Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: January 2019

Minutes and supporting papers of the fifth meeting of the Curriculum Assessment Board, held on 18 January 2019.

Attendees and apologies

Members and substitutions

  • Andy Griffiths, Association of Directors of Education (ADES)
  • Steven Quinn, ADES
  • Jim Metcalfe, College Development Network
  • Robert Hynd, Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • Eddie Follan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA)
  • Jean Carwood-Edwards, Early Years Scotland
  • Andrea Bradley, The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland (Co-Chair)
  • Alan Armstrong, Education Scotland
  • Mike Corbett, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • Fiona Nicholson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • Billy Burke, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • John Edward, Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • Aileen Ponton, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)
  • John Kemp, Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • Fiona Robertson, Scottish Government (Co-Chair)
  • Lesley Sheppard, Scottish Government
  • John Guidi, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Diane Greenlees, Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow

Young representatives

  • Tia Hughes, St Paul’s R.C. High School
  • Kyla Cunningham, St Paul’s R.C. High School


  • Malcolm Pentland, Scottish Government
  • Liam Cahill, Scottish Government

Additional attendees

  • Paul Fagan, Scottish Government
  • Sara Lightbody, Scottish Government
  • Heather Tibbetts, Scottish Government


  • Peter McNaughton, ADES
  • Tim Wallace, AHDS
  • Ken Thomson, Colleges Scotland
  • Nicola Dickie, CoSLA
  • Sheena Devlin, Regional Improvement Collaboratives
  • Linda Pooley, Scottish Government
  • Neville Prentice, SDS
  • David Barnett, SLS
  • Seamus Searson, SSTA
  • Peter McGeorge, Universities Scotland
  • Mark Priestley, University of Stirling

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

1.1. The co-chairs welcomed members to the fifth meeting of the Board and provided a special welcome to the young representative from St Paul’s R.C High School. Apologies were noted as above. The co-chairs then handed over to Lisa Pierotti, Headteacher of St Paul’s R.C. High School who welcomed Board members to the school and provided an overview of life and work at the school including its history.

2. Tour of St Paul’s R.C High School

2.1. Board members when then invited to follow pupils from St Paul’s who led a tour of the school.

3. Minute and actions arising from the last meeting

3.1. The minute and actions arising from the Board’s last meeting held on 26 October 2018 were introduced.

3.2. The following comments were made in relation to the minute of the Board’s fourth meeting:

  • at the meeting of 26 October it was noted that there should be work to support the tracking and monitoring of PSE education. This should be added to paragraph 6.2. of the minute
  • the wording of bullet point four under paragraph 7.2 should change to reflect that play based learning might be delivered inappropriately but not ‘incorrectly’
  • the reference to ‘parents’ under bullet point 5 of paragraph 4.3 should be broadened to ‘parents and carers’

3.3. The suggested changes were accepted by the co-chairs and the rest of the minute was agreed without comment.

4. The 2019 National Improvement Framework (NIF): implications for curriculum and assessment

4.1. The co-chairs introduced paper CAB-05(01) and detailed that the paper provides the Board with an overview of the recently published 2019 National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan. In line with the paper’s conclusions the co-chairs asked Board members to consider and discuss how they could support improvement action under the NIF’s improvement drivers.

4.2. The points made by the Board in relation to the paper were as follows:

  • more should be done to exemplify what constitutes the achievement of a Curriculum for Excellence level. It was however noted that some local authorities had done well in the area of assessment and moderation. It was also noted that Education Scotland is already carrying out work to support practitioners in assessing CfE levels and would circulate an update to Board members before the next meeting
  • in relation to the NIF some changes to wording were suggested for future editions: statistics should be used where appropriate instead of indicative terms such as ‘most’ or ‘almost all’; ‘satisfactory or better’ should not be used as a measure of improvement; there should not be an assertion that the Scottish National Standardised Assessments are effective in informing teacher judgement - this is not universally agreed; the Headteachers’ Charter should be refocused as a Schools’ Charter; efforts should be made to maximise the collaboration between establishments across the 3-18 learner journey and in furtherance of this the School Improvement driver should be renamed
  • some board members believed that ‘raising attainment for all’ rather than ‘closing the poverty related attainment gap’ should be the overarching aim of the NIF. It was argued that this will ensure that reductions in the attainment gap are not caused by a decrease in attainment by those experiencing the least amount of socio-economic disadvantage
  • the process of collecting data to inform the NIF should not be over reliant on Education Scotland inspection data. Other sources of data should be considered
  • a more focused look at assessment by the Board may support work under the ‘Teacher Professionalism’ and ‘Assessment of Learner Progress Drivers’. It was noted that assessment was a feature of the Board’s proposed work programme set out in paper CAB-05(04)
  • The School Leadership driver should focus on leadership at all levels and there should be work to support teacher leadership pathways under this driver
  • any work to improve professional learning opportunities should be done with cognisance of the possible impact on teacher workload. It was also noted that many opportunities are now offered in different formats in order to avoid a negative impact on workload

