Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: June 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, held on 3 June 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Members and substitutes:

  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Peter McNaughton, 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 (Chair)
  • Ollie Bray, Education Scotland
  • Tara Lillis, NASUWT
  • Fiona Nicholson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • David Barnett, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • John Edward, Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Aileen Pontont, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership (SCQF)
  • Graeme Logan, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Malcolm Pentland, Scottish Government
  • Linda Pooley, Scottish Government 
  • John Guidi, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Brian Green, Universities Scotland
  • Mark Priestley, University of Stirling 


  • Craig Flunkert, Scottish Government 
  • Chris McCord, Scottish Government
  • Ellen Willis, Scottish Government 


  • Richard Bell, NASWUT
  • Sheena Devlin, Regional Improvement Collaboratives 
  • Kathryn O ’Loan, Scottish Funding Council (SFC)    
  • Hazel Bartels, Scottish Government
  • Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association SSTA.
  • Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Neville Prentice, Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed board members to the 15th meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board and apologies were noted as above.  

Minute and actions arising from the last meeting

The minute and action from the Board’s last meeting on 4 March 2021 were introduced.

Craig Flunkert informed the Board that the only action from the previous meeting had resulted in a paper being brought to today’s meeting. However there is still more work to be done in this area and therefore this action  will be as ongoing for the next meeting.

No comments were offered in relation to the minute of the Board’s 4 March 2021 meeting and the minute was agreed.

Promoting and supporting digital learning and teaching beyond the pandemic – paper CAB-15(01)

The Chair introduced the agenda item and introduced Ollie Bray (OB) who provided an overview of paper CAB- 15(01). OB invited CAB members to comment on future of Glow and broader support to digital learning and teaching. The paper also discussed the National e-learning offer and professional learning and leadership in which discussion took place on how to lead strategy in schools remotely and blended. 

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

  • it was noted that colleges have an agreed Digital Ambition and considerable investment underway on infrastructure; it was suggested that colleges are keen to work with the school system on the planning of digital learning
  • it was noted that infrastructure, bandwidth and access to devices have been major issues, with many schools, particularly those in rural and remote areas, unable to connect properly during online/remote learning. It was commented that improving infrastructure and hardware capacity is the best way to meet education objectives and that we should be thinking of how technology assists teachers. It was suggested that the focus should be on those most at risk, taking a holistic approach
  • it was commented that the less affluent in society are disadvantaged to a greater extent, compared to others in the school community. It was suggested that there can be assumptions that all young people are able to utilise technological advancements, and that this assumption was mis-placed
  • it was suggested that there should be more support for parents and children with learning difficulties when accessing technology should be available
  • there are potential barriers to participation in digital remote learning due to the learning environment, either at school or at home
  • it was suggested that the development of the future strategy should include representative focus groups, in order to provide support for parents and pupils with additional support needs. 
  • there are ongoing issues in terms of a lack of access to Glow in the early years
  • it was suggested that schools from the local authority sector should to include and share ideas with independent schools. There was some discussion about independent schools, which were required to develop their own IT environments during the pandemic
  • it was suggested that teacher education and skills in remote and digital learning should be prioritised. It was noted that teachers need sufficient time to continue to upskill on how to use devices effectively and to familiarise themselves with the benefits of digital learning and the how it can positively impact on learning
  • it was suggested that not all digital learning teams within local authorities include teacher groups, and that central and local government should therefore ensure that engagement of practitioners is at the core of the future strategy
  • it was highlighted that the pandemic experience showed that technology offered part of a solution for dealing with the challenged faced but also highlighted the importance of relationships in a classroom setting .Tech is there to supplement – connecting with parents etc... – but that the “bedrock” is in the classroom and school
  • it was suggested that the milestones for the refresh of devices should be considered in terms of the four year life of devices and how replacement of devices will be rolled out
  • the National Parent Forum representative pointed to a motion at the forthcoming NPFS reps’ forum on the area of digital learning supporting young people's learning. It was suggested that during the past year some parents have struggled to support digital learning due to their own digital literacy levels. The creation of digital learning should be a good way of working with families to improve outcomes for all - including giving them access to some learning. This would also work well for parents who are not so engaged with school

The Chair acknowledged contributions from attendees and invited OB for comment.

  • OB drew the board’s attention to the National e-Learning Offer, and the need for it to be integrated as a key part in terms of learner journey. He recognised that this has been an area where national and local partners have not been “joined up”  in the past and suggested unity going forward
  • OB discussed how devices are being used in schools and how they benefit pupils. He agreed that in instances where infrastructure was when not part of strategy, then the strategy has fallen short. Similarly, where pupils and teachers have not always had the support to make effective use of the technology, the stated benefits have not been realised
  • OC stated that he supported the CAB’s thinking in relation to focusing on disadvantaged children/early years/support for parents/family support and SQA qualifications, and he suggested a need to continue to learn and get better
  • suggested that learning teaching and use of digital technology curriculum design and family engagement is what we need to do to build sustainable infrastructure for whole of Scotland going forward

The Chair thanked attendees for their contributions to the discussion. 

