Education Bill provisions: consultation

A consultation on a new national qualifications body and a new approach to inspection of education in Scotland, including elements of the proposed Education Bill.

Establishment of a New Qualifications Body

A diversity of high-quality qualifications

In establishing a new qualifications body, the Scottish Government agreed with Professor Muir’s following recommendations:

  • It should take on board SQA’s current awarding functions, chiefly the responsibility for the design and delivering of qualifications, the operation and certification of examinations, and the awarding of certificates.
  • Income-generating contract services currently provided by SQA for organisations, governments and businesses, should be included in the remit of the new NDPB. SQA’s current international work should also be part of the NDPB’s remit.

The Scottish Government committed to ensuring the new body provides ‘high integrity qualifications which meet the current and future needs of our society, our economy and our learners’, with the breadth of awarding functions being retained and the ability to extend these services beyond Scotland.

Qualifications play an important part in Scotland’s education, skills and economic landscape. They are used, delivered and recognised by a range of different groups and individuals in varying ways. Qualifications therefore need to cater to a range of different needs. For example, they are relevant to:

  • Individuals who are studying towards and achieving qualifications;
  • Those such as teachers and lecturers who provide the learning, teaching and support for their students to achieve these qualifications;
  • Education institutions and training providers who use qualifications to recognise the achievements of people looking to access higher and further education, training and employment opportunities;
  • Employers and industry who use qualifications to ensure people’s skills, training and abilities meet national and employer specific workforce standards and requirements.

To enable these different needs to be met, there should be a wide range of qualifications of different types and ability levels to suit people’s diverse interests and aspirations.

Qualifications should be adaptable to fit the current and future vision for Scottish education and skills, and to consistently meet the needs of our pupils and students, education institutions, employers and industries to enable success for all.

The way individuals are assessed for a qualification must be relevant to the type of qualification itself and reflect modern techniques and approaches to assessment.

Qualifications should be developed and delivered in a way that supports our teaching professions to deliver the highest quality learning and teaching.

Offering qualifications in a commercial capacity in Scotland, and in international settings, will support greater financial sustainability in public services and grow Scotland’s global reputation in education.

The Scottish Government is therefore proposing that the new qualifications body will be responsible for ensuring all these activities are delivered effectively as part of its qualifications provision. In doing so, the qualifications body will support our key priority – to have diverse, high quality, robust and relevant qualifications provided in Scotland that are universally recognised and respected in Scotland and beyond.

Question 1: What changes should we consider in terms of how qualifications are developed and delivered that you think would improve outcomes for Scotland’s pupils and students?

Excellence in learning and teaching

In establishing a new qualifications body, the Scottish Government agreed with Professor Muir’s following recommendation:

  • The governance structure of the proposed Qualifications Scotland body should be revised to include more representation from, and accountability to all learners, teachers, practitioners and the stakeholders with whom it engages.

The Scottish Government committed to creating a new body that ‘supports our teachers and practitioners’, and will ensure that our teaching profession, as key service users of the body, are part of the governance structure with clear roles in decisions on the development and delivery of qualifications.

Our teachers, lecturers and other education and skills professionals are the key to delivering better outcomes for pupils and students. It is through excellent learning and teaching that we will close the attainment gap, see greater levels of achievement and enable people to reach their full potential.

The knowledge and expertise of our teaching profession is integral to the development and delivery of high-quality qualifications in Scotland, with the profession playing a key role in all aspects of the system. For example, they:

  • Deliver programmes of learning and training so individuals can obtain qualifications;
  • Facilitate and support external assessment so individuals can have their skills, knowledge and competencies appraised and recognised;
  • Provide holistic advice, guidance and support to individuals seeking qualifications.

With such a central role it is clear to us this knowledge and insight must shape how qualifications are developed and delivered. Our teaching professions must have clear and objective roles in the decisions taken on qualifications development and delivery and they must be able to hold to account those who make the decisions.

The Scottish Government is therefore proposing that the new qualifications body has robust and effective channels for our teaching professions to meaningfully shape the organisation’s direction and delivery of its services. We are proposing three complementary ways of achieving this.

Firstly, the knowledge and insight of our teaching professions is needed at the highest levels of decision-making within the new organisation. That is why we are proposing that the Board that oversees the qualifications body has a requirement to have individuals on it with current practical experience of providing learning and teaching for a qualification. For example, we would like to see at least one teacher and at least one college lecturer included on the Board.

Secondly, the decisions the new qualifications body takes in relation to qualifications and assessment need to be informed by a wide range of views from our teaching professions and those that represent them. That is why we are proposing a dedicated committee as part of the organisation’s decision-making structures that can provide these range of views on behalf of the teaching professions. This Committee could be made up of practising teaching professionals, representatives such as professional associations and teaching trade unions, and specialists in teaching practice and pedagogy. The Committee will influence the decisions of the organisation by providing advice on how it delivers its qualifications functions and activities. It would be drawn from a broad pool of people across the teaching profession.

