Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: March 2018

Papers from second meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board meeting held in March 2018.

Attendees and apologies

Members and Substitutes

  • Steven Quinn (SQ), Association of Directors of Education (ADES)
  • Andrew Griffiths (AG), ADES
  • Tim Wallace (TW), Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland
  • Jim Metcalfe (JM), College Development Network
  • Ken Thomson (KT), Colleges Scotland
  • Robert Hynd (RH), Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • Eddie Follan (EF), Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA)
  • Jean Carwood-Edwards (JCE), Early Years Scotland
  • Andrea Bradley (AB), The Educational Institute of Scotland
  • Gayle Gorman (GG), Education Scotland (Co-Chair)
  • Alan Armstrong (AA), Education Scotland
  • Mike Corbett (MC), National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • Fiona Nicholson (FN), National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • John Edward (JE), Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • John Kemp (JK), Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • Fiona Robertson (FR), Scottish Government (Co-Chair)
  • Andy Bruce (ABr), Scottish Government
  • David Barnett (DB), School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Gill Stewart (GS), Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Seamus Searson (SS), Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Sheena Devlin (SD), Tayside Collaborative
  • Louise Hayward (LH), University of Glasgow
  • Mark Priestley (MP), University of Stirling

Young People Representatives

  • Astrid McIntyre (AM), Royal High School
  • Regan Walker (RW), Royal High School


  • Malcolm Pentland (MPe), Scottish Government
  • Liam Cahill (LC), Scottish Government


  • Peter McGeorge (PMG), University of Aberdeen
  • Paul Smart (PS), Scottish Government
  • Josh Traynor (JS), Young Representative
  • Cal Menzies(CM), Young Representative
  • Jane O’Donnell (JOD), CoSLA
  • Peter McNaughton (PMN), ADES

Additional Attendees

  • Zarina Naseem (ZN), Scottish Government
  • Julie Anderson (JA), Scottish Government
  • Angie Felvus (AF), Scottish Government

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductory presentation

1.1 The co-chairs welcomed members to the second meeting of the Board and specifically welcomed the young representatives, AM and RW (S5 pupils at the Royal High School). Apologies were noted as shown above.

1.2 Following introductory comments, the Acting Headteacher at Blackhall Primary, Lesley Liddle, and some of the learners at the school gave a presentation, welcoming the Board to Blackhall and highlighting some of the school’s activities and learning. After the presentation Board members took the opportunity to visit ‘stalls’ on various areas of the school’s work selected and prepared by the pupils of Blackhall. The stalls showcased work on literacy, numeracy, resilience, the school’s outdoor space, activity in relation to pupil voice and parental engagement and the school’s planning following its inspection.

1.3 GG thanked the staff, pupils and parents at Blackhall Primary School for hosting the meeting and for sharing aspects of life and learning at the school with the Board.

2. Minute and actions arising from last meeting

2.1 GG sought agreement on the minute of 6 December 2017 meeting. It was signed off subject to a change being made to the wording of paragraph 4.2. An update on the actions from the first meeting was provided and it was noted that all actions, except action 5, had been progressed. Action 5 related to the development of the CAB work plan and it was highlighted that the discussion the Board was about to have on paper CAB 02(01) would progress this.

ACTION – The Board’s secretariat to amend the minute of the meeting of 6 December as agreed.

3. Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – realising the benefits in full

3.1 FR introduced paper CAB-02(01) commenting that it had been produced following the discussion at the first CAB meeting where a general consensus had emerged that an important early step for the Board was to revisit the fundamentals of CfE. This would help to determine where the Board’s focus should be. ABr and AA provided some additional introductory comment, highlighting that the paper provided a summary of what CfE was intended to achieve in terms of its fundamental principles, entitlements and values along with some assessment of how successful CfE has been in achieving the desired outcomes for young people.

3.2 In the subsequent discussion, the following points were made by the Board in relation to CfE:

  • There was a general consensus that the fundamental principles, entitlements and values associated with CfE were comprehensive but there had been difficulties in realising them.
  • The focus on the purpose of CfE, the development of the four capacities, had been lost over time. It was felt that this was partly down to a disproportionate focus on covering each experience and outcome and partly down to a more narrow focus of ensuring learners gained qualifications in the senior phase.
  • Many of the challenges associated with implementing CfE stemmed from excessive teacher workload and a general lack of resource in the system.
  • Any analysis of CfE should not be narrowly focused on schools but should instead include consideration of early learning and childcare and further education.
  • The Board should consider transitions as a priority as there are known challenges relating to transitions between: early learning and childcare and P1; primary and secondary; the BGE and the senior phase; and school and the world of work.
  • In general, progression routes for learners are still not broad enough.
  • There should be a focus on ensuring that there are clear lines of progression within CfE and that a deeper analysis is required to understand if there is a universal understanding of what constitutes achievement of a CfE level.
  • There should be a focus on ensuring that the narrative around CfE is clear as this would ensure that the education sector understood why certain things mattered and therefore why things were being taken forward at a national level as a result.
  • There is potential to consider refreshing the narrative around CfE to reflect that the context in which education is delivered has changed since CfE was introduced.

