Access Delivery Group minutes: March 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 9 March 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education and Youth Employment and Training (Chair)
  • Professor Sir Peter Scott, Commissioner for Fair Access
  • Susan Stewart, Open University in Scotland
  • Professor Sally Mapstone, University of St Andrews
  • Alastair Sim, Universities Scotland
  • Kirsty Conlon, Universities Scotland
  • Murdo Mathison, University and College Union Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Head Teachers and Deputes in Scotland
  • Jim Thewliss, School Leaders Scotland
  • Stephanie McKendry, University of Strathclyde
  • Neil Croll, University of Glasgow
  • Lydia Rohmer, West Highland College UHI
  • Mark McCahill, Colleges Scotland
  • Sofia Khan, NUS Scotland
  • Russell Gunson, IPPR
  • Andrew Creamer, Education Scotland
  • Lauren McNamara, Student Awards Agency Scotland
  • Fiona Burns, Scottish Funding Council
  • Bernadette Sanderson, Scottish Funding Council
  • Karen Frew, Scottish Government
  • Roddy MacDonald, Scottish Government
  • Debbie Browett, Scottish Government
  • Alan Sloan, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair Mr Hepburn welcomed everyone to the meeting and commented that it was  heartening to see improvement, despite concern re impact of COVID.

Minute of previous meeting and matters arising

Mark McCahill had been missed from the list of attendees, and amendment will be made to add his name. The minute of the previous meeting was agreed, with no other matters arising.

Commissioner for Fair Access short update

Peter Scott provided a short update on actions since the last meeting:

  • recommendation in last report was sustainable funding for framework for fair access and that hasn’t really happened – would be good to get resolved at some stage
  • two in person meetings – opening of Intu centre Govan in October and visit to RGU in Aberdeen 
  • wrote blog for HEPI requiring minimum entry requirements and minimum eligibility requirements in England 
  • working on final annual report – looking at regular progress as measured against stats
  • on the whole its good news – no room for complacency – might take time for full effect of school disruptions / exams to feed through
  • expressed concern on what happens in middle years of high school, not the end years
  • established a standalone website – important given that commissioner is meant to be independent of SG, and also as difficult as the Commissioner couldn’t edit SG pages 
  • Minister asked for link to website 
  •  access is not enough – we also need progression
  • gender/race/ethnicity – overlap in different ways – need to be joined up
  •  impact of covid for those with the least the most is being taken away
  •  we should never be complacent – equity is far from being achieved
  • articulation – developing new pathways – slower progress
  • longer term consequences – right balance of on-line and face to face teaching needs to be found

This prompted some question and answer discussion:

Missing reflection on what might be next for articulation. Peter would like to see articulation more broadly as tertiary system with lots of pathways and flexibility within it – not just HND/degree question.

Lydia commented that it could be useful is to see how poverty incl. digital poverty will impact on fair access going forward.

Response: there is a risk that acceleration of digital delivery – which is logical and opens access in one sense – might close down access re digital poverty. Colleges and unis need to be careful that lessons of covid are learnt re differential conditions of students/learners. 

Russell Gunson – 2026 targets – great that maintaining given headwinds faced, but there are stretching targets in only a few years, and is 10% across all institutions going to be realised by 2026? Admissions – access thresholds, any reflections on how admissions systems need to shift to reach targets.

Response -  Russel unis moved quickly to adopting access thresholds, but what was the impact? We can see at macro level but would be interesting to see more detailed evaluation of how its working. 

Susan Stewart – Open Univeristy are finding that consequence of pandemic is large increase in people wanting to reskill and change careers, and SIMD20 does not take into account rural and remote poverty, wonders if income data will be considered as well as FSM.

Response: slightly resistant to proliferating too many measures because “the best is the enemy of the good”, we want things that are actionable. But need to take account of adult learners. 

National Schools Programme (NSP)

  • new concept beginning in 2022
  • Scottish Funding Council (SFC) review recommended a NSP working across schools, colleges and unis across all sector
  • want to move towards removing barriers that we know exist, not just about improving top up and support etc
  • more ambitious targets are in mind with NSP – colleges also have an important role to play 
  • NSP won’t be in a silo – informed by work of the Commission on Widening Access but informed by Developing the Young Workforce, Education Reform, schools’ policy etc, fair work agenda, skills agenda
  • NSP = resource for all senior phase pupils and all schools looking for a support and bridge into tertiary system – general and specialist support and will be structured round needs of pupils
  • unique learner identifier would help them to make sure people wouldn’t be lost between different parts of education system 
  • four key pillars to NSP (on slides)
  • IAGS that focuses on tertiary system (SDS is more generalist) so complements them
  • about simplifying landscape – delivery through existing, successful programmes – idea is that all head teachers will know, for example that there is one national programme 
  • intention to extend across all 355 schools in Scotland
  • £4.5m of SFC non-core programme funding 

Action: Karen to share slides 

This prompted some question and answer discussion:

Susan Stewart: Susan has a slight concern – very ambitious to have a national programme with 32 local authorities (LAs). To what extent will this run separately from Skills Development Scotland’s (SDS) career programme in schools and might there be potential for a lack of coordination and lack of SFC and SDS being entirely joined up and focused on the needs of individual leaners? And re current outreach programmes, how do we avoid duplication? 

