Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: December 2020

Minutes, agenda and supporting papers from the twelfth meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, held on 18 December 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Members and Substitutes

Peter McNaughton Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
Steven Quinn    Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
Tim Wallace    Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
Jim Metcalfe    College Development Network
Ken Thomson    Colleges Scotland
Robert Hynd    Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
Matthew Sweeney    Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA)
Jane Brumpton     Early Years Scotland
Andrea Bradley    Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
Gayle Gorman    Education Scotland 
Alan Armstrong     Education Scotland
Mike Corbett    NASUWT
David Barnett    School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
John Edward    Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)
Kathryn O’Loan    Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
Graeme Logan    Scottish Government  (Chair)
Malcolm Pentland Scottish Government
Hazel Bartels    Scottish Government 
John Guidi    Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
Gill Stewart     Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
Neville Prentice Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
Brian Green    Universities Scotland
Louise Hayward     University of Glasgow
Mark Priestley    University of Stirling 

Young Representative

Cameron Garrett MYSP    Scottish Youth Parliament 


Liam Cahill     Scottish Government 
Craig Flunkert    Scottish Government

Additional Attendees
Gita Sharkey    Scottish Government
Keith Dryburgh  Scottish Government

Fiona Nicholson    National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
Sheena Devlin    Regional Improvement Collaboratives
Linda Pooley    Scottish Government 
Seamus Searson    Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
Aileen Ponton    Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership (SCQF)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed board members to the meeting and apologies were noted as above. 

Minute and actions arising from the last meeting

The minute and actions from the Board’s last meeting on 9 September 2020 were introduced.

No comments were offered in relation to the minute of the Board’s 9 September 2020 meeting and the minute was agreed.

The impact of the incorporation of the UNCRC on the CfE framework

The Chair introduced the agenda item and handed over to Gita Sharkey who provided an overview of the paper. It was noted that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was likely to be incorporated into Scots law in 2021. It was also noted that the Board were specifically asked to agree to a review of curriculum content and supporting guidance to ensure compliance with the UNCRC requirements and a proactive approach to respecting, protecting and fulfilling children’s rights.   

The Chair invited comments from attendees and the following were offered.

any efforts to embed the provisions of the UNCRC into formal education must focus on culture and ethos.

there must be a strong focus on professional learning opportunities to allow educators to understand how the UNCRC relates to curriculum and assessment delivery. It was noted that any professional learning offer should extend to those working in the community learning and development sector. 

the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots Law was seen as very positive by the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP). The SYP believe that young people should be routinely consulted on decisions that affect them and that the UNCRC should be incorporated into everyday life as well as the curriculum. 

others agreed with the potential of co-developing work with young people. It was noted that this work could reenergise some of the core principles of Curriculum for Excellence e.g active learning and personalisation and choice. 

there is a need to ensure that implementation of the provisions of the UNCRC happens holistically and that the focus is not solely on curriculum content but all aspects of work relating to children and young people. 

it was also suggested that this work should sit alongside similar work to review the curriculum in relation to LGBT and race considerations. This would allow a greater degree of coherence and consistency.

if curriculum content is to be reviewed, there is a need to consider what exactly should be taught and how we ensure that it is taught universally.

  • any work in this area should seek input from those across Scotland who are already knowledgeable in relation to issues of children’s rights.
  • contrary to the contents of Paper CAB-13(01), some attendees felt that rights were linked to responsibilities and a balance had to be found between the two. 
  • there should be a focus on protecting and promoting the rights of young people with additional support needs. 
  • there should be a focus on all aspects of curriculum and assessment activity including the Scottish National Standardised Assessments.
  • the chair summed up discussions noting that any review of curriculum content and guidance should be done strategically to provide consistency and coherence in decision making.
  • it was agreed that Education Scotland would lead on an initial review of the curriculum in relation to the UNCRC. CAB members would be invited to feed into that work. 

Action: Education Scotland to establish a UNCRC curriculum review group and the CAB secretariat to ask CAB members if they wish to join the new group or if they wish to nominate somebody in their place.

School/College partnerships including the impact of COVID-19

The Chair introduced the agenda item and handed over to Ken Thomson (KT) who informed attendees that work had progressed since the last CAB meeting to map the delivery of school/college partnerships. This had followed a reported tension at the last meeting between the operation of school/college partnerships and new covid protocols. 

KT informed attendees that the work had developed into a full overview of school/college partnerships and had resulted in the collection of valuable data that was detailed in the paper. KT asked attendees to note the outcome of the school/college review work and agree to a further phase of this work to inform improvement activity. 

The Chair opened up discussion and the following comments were offered:

it was noted that this was the best overview of school/college partnerships to date and that there is a need to strategically track and measure this work including in relation to how things adapt to covid restrictions.
it was suggested that this work could feed into the broader considerations around curriculum delivery which will follow the publication of the OECD review into CfE.
it was acknowledged that there is an opportunity for the Inspectorate and Senior Regional Advisers at Education Scotland to do more in supporting school/college partnerships. 
it was suggested that operational level relationships between schools and colleges tend to be good but this is not always the case at regional level. There was an ask that there be a focus on building relationships between college leaders and representatives of regional improvement collaboratives. 
it was noted that the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) could provide further evidence and data to support this work. 