3.3 At the conclusion of the discussion, SD offered to lead a short life sub-group to look specifically at the narrative around CfE and MP volunteered to be part of the group. GG summed up discussions around paper CAB-02(01) and welcomed SD’s offer to lead a narrative sub-group and MP’s offer to participate. GG also invited other Board members who might wish to contribute to the work of this sub-group to let the Board’s secretariat know following the meeting.

3.4 In response, SS expressed a concern that the formation of a sub-group may result in the voices of some Board members not being heard. FR reassured Board members that discussions from any sub-group will be fed back at all Board meetings to allow others to comment. FR suggested that SS should email the Secretary to the Board, LC if he had any comment on the work of the narrative sub-group.

ACTION – SD to lead a short life sub-group that will look at the narrative around Curriculum for Excellence.

4. Literacy and Numeracy

4.1 GG introduced paper CAB-02(02). ZN provided further detail stating that the paper sets out the Scottish Government’s aims around literacy and numeracy, details recent performance data, outlines recent activity and interventions in this area and suggests next steps. ZN asked the Board members for views on the accuracy of the analysis within the paper and the suggested next steps.

4.2 In the subsequent discussion, the following points were made by the Board:

  • More needs to be done to ensure that literacy and numeracy are delivered across the curriculum.
  • Efforts to reduce teacher workload will provide teachers with more time to deliver literacy and numeracy across the curriculum and analyse attainment data to inform improvement activity.
  • A decline in dedicated literacy and numeracy support at local authority level had had an impact on learning and teaching in schools. There was a view that the newly formed Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) might be able to provide support in this area.
  • The analysis within the paper is too narrowly focused on schools and there should be an effort to ensure interventions are relevant to the education system as a whole.
  • Schools may benefit from increased autonomy in building approaches to literacy and numeracy education.
  • It is vital to engage with parents in order to improve literacy and numeracy as this will ensure that learning extends into the home.
  • There are opportunities to do more to support probationer teachers and those undertaking initial teacher education. In general, there should be more of a focus on numeracy within initial teacher education.
  • The introduction of benchmarks may have inadvertently devalued teacher professional judgement and reduced teacher confidence in relation to literacy and numeracy education.
  • Interventions aimed at improving literacy and numeracy education should include an adequate focus on pedagogy. There has previously been too much of a focus on knowledge rather than pedagogy.
  • Finding more time for teachers was central to improvement in this area and the Board should recommend this to the Deputy First Minister as a priority.

4.3 GG summed up discussions and noted the focus on capacity and professional learning. GG suggested that more should be done to further evaluate the support for literacy and numeracy education and consider further requirements to build capacity and confidence amongst practitioners.

4.4 SQ agreed with the suggested way forward but requested that work does not focus too much on literacy at the expense of numeracy.

ACTION – The Scottish Government and Education Scotland to take forward work to further evaluate the support for literacy and numeracy education with a view to supporting capacity and confidence amongst practitioners.

5. Senior Phase

5.1 FR introduced paper CAB-02(03). JA then provided further detail and asked Board members for their views on what actions are necessary to ensure that schools and their partners are able to maximise the flexibility of the senior phase curriculum and meet the needs of all learners.

5.2 There was a general consensus that the paper was well structured and provided a good basis for discussion. Discussion then followed around the following:

  • School/college partnerships have been successful in delivering the senior phase of CfE and as such, we should recognise this and build upon it rather than duplicate work.
  • Good work has already been done to broaden learner pathways and the next step should be to develop a strong narrative, backed up with a communications and engagement plan in order to promote these opportunities and share best practice within the system.
  • There should be a focus on getting both learners and parents to understand the benefits of the broad range of routes within the senior phase.
  • More should be done to promote a breadth of pathways and to look at options and choices, when they happen, and how young people are supported through these.
  • Parity of esteem between pathways is important and we can achieve this by clearly linking pathways to high quality jobs.
  • The context in which any interventions are taken forward will be influenced by the 15-24 Learner Journey Review and the Board should not lose sight of this.
  • The Board should not look at the senior phase in isolation as it is linked to all other parts of the education system.
  • Changes to the national qualifications may have affected the capacity of schools to deliver a flexible senior phase.