4.3. The young representatives at the meeting made the following comments:

  • teachers generally empower and support learners in their studies and they communicate how and why learners are making progress
  • learners generally feel that teachers are continually assessing their progress
  • sometimes aspects of the learner experience don’t feel like they aid learner improvement. For example, preliminary exams can happen too early in the academic year when it can feel like too little course content has been covered

4.4. The co-chairs summed up discussions noting that the Board might usefully be consulted on future editions of the NIF. The co-chairs committed to ongoing engagement with the Board in relation to the NIF.

5. Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Programme: summary of progress

5.1. The co-chairs introduced paper CAB-05(02) and detailed that the paper: brings the Board’s attention to the recent publication of the programme’s fourth annual report; highlights the recommendations arising from the DYW focused inquiry by the Education and Skills Committee; and seeks the Board’s commitment in key areas in ensuring that schools and their partners are jointly maximising the flexibility of the curriculum to create a work-relevant educational experience for all learners.

5.2. The points made by the Board in relation to the paper were as follows:

  • this work should expand the focus beyond school/college partnerships to include universities and employers. Producing exemplars of this kind of cluster working would be of value. It was also noted that exemplification is important to support all parts of the programme
  • engagement with parents, in the form of a dialogue, is a vital part of the programme and for this to be successful it should happen earlier in the learner journey. There was an acknowledgement that parental engagement will increase as the value of vocational pathways become clear
  • the SCQF have launched school and college ambassador programmes which have helped demystify the SCQF levels
  • there needs to be an equitable share of responsibility on employers and educational establishments in developing partnerships. It was noted that Education Scotland are bringing together DYW leads in each local authority with employer regional groups and this will help the establishment of viable partnerships
  • successes such as the increased uptake of Foundation Apprenticeships should be acknowledged
  • clearly communicating the value of a range of different pathways is crucial if the aims of the DYW programme are to be achieved
  • the language of ‘vocational’ vs ‘academic’ is problematic. Many universities offer vocational courses and communicating that to learners will help broaden access to higher education. Ensuring parity of esteem for all pathways is also crucial
  • it is important that the programme meets the needs of all young people and as such there should be an effort to consult directly with a representative group of young people
  • this work should not focus on numerical targets e.g. 5000 young people in certain Foundation Apprenticeships. It should instead focus on ensuring young people choose the pathways that are right for them
  • it was acknowledged that SQA are developing work based learning courses at SCQF levels 4 and 5 and that this work will support the aims of the DYW programme

5.3. The young representatives at the meeting made the following comments:

  • St Paul’s R.C High School promote different pathways including highlighting Foundation Apprenticeships at weekly assemblies
  • discussion of career pathways now starts in S1 which is valuable as learners are more informed when they come to make their choices in senior phase

5.4. The co-chairs summed up discussions noting the importance of exemplification, of partnership work and of the inclusion agenda. It was agreed that the feedback from the Board would be fed into the continued development of the DYW Programme.

6.  STEM Education and Training Strategy: annual report

6.1. The co-chairs introduced paper CAB-05(03) and detailed that the paper provides an update on progress towards delivering actions in the STEM Education and Training Strategy. The co-chairs also asked members to provide comment on how they might collectively or individually support delivery of the strategy’s year 2 priorities and longer term actions and objectives.

