Mary’s Kenmure
  • Rossie
  • Howdenhall

Public and third sector employers 

  • Kevin Kelman - NHS Academy 
  • Karen Reid – NHS Education for Scotland 
  • Marion Allison – Community Learning and Development Standards Council
  • Catherine Cartmell – Historic Environment Scotland
  • Caroline Deane – Scottish Care
  • Ceri Dodd – Fire Scotland
  • Jim Duffy – Youth Scotland
  • Stephanie Harold – Audit Scotland
  • Jennifer McHarrie – Education at Bòrd na Gàidhlig
  • Rosie Megginson – Social Work Scotland
  • James Russell – SDS
  • Amanda Spark – Improvement Services

SME employers 

  • James Whitrod – Sitekit
  • Carol Nicholson – VSA
  • Paul Murray – Bon Accord
  • Shawn Hogg – Air Source 1
  • Nicola Campbell – HomeFix/Reiver Clyde Homes
  • Saj Sharif – Zen Consulting
  • Pauline Scott – Tigers
  • Janet Menzies – Mage Control Systems
  • Jamie MacGregor – Dunollie Castle


Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment: terms of reference

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