Attendees were thanked for their contributions. In summing up discussion it was agreed that phase two of the work should go ahead and that this should include discussions between representatives of the Scottish Government and Colleges Scotland.

Action: Colleges Scotland to take forward phase two of the school/college partnerships review.

Action: Scottish Government and Colleges Scotland representatives to meet to discuss phase 2 of the school/colleges partnerships review.

H Assessment of National Qualifications in 2021

The Chair introduced the agenda item and noted the decision to cancel exams and instead pursue an alternative certification model for national qualifications in 2021. It was noted that the decision was informed by the varying level of covid related school absence for young people across Scotland and that ultimately the decision sought to address uncertainty and provide fairness and equity to all learners. The Chair then handed over to Gill Stewart (GS) to provide an update on the alternative certification model.

GS delivered a presentation which covered the establishment of a range of advisory groups to inform SQA decisions in this area the development of resources to inform alternative assessment, the views of young people (as collected by the SQA), support for delivery and the proposed appeals process. 

The Chair then invited discussion and the following comments were offered:

  • it was a good decision to cancel exams on the basis of equity however, teachers are now concerned about how alternative assessment will be taken forward.
  • it was requested that the CAB was kept up-to-date with all future developments. 
  • the NASUWT and SSTA representatives expressed disappointment that they had not been invited to provide views to the SQA as part of this work. 
  • there is a need to ensure that quality assurance processes relating to alternative assessment are robust. In addition, there is a need to safeguard against the running of repeat assessments until the desired grade is reached. 
  • it was noted that some schools were already conducting prelim exams despite SQA communicating that there is no requirement for prelims as part of the alternative assessment model.
  • SQA were asked to consider if teachers would be able to request moderation of specific pieces of work as well as general level moderation of assessment.
  • there is a need to ensure resources to support alternative assessment are developed as soon as possible.
  • there was a concern that teacher workload would increase because of this decision. There was an ask that additional inset days are considered.
  • SQA should issue a clear communication that awards will be based on candidate evidence and not national data trends. 
  • it was suggested that it would be appropriate for individuals to be informed of progress in learning over time but not necessarily attainment at any particular time. This would avoid pre-empting final grades. 
  • it was noted that the decision to cancel exams had helped some young people but increased anxiety for others. There was an ask that young people be closely consulted as this work progresses. (Since the meeting the SQA has established a learner panel to support alternative certification in 2021).
  • it was acknowledged that the cancellation of exams and the installation of an alternative assessment model was not simply an SQA issue but an education system issue. As such there should be action across the system to overcome related challenges . (The SQA has established the NQ 2021 group which is working to ensure approaches are co-designed with the wider education system).

The Chair summed up discussions and agreed that the challenges were system wide and that collaborative working was essential. GS responded to the discussion by stating that the SQA were committed to continued partnership working and that this included listening to the views of young people. GS also reassured attendees that resources to support the alternative assessment model would be developed as soon as possible. (The SQA has made these resources available following the meeting).

Scotland’s performance in the 2018 PISA Global Competence Assessment

The chair introduced the agenda item and handed over to Keith Dryburgh (KD) who provided a presentation on Scotland’s performance in the 2018 PISA Global Competence Assessment. KD informed attendees that a sample of Scottish 15 year old learners had partaken in both a cognitive assessment and questionnaire focused on knowledge and understanding of global competence. It was noted that only two countries achieved a higher average score than Scotland in the cognitive assessment and that 22 countries achieved a lower score. Attendees were also informed that there were aspects of the learner questionnaire that showed Scotland as performing lower than the OECD average.

KD invited attendees to reflect on the results of the assessment and provide comment. The following comments were offered:

  • the results were generally very positive and were a good indicator of the ‘softer skills’ that are developed under Curriculum for Excellence.
  • it was suggested that the Scottish Government and the wider Curriculum and Assessment Board should do more to promote these results. 
  • it was suggested that PISA reporting by the media in Scotland had, at times, been factually inaccurate. Work should be done to address these inaccuracies.

KD thanked attendees for their comments and offered to share his presentation among attendees as well as present to relevant networks. 

Any Other Business (AOB)

The chair invited attendees to raise any other business and the following was raised:

  • Mark Priestley informed attendees that the results of a secondary school leaders survey forming part of Stirling University research into CfE would be available in the early part of 2021. 
  • The Chair reminded attendees that an update paper on work around anti-racism education was circulated with the meeting papers.

The chair thanked attendees for their contributions and informed attendees that dates for all four CAB meetings in 2021 will be communicated in the coming weeks.

Meeting concludes

Curriculum and Assessment Board Secretariat
Scottish Government 

CAB meeting 18 December: agenda
CAB meeting 18 December: outcome of targeted review
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