Thirdly, the qualifications body must have greater transparency, communication with and accountability towards our teaching profession. That is why we are proposing that the qualifications body should develop a specific user “Charter” for our teaching professions in collaboration with them. This Charter would serve as a way to provide clarity on what our teaching profession should expect from the qualifications body when delivering qualifications and working with them. The Charter would help shape the qualifications activities delivered by the body and the culture of how these are delivered.

By bringing the expertise, knowledge and views of our teaching profession into the qualifications body it can ensure the decisions it takes are informed by those providing the learning and teaching for those studying for qualifications. This, in turn, will improve the experience of teachers delivering qualifications and better support the needs of young people and adult learners.

Question 2: How best can we ensure that the views of our teaching professionals are taken into account appropriately within the new qualifications body, and do these proposals enable this?

Involving Scotland’s pupils and students in decisions that affect them

In establishing a new qualifications body, the Scottish Government agreed with Professor Muir’s following recommendation:

  • The governance structure of the proposed Qualifications Scotland body should be revised to include more representation from, and accountability to all learners, teachers, practitioners and the stakeholders with whom it engages.

The Scottish Government committed to creating a new body that ‘puts learners at the centre’, and ‘develop a governance structure that gives our pupils and students clearer roles in how qualifications are devised, delivered, supported, awarded and recognised’.

Pupils and students of all ages are key users of qualifications. They are the ones choosing the qualifications they want to obtain, the ones studying and training to achieve them, the ones being assessed, and the ones whose achievements are appraised and recognised by different parts of society.

There is a clear demand from pupils and students for greater involvement in the decisions that affect their education. The Scottish Government recognises this through its commitment to embed young people’s voices across education, in our national education bodies, and to adhere to Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child. This demand has also been seen repeatedly through feedback from pupils and students. It is clear there is a desire, expectation and capacity for greater involvement in decision-making.

Given the importance placed on qualifications in our society and the impact they can have on the life choices of our young people and adult learners, their needs and views must continue to be central considerations in all aspects of how qualifications are developed and delivered.

The Scottish Government is therefore proposing that the new qualifications body is set up to provide clear and meaningful roles to those studying for qualifications to shape and influence decisions relating to qualifications and assessment made by the body. As above, there are three ways we want to achieve this.

Firstly, understanding the views, knowledge and lived experience of those studying for qualifications are essential to delivering qualifications in pupils’ and students’ best interests. This understanding should be permanently present in the Board that oversees the qualifications body. That is why we are proposing that this Board includes members that can specifically reflect these views and shape decision making.

Secondly, the decisions made by the body need to be informed by a full range of different individuals looking to achieve a qualification. That is why we are proposing a dedicated committee as part of the organisation’s formal decision-making structures that bring these diverse views into the body. This Committee could be made up of those currently or recently studying for different types of qualifications such as a young person studying for a National Qualification or apprenticeship, or an adult learner undergoing relevant training for a qualification; members of organisations that advocate for different pupils and students; and specialists in pupil and student engagement. The Committee will influence the decisions of the organisation by providing advice on how it delivers its qualifications functions and activities.

Thirdly, the qualifications body must be consistently transparent with our pupils and students and must ensure it communicates effectively with them. Pupils and students must also have the ability to hold the body to account for the decisions it makes. This is why we are proposing that the body must develop a specific user “Charter” for our pupils, students and their advocates in collaboration with them. This will set out the expectations they should have of the organisation and is intended to ensure qualifications and how they are delivered meet the needs of those seeking to achieve qualifications.

By building the different needs and views of those with direct experience of taking qualifications into the organisation’s decision-making, we can ensure the provision of qualifications remains relevant to pupils and students; that qualifications are delivered in ways that meet their expectations and needs; and that qualifications fulfil their vital role in supporting better outcomes for people as they move through education into employment.

Question 3: How best can we ensure that the views of pupils, students and other learners are appropriately represented within the new qualifications body, and do these proposals enable this?

High standards for qualifications in Scotland

In its response[13] to Professor Muir’s report, the Scottish Government highlighted careful further consideration is required in relation to the scope of accreditation and where accreditation should sit in future, in particular ensuring that the independence of accrediting qualifications is appropriately secured.

The Scottish Government subsequently announced that responsibility for accrediting qualifications will sit with the new qualifications body. The creation of the new qualifications body itself presents an opportunity to make significant changes to the relationship between the awarding and accreditation functions. which will further strengthen their independence from one another.

Qualifications play a key role in recognising individuals’ learning, skills, knowledge and wider achievements. It is therefore a priority that the Scottish qualifications system is trusted by and credible to all. This means ensuring and maintaining high standards for qualifications in Scotland.

