Advisor to the Scottish Government on the reform of SQA and Education Scotland: remit

Remit of the advisor to the Scottish Government on the reform of SQA and Education Scotland.

This document sets out the terms which were agreed for Professor Ken Muir CBE (the advisor) to act as an advisor to the Scottish Government on the reform of SQA and Education Scotland. The work was carried out on the equivalent of four days/week alongside his role as Honorary Professor at the University of the West of Scotland. The Principal of the University of the West of Scotland supported this arrangement.


In his role as the advisor, Professor Muir provided advice to the Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills on aspects of education reform. This included designing the implementation of the  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD’s) recommendations for structural and functional change of SQA and Education Scotland. It included the delivery of the national curriculum, assessment, qualification and inspection functions, and recognised and included the wider functions of both these bodies.

Professor Muir considered the proposal and resultant implications of creating a new, specialist agency responsible for both curriculum and assessment. Additionally, Professor Muir outlined the rationale and purpose for reform as set out by Scottish ministers to ensure that any reform recommendations were designed to achieve this. All aspects of the work were undertaken with as much openness and transparency as was possible. 

Professor Muir also established a small supporting expert panel, whose background and expertise helped to ensure that full consideration was given to all aspects of hiis remit and the wider themes and recommendations as set out in the OECD report. Their expertise included international educational change and organisational change. Professor Muir engaged directly with the Chief Executives of Education Scotland and the SQA as he progressed his reform work and, although not members of the expert panel, they participated in active engagement with the expert panel as necessary.

He also established the more extensive Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group, which comprised organisations (including professional associations) that represented the following diverse range of interests related to the reform: children and young people, employers, local authorities, the tertiary sector, practitioners across different sectors and providers and parental interests. The expertise of advisory group members, and the networks they had access to, ensured that a wide range of perspectives and ideas informed the expert panel and the overall reform work. Professir Muir consulted on the remit for the expert panel and advisory group with Scottish Government (SG) and stakeholders. These were agreed in September 2021.

Arrangements were put in place for the advisor and members of the expert panel to engage directly and regularly with Education Scotland and SQA. The engagement was designed to capitalise on the unique expertise of these bodies, maintain ongoing communication on the reform developments and to ensure that staff unions and employees in both organisations were closely involved in the process.

Professor Muir also engaged widely across the education sector with relevant bodies, including those who emerged as the work progressed. He ensured in particular that the views of children, young people, families, practitioners and local authorities were taken into account. A key objective was to ensure that the needs identified and ideas generated through wide engagement informed his recommendations on the design of supporting national structures and functions that facilitate the development and enhancement of our future education system.

The conclusions that Professor Muir reached were made independently of the Scottish Government and all other institutions, but access to SG officials and appropriate data and information was provided when necessary.


Professor Muir and the expert panel, with advice from the Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group, designed the implementation of the OECD’s recommendations for structural and functional change of SQA and Education Scotland. In this process, Professor Muir:

  • led a range of engagement, including formal consultation across all relevant sectors, on the reform of Education Scotland and replacement of SQA, including key national functions in Scottish education. This included consideration of functions relating to qualifications (including accreditation, credit rating and related commercial services), assessment, curriculum, inspections and professional learning
  • engaged directly with SQA, Education Scotland, relevant staff unions and professional associations
  • sought the views of local authorities and stakeholders on the OECD’s proposal for the possible creation of a new curriculum and assessment body. Professor Muir ensured that staff directly impacted by any of his proposed changes (within Education Scotland and SQA) had the opportunity to give their views. He took account of all available evidence, including comparative models both nationally and internationally
  • considered links to other recommendations made by the OECD and plans on their implementation, including following the publication of the OECD report on qualifications
  • considered the needs of the different sectors of education which the agencies worked with, including early learning and childcare (ELC), primary and secondary schools, special education, the tertiary sector, Gaelic Medium Education and Community Learning and Development (CLD). In the case of SQA, this included awarding bodies approved by SQA Accreditation, training providers, employers and higher education
  • recognised the important role SQA and Education Scotland have within the CLD and tertiary sectors for a range of age groups. The panel specifically examined this aspect to ensure any reform benefits learners within these sectors
  • sought and took account of appropriate specialist legal and human resources advice on the impact of any recommended structural changes. This included consideration of any legislative changes which would be required in relation to SQA and ministerial powers in relation to inspection
  • with the decision that the inspection function would move out of Education Scotland, he consulted on and advised on the purpose, remit, and governance and situation of the inspection function, and took into account the impact on the wider inspection and scrutiny landscape
  • gathered evidence for and input to relevant impact assessments, including on equalities and children’s rights and wellbeing
  • advised on the optimal future configuration, design of functions, and how and when this might best be implemented, with consideration given to delivery timescales and commitments
  • took part and led events and public engagements as necessary
  • published his findings at the conclusion and throughout at appropriate points during the work in accessible formats, ensuring due consideration was given to any risks to current, planned and future deliverables. This included advice on transitional arrangements, part of which was how to safeguard learning, assessment and certification during a period of change
  • considered impacts on the wider education system in Scotland, and took account of the wider context , including DYW, GIRFEC, and the ongoing review of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives
  • made connections and considered wider policy interests (published and ongoing policy developments) and priorities for children and families in Scotland. This included key priorities around closing the poverty-related attainment gap, child poverty, reducing youth unemployment and achieving excellence and equity through education. This also took account of priorities across wider services for children


Professor Muir began this work in August 2021 and it concluded in January 2022.

Secretariat support

Secretariat support required by Professor Muir and the panel was provided through the Learning Directorate. The secretariat supported Professor Muir in his activities, including those set out above.

Sponsor arrangements

The Workforce, Infrastructure and Reform Division in the Learning Directorate was Professor Muir's sponsor division within the Scottish Government. The named sponsor for this work was Liza McLean, Deputy Director for Learning Workforce, Infrastructure and Reform. 

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