Achieving transformational change in curriculum design and development and the 3-18 learner journey – paper CAB-15(02)

The Chair introduced the next agenda item and encouraged board members to reflect on the pandemic and the lessons learned in relation to curriculum design before calling on OB for opening remarks. OB then introduced Joan McKay (JM) and handed over to JM to take the group through the paper. 

It was highlighted to the group that some questions in paragraph 12/7/15 of the paper may be particularly interesting as prompts for debate and challenge. JM provided the background pre-Covid 19, and discussed work which was published September 2019. It was suggested that perhaps 50 minute lessons should be broken down into smaller periods. It was suggested the group reflected on the work that has been completed during pandemic. 

The Chair opened discussion for attendees and the following were offered:

  • it was suggested that the curriculum would be at risk if there was not sufficient focus on roles and responsibilities and it was recommended to build from early years up. Additionally it was suggested that the curriculum is the heart of everything we do in education and there may be a danger of forgetting about key principles
  • the Welsh experience of creating their curriculum was raised and highlighted useful work is about connecting and working across clusters
  • purpose was discussed with the suggestion that there is a need to be clear on what we mean – starting points for development, what curriculum is and how we define it – it is something we do, not simply the written content
  • Mark Priestley suggested that he would be happy to provide an extended presentation on the topic to the board
  • pointing to the final item on the agenda, it was suggested the focus going forward should be on education for social justice and the work around LGBT inclusive education – to establish more equality and consideration in terms of curriculum
  • members discussed policy around outdoor/digital and work experience learning
  • members discussed duration of time that learners attend school. It was suggested that some young people are more equipped to respond to online learning/home environment compared to others. Additionally it was recommended to gather research evidence
  • there was discussion around the importance of gender equality and disabilities and how they may impact people’s lives for themselves or parents/carers
  • it was suggested that teachers should be given additional time to collaborate with others and consider different possibility in terms of delivery of curriculum
  • furthermore, it was suggested that there is a need for all teachers to engage with the Refreshed Narrative for Scotland’s Curriculum, as there are still many that have not
  • it was suggested that the curriculum has fallen out of discourse, and that this should be addressed
  • there was discussion on purposes encapsulated in four capacities with question on how teachers use these capacities and how children know about them
  • additionally it was suggested that, as we seek to recover from the pandemic, there is a danger of losing sight of broad education – expressive arts/languages/sciences - as we focus on numeracy, literacy and wellbeing
  • it was suggested that schools often focus on what is being 'measured' and this is why other curriculum areas are being lost – and that those measures are literacy and numeracy in primary
  • it was suggested that there should be a creative approach to designing the curriculum and that transforming it could to improve and encourage creativity
  • there was discussion over the senior phase qualifications and how they impact the curriculum
  • it was suggested that schools need to carry out ambassador training
  • it was suggested that there is a need for schools to understand how creative they can be with pathways but we also need to know what’s on offer to be able to do this
  • calls for all attendees to stop referring to curriculum as “Curriculum for Excellence” and instead refer to Scotland’s Curriculum, though one Board member did not agree with this

The Chair thanked everyone for their contribution and made the following comments to bring the discussion to a close:

  • it would be advantageous if this package of curriculum work could feature as a specific programme of curriculum design work in response to the forthcoming OECD report, thus helping to address points on curriculum design within that report 
  • the spotlight on purposes and practise is a very good opportunity to re-focus CfE going forward
  • a range of views and debate will no doubt take place after the OECD report
  • the Chair welcomed the offer of a presentation from Mark Priestley
  • the Chair noted that while there should always be a strong emphasis on health and wellbeing, literacy and numeracy, we mustn’t lose sight of the breadth of subjects


  • Mark Priestley will provide a presentation at the next meeting to update the Board on progress of his team’s research

Update on curriculum review activity in relation to anti-racist education and the UNCRC – paper CAB-15(03)  

The Chair introduced the agenda item and called on Craig Flunkert (CF) to talk through the next update paper.

CF began by highlighting the individuals who were leading on paper and took the Board through its main elements. 

CF suggested that the paper provided updates across all themes – and taking inter connectedness forward as a package of work. The paper noted the significant progress that has now been made with the LGBT work, with a more detailed paper and recommendations being produced. CF also pointed to a meeting on 25 March where some key principles and ways of working were agreed. 

The Chair thanked CF on the update and welcomed comments from attendees:

  • it was suggested that we must ensure equality becomes part of process and that it should become part of a larger conversation to embed equality in all processes
  • it was suggested that one way of addressing issues or deficiencies within the curriculum would be by making it a “Curriculum for Social Justice”
  • there was some discussion around how education around poverty is implemented within the curriculum
  • as the sub groups begin their work, board members emphasised the importance of being very conscious of what the curriculum is, i.e. thinking of curriculum making as a practise rather than simply the content
  • board members also pointed to broader issues around equality/ gender/disability and the need to maintain those in our consciousness as we implement this work

The Chair thanked attendees for views and comments– strong message from colleagues to provide meaningful support to teachers as/when adjustments have been agreed. 

Any other business (AOB)



  • Mark Priestley will provide a presentation at the next meeting to update the Board on progress of his team’s research
  • Curriculum Unit and Education Scotland will now proceed to set up the curriculum review sub groups on race equality education and UNCRC
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