Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: February 2020

Minutes, agenda and supporting papers from the tenth meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, held on 20 February 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Members and substitutes

  • Peter McNaughton, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Donna McMaster, 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
  • Eddie Follan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA)
  • Jean Carwood-Edwards, Early Years Scotland
  • Jane Brumpton, Early Years Scotland
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Alan Armstrong, Education Scotland
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Mike Corbett, NASUWT
  • Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • Jim Thewliss, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • John Edward, Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Dee Bird, Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • Graeme Logan, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Malcolm Pentland, Scottish Government
  • Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Neville Prentice, Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Julie Cavanagh, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership (SCQF)
  • Brian Green, Universities Scotland
  • Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow


  • Craig Flunkert, Scottish Government 
  • Emma Mair, Scottish Government 

Additional attendees

  • Carolyn Rae, Scottish Government
  • Julie Anderson, Scottish Government


  • Linda Pooley, Scottish Government
  • Andrea Bradley, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Mark Priestley, University of Stirling
  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Nicola Dickie, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA)
  • Aileen Ponton, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)
  • Mhairi Shaw, Regional Improvement Collaboratives
  • David Barnett, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed board members to the meeting and thanked them for attending at short notice. Apologies were listed as above. 

The chair informed attendees that the main point of the meeting was to obtain members’ views on the review of Curriculum for Excellence.

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) review

The chair introduced paper CAB-10(01) and highlighted that the review of Curriculum for Excellence would be independent, with four key areas which are outlined in the terms of reference. 

The chair confirmed that the Scottish Government would like to work with the Board to identify the key strategic issues that should guide and inform the review.

In relation to timescale for the review, the chair informed board members that the Scottish Government is in discussion with the OECD and are looking at the review being concluded at end of February 2021. 

The chair opened up the paper for discussion and the following comments were made by members: 

Scope of the review

  • an overarching review covering a wide scope needs to be managed carefully and we need to all work together to ensure that curriculum improvement work is not put on hold until we see the outcomes of the review
  • the terms of reference are broad at the moment and work needs to be done to shape them. We have evidence in Scotland and it’s important we facilitate this evidence to the OECD to help pick up the pace
  • the starting point for the review could be considering if we have achieved what we set out to 15 years ago
  • the senior phase is the area of CfE that will be a particular focus of the review. This will include all the well-rehearsed issues such as subject choice
  • the review should look at the ways we assess learners and the ways in which they gain qualifications
  • the review should consider key issues relating to teacher workload
  • the proposal is to review the broad general education as well as the senior phase and we will use the recommendations of the 2015 CfE review as starting point
  • there has been an increase in pupils with recorded additional support needs. It would be useful for this to be acknowledged in the terms of reference as this has had a significant impact on schools and the curriculum
  • the review should be about being proactive, identifying what’s going well, looking at growth, development and progression in the system. In the beginning of CfE there were concerns that young people were being over-assessed
  • the review should not be overly focused on schools alone. It should look at colleges and the good work that has been delivered through school and college partnerships. It was also noted that it would be helpful is to recognise where universities lie in the system in relation to their partnership with schools and colleges. Recognising the links and collaborations across the sector would be helpful
  • the review needs to be asking how can we deliver breadth and depth of learning to all young people
  • the review should look at the provision of vocational curriculum pathways
  • curriculum design should be a focus of the review. There is a need to understand to what extent local variation in curriculum design is supporting learners
  • the review could look at how we recognise informal learning. The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) is a tool that could improve that. We need to look at how this can help our education system as well as our economy. There are organisations other than the SQA providing things to young people which we need to recognise
  • the development of employability skills should be considered as part of the review. Areas where young people are gaining employability skills have improved significantly. The relationship between attainment and achievement needs to be part of the conversation
  • the financial and budget environment needs to be considered as part of the review. We have been trying to implement major curricular changes in the context of budget challenges.  
  • multi-level teaching needs to be considered as part of the review
  • there is a particularly wicked issue around S3 to S6 which we need to tackle as part of the review. Qualifications are central to schools but changing these is not always helpful. We now have over 90% of young people staying onto the end of S5. Some secondary schools may not have made the significant changes to their curriculum architecture that we originally envisaged

Delivery of the review 

  • we should not wait another twelve months for the OECD report when we could be beginning to make changes now. The system is stable and working and delivering on the four capacities.
  • the methodology used by the OECD should enable ongoing discussion regarding emerging themes or findings when these become available. We should not just wait for the final report.
  • it’s important to have timescales to track if recommendations are being achieved.
  • if the review recommends significant changes there will be a need to consider how parents, learners and wider families are supported in understanding what this will mean for them.  
  • the review’s recommendations should consider if there should be changes in higher education to progress desired outcomes.
  • we need to use our networks to mobilise the profession to speak up and share their experiences in order to aid the delivery of the review. 

The chair asked board members if they have any wider points to contribute to the discussion. The following points were made:

  • we must look at work planning for this group over the next year. One of the challenges we have had with the Curriculum and Assessment Board is that it is difficult to reach consensus
  • it would be useful to get the message into the system that no significant disruptive changes are anticipated during the course of the year
  • we know the big issues, we can get started on the debate around the Curriculum and Assessment Board and the OECD work will feed into this
  • we should highlight the key issues to the OECD and come together to decide how best to discuss this

The chair thanked members for the points made and asked that they use the remaining time to reassert or highlight any key issues. Board members offered the following: 

  • the transition from BGE into the senior phase is quite critical. S3 as a transition year is very important
  • choice and personalisation is key within Curriculum for Excellence
  • we should not forget about young people who struggle with or do not attend school as regularly as they should
  • some schools and settings could be far more creative and innovative when it comes to curriculum design
  • by curriculum design, do we mean curriculum and assessment design? If we approach these issues from the perspective of young people, they do not see these as separate. Our vision for young people and the outcomes and capacities of CfE need to be central

The chair thanked the board members for their helpful contributions to the discussion on the CfE review. 


  • the Scottish Government to consider CAB proposals when finalising the remit of the review of Curriculum for Excellence

Meeting concludes

List of actions

  • the Scottish Government to consider CAB proposals when finalising the remit of the review of Curriculum for Excellence

Curriculum and Assessment Board Secretariat
Scottish Government 

CAB meeting - February 2020: agenda
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