Response: SFC thinking is to gather as much high quality feedback and see how things are going to develop.  Re different outreach programmes, intention is to try to streamline things better, idea to make things more intelligible – will need support of head teachers. 

Jim Thewliss – much within a NSP which will land well in schools, but won’t in long term produce breakthrough on access. The educational landscape is founded round three -eighteen learning, so concentrating on senior phase will ignore young people who by the time they get to senior phase, tertiary education is not part of their thinking. Unless you get to them at an earlier stage, just going to repeat this operation ever year with a different cohort of young people. If you get into the system earlier on – lower secondary and primary, children’s university impact on aspirations etc- NSP does not tap into this lack of aspiration. 

Response: Don’t want to just philosophise but want to come up with idea about what could be done – what exists already within that space. Programme isn’t meant to ignore earlier parts of school life – some unis have engaged already with earlier years. 

Russell - £4.5million across 55k pupils – given target for 2026, 1000/1500 people more into uni, would focusing funding on smaller group be better?

Response: point around focusing down. Will find that out as we progress – that will matter. At beginning of it and keen to gather more ideas.

Lydia – concerned slightly by ‘access to tertiary system’ meaning access to university only. Access to HE – colleges have a strong role in that – College Development Network recent report on school college partnerships – we should better recognise role of colleges. Work of colleges would address some of Jim’s points, but would be reassuring to college sector if that was more explicit in the approach. 

Neil C – Targeting is going to be a key point in terms of getting programmes right – more manageable set of pupils. In terms of targeting we’re just targeting by SIMD, if we don’t have targets for unis then were going to have pupils who are ready to go to uni but there won’t be anywhere for them to go – all bits of the system need to work together (outreach and outcome agreement targets). 

Mark McCahill – choice is key in senior phase. If there is opportunity for earlier capture in schools – links between different kinds of study (IRISS study) – colleges are working in a good way with senior part of primary and broad general education. Important to have early capture if looking at a NSP. 

Kirsty Conlon – helpful in having flexibility of who should benefit, but some concerns about limited budget and targeting. Would be useful to work with SDS on IASG given that all applicants won’t be young – sometimes articulation isn’t a well-known route for older applicants. 

Update on FSM

  •  have been working with UCAS – UCAS have secured access to school census data for English students, to include a flag
  • data collected in school census for Scottish students can’t be shared for operational purposes – only collected for other purposes.
  • UCAS are looking at doing a voluntary / self-declared flag- for 23 cycle – would then need to verify it, which would be difficult, could QA in future years (could then check quality)
  • LAs hold data for actually giving out FSM – danger or challenge is that it’s held by 32 LAs, lots of challenges in accessing – need to see what routes we can go down
  • not all pupils claim FSM – if not claiming then could they be disadvantaged
  • Alan will look into why England can share and we can’t

Kirsty Conlon - apart from issue of 32 data agreements, is their data likely to be usable?

Response: All LAs will have different DPIAs, reason for having data, so some will have explicitly stated it’s for admin not operational purposes – would need to look at every agreement – probably would need to be done for future years. Could get LAs to verify data from UCAS but challenging in other respects.

Peter - issues around voluntary flag and drawbacks – eligible and don’t claim, but then eligible and don’t flag (particularly without appropriate guidance – would need strong info campaign), issue of eligibility over what period of time.

Sally suggestion for group: finding it dispiriting as access data group did work a few years ago, but taking forward FSM is something that we wanted to happen. Understandable but disappointing that there is a lack of resource at present. Would it not be helpful if group reaffirmed progress in taking forward FSM and asked for this to be brought up the priority list? 

Minister: message is clear, point is understood and taken on board.

Neil – Neil was on access data working group on 2018, did all analysis that was needed, we did say income based measure for college learners too. Neil works with 14 LAs and he consulted with LAs who were ultra-keen to have FSM used as a measure. One LA found 2000 claimants who were not claiming FSM. Working with LAs would be preferable to tick box – universities have to verify ever care experienced applicant. Don’t think verification would be feasible

Greg – as we move towards universal FSM in primary, that dataset disappears, so just to make people aware of that.

Fiona – unis and colleges already use FSM as an indicator, SFC offered to help as already speaking to LAs and schools. 

Response: reassuring to know that LAs are willing to and using data. If they’re using it then they’re using it for operational purposes which might mean it can be extended.

Any other business and date of next meeting

Susan Stewart asked for an update on the recruitment of a new Commissioner for Fair Access, officials advised that the post would be widely advertised in due course. 

Back to top