Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board on 15/06/2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, Scottish Government (Co-Chair)
  • Andrea Bradley, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland
  • Jacqui Brasted, Deputy Director Assurance and Outcomes, Scottish Funding Council
  • Ollie Bray, Strategic Director, Education Scotland
  • Cheryl Burnett, Chair, National Parents Forum Scotland
  • Learner Pathways Team Leader, Scottish Government
  • Andy Creamer, Head of Learning, Teaching and Assessment, Education Scotland
  • John Edward, Chief Executive, Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • John Guidi, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association
  • CAB Secretariat, Scottish Government
  • Policy Team leader, OECD Curriculum Improvement Team, Scottish Government
  • Tina Harrison, Assistant Principal, Universities Scotland
  • Derek Hawthorne, Digital Development Manager, Skills Development Scotland
  • Tara Lillis, National Official, NASUWT Scotland
  • Julie MacDonald, Vice President, School Leaders Scotland
  • Joan MacKay, Head of Curriculum Innovation, Education Scotland
  • Sharon McLellan, Past President, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland
  • Janie McManus, Strategic Director of Scrutiny, Education Scotland
  • Professional Advisor, Education Reform Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Laura Murdoch, Deputy Director for Curriculum and Qualifications, Scottish Government
  • James Russell, Director, Career Information Advice and Guidance (CIAG) Operations, Skills Development, Scotland
  • Head of Senior Phase and OECD Curriculum Reform, Education Reform Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Matthew Sweeney, Policy Manager, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities
  • Graeme Wallace, Senior Education Officer, Education Scotland
  • Martyn Ware, Director of Policy, Analysis and Standards, Scottish Qualifications Authority

  • Gillian Hamilton, Interim Chief Executive, Education Scotland (Co-Chair)
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Edward Carroll, National Executive, NASUWT Scotland
  • Louise Hayward, Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation, University of Glasgow
  • Peter McNaughton, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • 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
  • Fiona Robertson, Chief Executive, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive and Registrar, General Teaching Council Scotland
  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in 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 15th March 2023 were agreed as an accurate record and approved by members. There were no actions on which to report.

OECD recommendations 1.1-1.4 - Update on progress

Ollie Bray gave an update on this standing item, on the progress of implementing OECD recommendations 1.1-1.4 from the OECD report “Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future” from June 2021. These are curriculum specific recommendations which Education Scotland (ES) have taken lead responsibility for (working across ES teams and in partnership with Association of Directors of Education in Scotland - ADES, Curriculum and Qualifications Group). Ollie highlighted that his update at the March meeting included a more detailed action plan.

He highlighted the exploratory nature of the work to date and the interdependencies between it and three key reports – “All Learners in Scotland Matters” – a National Discussion on Education, the Independent Review on Qualifications and Assessment and the Independent Review on the Skills Delivery Landscape. The work planned may need adjustment depending on the Government response to these reports. 

A summary of activity in relation to each recommendation is available in the paper but key points to note:

Re-assess Curriculum for Excellence’s (CfE) aspirational vision against emerging trends in education to take account of evolutions in education and society. (Recommendation 1.1)

  • recent work with local authorities and Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) on the four capacities including place-based activity
  • other elements paused due to the interdependencies with National Discussion

Find a better balance between breadth and depth of learning throughout CfE to deliver Scotland’s commitment to providing all learners with a rich learning experience throughout school education. (Recommendation 1.2) 

  • work has been done to explore the role of knowledge in Maths, Health and Wellbeing and Social Subjects. This is being analysed with a plan to deep dive into this at the next CAB meeting
  • the Interdisciplinary Learning co-design group has continued to meet. The first set of pedagogy podcasts is now complete and will be available for sharing at the Scottish Learning Festival in September 2023

Adapt the Senior Phase to match the vision of CfE. (Recommendation 1.3)

  • the Learner Pathways co-design team continues to meet and has reassessed priorities to take account of the current context
  • work has started on exploring ways to build consistency in teacher professional judgement across all curriculum areas
  • update on profiling achievement work is on the agenda for this meeting

Continue building curricular capacity at various levels of the system using research. (Recommendation 1.4)

  • development of a national professional learning offer in curriculum design has been co-created with ADES
  • the National Timetabling Group has met regularly and an update on the work to date is being presented later at this CAB meeting

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

  • there was interest in an update at the next CAB on the role of knowledge in the eight curriculum areas
  • members were glad to hear of the progress in relation to professional learning. In response to comments about teacher voice being present in co-creating the support for specific curriculum areas and subjects, Ollie Bray highlighted that work has been done to date with subject networks, but ES are also looking at how others can be involved. There was interest in more detail on the professional learning for curriculum areas programme so it can go in the school professional learning calendar for next session and would help plans to support attendance
  • the pedagogy podcasts sound helpful. In response to a question about the Scottish Learning Festival, Ollie Bray noted that plans are currently with Cabinet Secretary for consideration
  • it was noted that curriculum development as reflected in the Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape (Withers review) would need additional support. We need to understand what barriers are local, regional, and national regarding curriculum building and that some barriers are cultural and technical. It was noted that the timetabling work will help with the technical frustrations which will then lead to cultural change
  • teachers are to be involved in the work around professional judgement and for there to be consistency across the board
  • a need for clearer communications on all the work which is going on and ensuring that parents are part of this, particularly in light of the National Discussion and the Strategic Framework for Parental Involvement, Engagement and Family Learning
  • capacity building is critical to the reform work being taken forward

Innovative Timetabling Group

Andy Creamer (Head of Learning, Teaching and Assessment, Education Scotland) highlighted the work of the Innovative Timetabling Group which has met four times since October 2022.