6.2. The points made by the Board in relation to the paper were as follows:

  • it is important that the justification and purpose of the strategy link to the aims of Curriculum for Excellence and that it does not become too focused on promoting STEM careers/employment. There are broader benefits of STEM education which should be recognised. Similarly, there was a view that the strategy may be overly focused on numeracy skills at the expense of covering broader skills in mathematics
  • the focus on achieving gender balance in STEM subjects is to be welcomed but it is also important look at achieving gender balance in subjects across the curriculum. Links to the Scottish Government’s Gender Pay Gap Action Plan were also highlighted
  • this work should look at the challenges and opportunities in relation to the constituent parts of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and not become overly focus on STEM as an umbrella term
  • it is also important to ensure that STEM education mirrors the priorities in STEM careers. For example, there is often not a strong focus on engineering skills in schools despite engineering making up a significant part of many STEM careers
  • there should be an awareness that the promotion of STEM will compete against other priorities in school. Consequently, it should be acknowledged that increased uptake of STEM in the senior phase will result in reduced uptake of qualifications and awards in other curriculum areas
  • it is important that when new Education Scotland regional STEM advisors are supporting delivery of the strategy that they provide advice which is consistent Education Scotland policy. The representative from NASUWT cited an example from England where problems were caused by inconsistent messaging and advice
  • there should be further consideration of the key performance indicators associated with the strategy. Specifically: whether it is appropriate to reframe the target of 5000 STEM Foundation Apprenticeships as ‘5000 STEM opportunities’ - this would ensure learners can take up STEM pathways that best suit them; whether the indicator in relation to attainment in computing courses is sufficiently robust as low numbers of computing science teachers may impact on the number of young people who can take up computing courses; whether there is a danger that the target for raising attainment in maths is considered too high with an unclear route in how to achieve which could lead to a negative impact; whether the indicator in relation to increasing the number of passes at SCQF level 5 is sufficiently robust as it does not take into account variable student rolls
  • the representative from the SSTA asked if any analysis had been carried out on the impact of national interventions in relation to STEM teacher numbers. Scottish Government officials agreed to provide relevant information on the provision of STEM teaching bursaries to the SSTA representative and other CAB members.

6.3. The young representatives at the meeting made the following comments:

  • St Paul’s R.C. High School undertakes various initiatives to promote girls in STEM. The majority of science teachers at the school are also women which helps promote female participation in that particular curriculum area

6.4. The co-chairs summed up discussions and noted the specific points made by Board members. It was agreed that further updates on the progress of the STEM strategy should be provided to the CAB and that another substantive discussion on this area of work should be scheduled for a future meeting.

7. Curriculum and Assessment Board work plan 2019

7.1. The co-chairs introduced paper CAB-05(04) which set out a proposed work programme for the Board’s meetings in March and June 2019.

7.2. In response to the proposed work plan there were suggestions to include:

  • more discussions focusing on assessment
  • revisiting changes to national qualification in the senior phase
  • an update on progress of the STEM Education and Training Strategy (as detailed paragraph 6)
  • an update on the work to support school empowerment
  • a further discussion in relation to supporting coherence, transition and progression
  • an update on the ‘Making Maths Count’ work
  • a more focused discussion on the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee report into the Developing the Young Workforce programme
  • work to support teacher recruitment and workforce planning
  • a chance to revisit the structure of education governance in Scotland including how the Scottish Education Council and the Strategic Board for Teacher Education best interact with the CAB

7.3. The co-chairs thank Board members for their contributions.

8. Any other business

8.1. The co-chairs asked Board members to raise any other business. In response Board members were reminded that the Scottish Learning Festival Management Committee have sent a call for seminar proposal for the 2019 Scottish Learning Festival. It was suggested that the Curriculum and Assessment Board should cover the work to refresh the curriculum narrative at a Scottish Learning Festival Seminar.

8.2. The co-chairs also informed attendees that the dates of some future Board meetings may change and that the Board’s secretariat will be in touch separately to confirm arrangements.

Meeting concludes.

List of actions

  1. The Board’s secretariat to amend the minute of meeting 4 (26 October 2018) in line with comments agreed by the Board on 18 January 2019
  2. Education Scotland to provide board members with an update on work that is underway to support practitioners in assessing the achievement of a Curriculum for Excellence level
  3. The Scottish Government to provide regular updates to the Board in relation to the NIF
  4. The Scottish Government’s DYW Programme Team to feed views from the CAB into further DYW development and delivery
  5. The Scottish Government to provide regular updates on progress towards the STEM Education and Training Strategy outcomes and schedule a further substantive discussion on the topic at a future meeting if deemed appropriate
  6. Scottish Government officials to provide information on work to recruit STEM teachers to the Board

Curriculum and Assessment Board Secretariat
Scottish Government

Curriculum Assessment Board meeting agenda: January 2019
Paper 1: National Improvement Framework 2019
Paper 2: Developing the Young Workforce annual report
Paper 3: STEM education and training strategy annual report


Curriculum and Assessment Board
c/o Learning Directorate
The Scottish Government
Victoria Quay

Tel: 0131 244 4000 or 0300 244 4000 (for local rate throughout UK and for mobile)

Back to top