To give pupils, students, employers, industries and professional associations sufficient options and confidence in the qualifications they choose to use there must be nationally recognised standards for the delivery and assessment of qualifications in Scotland. These standards must extend beyond the qualifications offered by our national qualifications body and to qualifications delivered by other awarding bodies. The process for doing this is known as accreditation.

Currently, all qualifications known as a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) must be accredited in order to be delivered in Scotland. Certain other qualifications must also be accredited, such as those in the licence trade sector and in the security industry sector which lead to a licence to practice. For all other qualifications, accreditation is voluntary. National Qualifications currently delivered in schools and other settings, provided by the SQA, go through a separate quality assurance process.

The Scottish Government believes that the accreditation function should remain at arms-length from government and therefore proposes it is held by the new qualifications body. This means the new qualifications body will be responsible for setting the standards for those awarding bodies offering qualifications in Scotland (apart from university degrees) which seek accreditation for their qualifications, as well as deciding what qualifications have met these standards in order to be accredited.

In the new qualifications body, the responsibilities for setting the standards and accrediting qualifications will be carried out separately and independently from the delivery of the body’s qualifications. The approach to this will be emphasised and strengthened through specific governance measures. For example, this would include having a Convener, directly appointed by Ministers, to specifically lead a committee responsible for overseeing accreditation and regulation. In addition, this Convener and the committee would also have separate accounting and reporting requirements, and the ability to advise Scottish Ministers directly on accreditation matters.

By having a qualifications body that sets and oversees the high standards for delivering qualifications in Scotland, we can ensure those who rely on qualifications have sufficient, quality choices that meet their needs. It is through this trusted service that we can support our pupils and students to achieve reputable qualifications that provide the best platform for success in education, training and employment.

Question 4: How can we ensure qualifications being offered in Scotland are reliable, of a high standard and fit for purpose?

Qualifications in the education and skills landscape: A holistic system

In establishing a new qualifications body, the Scottish Government agreed with Professor Muir’s following recommendation:

  • Scottish Government and other national bodies should collaborate more effectively to ensure that policies align well with each other and with any revised vision for Scottish education.

Professor Muir also set out his key principles which should serve as the foundations for education reform, which included:

  • Opportunities for increased collaboration and meaningful engagement between stakeholders, politicians at all levels, local authorities, professional associations, trade unions and the national agencies with responsibility for key aspects of education.

The qualifications body will have a key role in an interconnected education and skills landscape. It will be an important partner in implementing any decisions on James Withers’ Skills Delivery Landscape Review[14] , the initial priorities for the Purpose and Principles for Post-School Education, Research and Skills[15], and Professor Hayward’s review of Qualifications and Assessment.[16] Its work must therefore be aligned with national education and skills strategies and it must work collaboratively with other national organisations.

The new body’s responsibilities for qualifications in Scotland, as proposed in this chapter, will give it an influential position within the education and skills system and the economy. It is therefore vital that the range of system stakeholders with an interest in the qualifications body’s work can shape, influence, communicate with and respond to the decisions it takes on qualifications. This will support a more coherent approach to education, skills and economic decisions. There are three overarching ways we want to enable this.

Firstly, there should be an effective national forum for providing independent and objective views from members’ areas of expertise to the qualifications body. A similar forum, known as the Advisory Council, currently exists for the SQA and this proposal seeks to build on and strengthen this approach by enabling a revised model to be implemented in the new body.

Secondly, to deliver an effective and seamless education and skills system, it is imperative that roles and responsibilities of all national bodies are clear. The new qualifications body must work closely and collaboratively with all our national education and skills bodies, with the Scottish Government, and with our local and regional networks such as colleges and skills groups. It must be an exemplar organisation in how it works with others including: in areas of joint delivery; how it shares data and information within the system; how it communicates and engages with other organisations; how it receives and utilises advice and guidance from the system; and how it upholds Fair Work policies for staff working in the body.

Thirdly, the activities of the qualification body must be fair, transparent and provide equitable access for all. That means ensuring all parts of our society are informed as to what the qualifications body is doing, and why it is doing it. Clear and timely communication is key to creating a trusted and respected organisation. The qualifications body should embody these principles in all its activities and ensure that all with an interest can hold the organisation to account. For example, this includes key communications and reports being published in ways that are open to all, such as in Gaelic, or versions designed to support accessibility.

The qualifications body must provide national delivery and leadership on qualifications whilst also being part of a holistic education and skills system that delivers for all. It is through this joined up delivery that we will be best positioned to support people to achieve their potential in education and employment; improve the experiences of our teaching professions; and support Scotland’s people and industries to thrive.

Question 5: How do you think the qualifications body can best work with others across the education and skills system to deliver better outcomes for all?



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