The group has focused on the following areas:

  • approaches being taken to widen learner pathways by integrating Foundation Apprenticeships, College offers and Work Based Learning opportunities
  • challenges facing schools in various contexts when integrating these into Senior Phase offers
  • how schools are responding to these challenges
  • how effective local partnerships can support planning and delivery 
  • timetabling approaches that can support curriculum planning

The group provides an opportunity to document and share ideas on innovative timetable models, what is possible in terms of curriculum flexibility now and in the future and also provides a forum to consider practical implications of policy proposals. For example, they have been involved in contributing to the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment. 

This first briefing paper focused on realising parity in the senior phase, highlights the competing priorities facing timetablers and some of the key challenges around integrating work-based opportunities, particularly for rural areas. It identified four main models that could be utilised e.g., integration of work based offers into school timetable/column structures, whole day extraction, school based delivery models and hybrid approaches including virtual learning. Andy highlighted a model being used in Aberdeenshire to deliver Foundation Apprenticeships which has used a cluster approach where college lecturers go out to the schools. Next steps for this paper may be regional webinars.

The next briefing paper will focus on contact time and more technical aspects of timetabling.

CAB members were invited to feed back and raised the following points:

  • there are some good examples of curricular pathways in different sectors e.g., accounting, business and media, that use the full range of national courses, and can broaden out a young person’s learning experience. Parity of treatment is important to avoid sending the wrong message to parents and learners. There needs to be a reframing in how course information is presented
  • a point about flexibility of the school day was noted (for example for work and college placements) and that it was important that Scottish Government consider this carefully in their proposed approach to prescribing minimum learning hours in statute. This could have unintended consequences if too prescriptive
  • a point was raised around non-contact time and the assumption that this time will go to collaborative activity (rather than to relieve teacher workload). It was highlighted that Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) was the forum for negotiation around teachers terms and conditions
  • there needs to be equality of opportunity for learners across Scotland
  • schools need to be approved to offer a wider range of professional and technical qualifications if they are delivering and assessing

Profiling Achievement

Graeme Wallace (Senior Education Officer, Education Scotland) was joined by Derek Hawthorne (Digital Development Manager, Skills Development Scotland) to update on the work of the national co-design group which has been undertaking exploratory work on a future Scottish Learner Profile. They had brought together a group of 85 educators and other professionals that was representative of the system. The work has been aligned to the Scottish Approach to Service Design and a substantial amount of time has been spent exploring questions, with group members carrying out their own user research during the discovery phase. There is lots of good practice but there is a clear advantage of having information on learners in one place. Graeme Wallace highlighted the importance of language, and that the term ‘wider achievement’ was found by the group to be unhelpful and that “achievement” was a better descriptor.

The draft paper circulated provides a summary of the work to date and the proposal for a national solution which is underpinned by a set of key principles. Links with Professor Hayward’s Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment were made. Similarly, the Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape by James Withers also considers a digital learning account that travels with the learner. Graeme Wallace provided some examples of what the profile might look like and that the focus for the group over the next session will be to carry out further testing on the concept, prototyping and engagement.

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

  • concern about the workload implications for schools
  • there is a practical question on how to maintain the learners’ interest in the exercise and ensure that it does not become an unmanageable piece of work
  • concern about the variability in offer of awards and courses from centres leading to inequity for learners
  • the need to ensure that the work is aligned with the Scottish Government response to Professor Hayward’s review and should not be progressed until that direction is clear
  • concern about how this profiling work will interact with universities
  • acknowledgement of the rationale behind this work to help learners understand their skills but concern about the practical challenges, requiring a “test and trial” approach
  • concern about the profiling work being a digital tool, thereby creating a burden for learners and being uninspiring. The upskilling required by learners and teachers to use a digital tool was also noted as a concern, as was equity issues due to young people being able to access digital products, and the practical feasibility of everyone accessing the same system given there is no single system used by every learner
  • there was a question about the role of parents and carers in this work
  • the role of community learning and development was mentioned and whether this tool will recognise lifelong learning. It was suggested that it needs to be a wider, community approach as at the moment it appears to be school centric
  • important to note that children with additional support needs will require extra support in relation to their profile

Developing a systematic approach to curriculum review

Policy Team leader, OECD Curriculum Improvement Team, Scottish Government and Joan MacKay (Head of Curriculum Innovation, Education Scotland) gave a summary of the work to date to develop a draft model for a curriculum review cycle. However, given the extensive discussion on other items on the agenda, it was agreed this would be revisited with CAB members separately to ensure there was sufficient opportunity to engage and comment on the work.


  • Ollie Bray (Education Scotland) to incorporate an update on the role of knowledge in the eight curriculum areas into his update on OECD recommendations at the next CAB meeting.
  • Graeme Wallace (Education Scotland) to incorporate feedback from CAB members into the next draft of the report and invited CAB members to speak to him individually if that would be helpful. CAB members to contact Secretariat if they would like to do so
  • Policy Team leader, OECD Curriculum Improvement Team, Scottish Government to circulate a paper on developing a curriculum review cycle to CAB members along with an invitation for feedback and option for members to discuss the proposal directly.


The next meeting will be on the 13th September 2023 at 11 am, calendar invites to follow. 

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