Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: January 2023

Minutes from the meeting held on 18 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, Scottish Government (Co-Chair)
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and HM Chief Inspector of Education, Education Scotland (Co-Chair)
  • Scottish Government Officials, Curriculum and Qualifications Division
  • Scottish Government Officials, Gaelic and Scots Division
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Edward Carroll, National Executive, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
  • Margaret Farragher, Director of Policy, Analysis and Standards, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • John Guidi, Past President, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association
  • Tina Harrison, Representative, Universities Scotland
  • Andy Harvey, National Officer, Educational Institute of Scotland
  • Louise Hayward, Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation, University of Glasgow
  • Alison Herbert, Deputy Director (External Relations), Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • Joan Mackay, Head of Curriculum Innovation, Education Scotland
  • Peter McNaughton Executive Officer (Lead), Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Jim Metcalfe, Chief Executive, College Development Network
  • Laura Murdoch Deputy Director for Curriculum and Qualifications, Scottish Government
  • John Neeson, National Improvement, Education Scotland
  • Kathryn O’Loan, Assistant Director Quality, Scottish Funding Council
  • Neville Prentice, Senior Director, Service Development and Delivery, Skills Development Scotland
  • Mark Priestley, Professor of Education, University of Stirling
  • Pauline Radcliffe, CEO, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework
  • Barrie Sheppard, Vice Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Matthew Sweeney, Policy Manager, CoSLA
  • Graeme Wallace, Senior Education Officer – Curriculum Design, Education Scotland
  • Curriculum Assessment Board Secretariat, Scottish Government


  • Andrea Bradley, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland
  • John Edwards, Director, Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • Julie MacDonald, Vice President, School Leaders Scotland
  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Ken Thomson, Principal and CEO, Forth Valley College, Colleges Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and draft minutes from last meeting

Co-Chair, Clare Hicks, welcomed members to the Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB) meeting. Draft minutes from the meeting on 28 September 2022 were agreed as an accurate record and approved by members. The Secretariat noted that there were no actions from the last meeting.

Curriculum Review and Improvement Activity

A Scottish Government Official (Curriculum Unit) summarised a paper setting out the full package of curriculum development and improvement activity that is underway at present. She noted that while good progress has been made to date, all this work has been initiated and taken forward on an ad hoc and usually reactive basis. There would be benefit to taking a more strategic and joined up approach to this work to seek synergies between existing workstreams particularly as they move towards implementation, and as part of considering how this work will dovetail into and support the implementation of a systematic review of the curriculum in response to the OECD recommendation. She invited CAB to consider how CAB as a group and individuals could be engaged in this work. Key points included:

  • the education system is complex and under pressure, so being joined up around change at the national level is necessary to ensure effective implementation within the system
  • SG and Education Scotland (ES) teams have conducted an initial scan of current activity, beginning to document the array of workstreams ongoing
  • information around the proposed next steps on the package of review work relating to rights and equalities, as an example of a developing strategic approach across a subset of workstreams
  • initial information on the National Response to Improving Maths work, including that draft recommendations have been created and implementation plans are being developed – this topic will come back to the CAB at a future meeting
  • the connections with developing work to implement the OECD’s recommendation to create a systematic review of the curriculum, under which it might be appropriate to brigade similar curriculum development work in future

CAB members were invited to offer feedback:

  • more complete understanding of the areas of the curriculum being considered would be helpful. In Maths, identifying the transition points and where we expect learners to be could be developed by further engaging with practitioners
  • concerns about seeking joins in equalities priorities, given the distinct differences in approach needed to ensure activity can make meaningful change for the groups experiencing different kinds of inequality. It was explained that the individual workstreams were continuing and that stakeholders from all relevant workstreams would be involved. Education Scotland officials explained that the co-design group will consider where alignment and collaboration might support educators to take an intersectional approach to social justice, rights and equalities curriculum, whilst maintaining the distinctiveness of individual priorities. SG Officials acknowledged the potential risk of misunderstanding around distinct equalities priorities. She affirmed the commitment to continuing to engage with stakeholders with lived experience to minimise this risk
  • the different streams of work need distinct leadership with resources so that teachers and pupils can develop a better sense of understanding. Taking an intersectional approach to link it all would be helpful
  • there needs to be a narrative around the review of the curriculum – what’s the story and how do we tell it? If we understand what this means for schools and centres that will be beneficial
  • it was suggested that there may be further sources of external input to help develop this work, for example through the SUIG (Scottish Universities Inclusion Group), on decolonising the curriculum through contributions from academic experts and practitioners
  • the proposal to have a combined programme to support the development of the overarching review cycle was seen as a welcome step, particularly in allowing ideas, knowledge and processes to be considered and refined. It was proposed that CAB could act as an advisory rather than an oversight group – leaving the latter to the new independent body, this will keep oversight distinctly operational and strategic

Action: Further updates on specific curricular areas or themes currently being examined will be brought to CAB in future, specifically on maths and the social justice work.

Gaelic Medium Education

A Scottish Government official (Gaelic and Scots Team), delivered a paper outlining proposals to seek to ensure that the distinctive nature and specific needs of Gaelic Medium Education (GME) are taken into account in decision making on forthcoming reforms or policy developments. Touching on four broad themes – aspiration, tension, question and memory – he noted the following general principles:

  • GME is different, it has different needs and requires separate consideration
  • as a minority issue GME needs central prioritisation and often intervention
  • GME needs to be considered from the outset in policy consideration and programme development
  • an appropriate question at any wider policy development stage would be to ask what are the implications for GME

CAB members were invited to contribute feedback and raised the following points:

  • connecting with colleagues in Ireland and Wales could be useful in learning more about their experiences in widening language provision in educational contexts
  • we need to be mindful of the differences between local and national priorities. Local flexibility is important and consideration should be given to the prioritisation and allocation of resources and support to increase the number of Gaelic teachers
  • we also need to make sure we allow space and ability for local authorities and schools to design a curriculum that is relevant to their context
  • nonetheless, we should be inclusive and consider GME as promoting diversity through culture and language, which is an important ambition to have in itself

Action: The paper on GME asked CAB for recognition of the distinct nature of GME, for early inclusion of GME, where possible, in consideration of new curriculum, policy and structural developments and for CAB and wider colleagues to be mindful of the impact of decisions on Gaelic medium education.


Professor Mark Priestley informed the group that there will be an international perspectives on curriculum event at the University of Stirling on 16th February. However, since this meeting, the Secretariat have been informed that this event has been postponed to a to-be-confirmed later date. All CAB members will be welcome to attend and the Secretariat will circulate an invite once it is published.

The Co-Chair thanked members for their input today and asked members to provide feedback electronically on the meeting format for today and preference for future meetings e.g. online, hybrid or in person.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday 22 March 2023, calendar invites to follow.

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