5.3 FR summed up discussions and noted that: discussions around the senior phase are closely linked to the 15-24 Learner Journey Review; any work in this area should be done with cognisance of the effect on the broad general education; the challenges related to capacity; and the importance of not losing sight of successes associated with the senior phase.

5.4 It was agreed that options 1, 2, 7 and 10 and 13 (combined) from the paper should be taken forward.

Action – Scottish Government and Education Scotland to work to ensure the actions agreed as part of the discussion on paper CAB-02(03) (senior phase) are taken forward.

6. National 4: Communications and Engagement Action Plan

6.1 FR introduced paper CAB-02(04). ABr provided further detail reminding Board members that there wasn’t a strong consensus to change the design of the qualification and therefore communication and engagement activity must come to the fore. ABr invited Board members to comment on the proposed action plan.

6.2 MC recorded NASUWT’s disappointment that their proposal to revise the National 4 qualification to include an externally assessed assessment fell. MC noted that NASUWT’s proposal was based on evidence collected from their members. DB also recorded SLS’s disappointment that no changes will be made to the structure of the qualification.

6.3 AB agreed that there was evidence to support a change to National 4 and also sought clarification as to whether there was potential for changes to the qualification as a later date. ABr stated that the option is not off the table however, the threshold to change the qualification is a high one.

6.4 SQ asked for clarification as to whether the interim arrangement for Recognising Positive Achievement( RPA) would continue. ABr stated that evidence would need to be provided to the Deputy First Minister to enable him to make a decision on that matter. SQ highlighted that an announcement to stop the RPA interim arrangement in June would be too late.

6.5 GG took the opportunity to inform Board members that she has written to local authorities reminding them of the advice contained in the ANQ Group guidance regarding decisions to present learners for both units and the full revised National 5 course. It is imperative that any learner being presented for both the units that were formerly part of National 5 and the N5 course definitely falls into the exceptional, borderline category. This is imperative if we are to make sure assessment serves the needs of young people and avoids assessment becoming over-bureaucratic for teachers.

6.6 Further discussion on the paper raised the following points:

  • There is work to be done to make it clear that a National 4 is a good qualification but only for the appropriate learners.
  • Many qualifications at the same level as the National 4 do not involve an externally assessed assessment and they do not suffer from a credibility issue.
  • The Board should not look at the National 4 in isolation from other considerations around the senior phase.

6.7 FR summed up discussion and noted that there had been broad agreement to take forward the actions outlined in the paper.

ACTION – Scottish Government to take forward actions outlined in paper CAB-02(04).

7. Learner Engagement

7.1 FR introduced paper CAB-02(05). ABr provided more detail on the paper and invited Board members to agree to the proposed principles for the Board’s engagement with learners.

7.2 The young representatives AM and RW supported the establishment of a Learner Panel as this would make sure decisions are made with learners and not on their behalf.

7.3 In the subsequent discussion the following points were made:

  • The Board should engage with learners who are representative of young people across Scotland.
  • The Board should ensure that it hears the views of learners with additional support needs.
  • The Board should ensure that it not only listens to young people but also acts on their views.

7.4 MPe provided the Board with an update on progress towards establishing the Learner Panel, stating that the clear intention is to work with young people organisations is order to help ensure a membership that is broad and representative. The aim is to have a panel established in June 2018.

7.5 FR summed up discussions and noted that the contents of paper CAB-02(05) had been agreed.

Action - The Board’s secretariat to ensure that future Board meetings involve learner engagement aligned with the principles of paper CAB02(05).

8. AOB

8.1 DB used the opportunity to express SLS concerns about the length of National 5 exams and the potential negative impact they could have on learners with additional support needs. SLS felt that the pace of change has been too quick. GS commented that the SQA were working to tight deadlines in relation to changes to National 5.

8.2 GG informed attendees that as the proposed date for the next CAB meeting clashed with the Scottish Education Awards, the date and venue will likely be revised. A meeting in Dundee is currently the most likely option.

8.3 GG and FR thanked members for their attendance and extended special thanks to the young representatives, AM and RW and the staff and pupils of Blackhall Primary School.

Meeting concludes.

List of Actions

  1. The Board’s secretariat to amend the minute of the meeting of 6 December as agreed.

  2. SD to lead a short life sub-group that will look at the narrative around Curriculum for Excellence.

  3. The Scottish Government and Education Scotland to take forward work to further evaluate the support for literacy and numeracy education with a view to supporting capacity and confidence amongst practitioners.

  4. Scottish Government and Education Scotland to work to ensure the actions agreed as part of the discussion on paper CAB-02(03) (senior phase) are taken forward.

  5. Scottish Government to take forward actions outlined in paper CAB-02(04) (National 4).

  6. The Board’s secretariat to ensure that future Board meetings involve learner engagement aligned with the principles of paper CAB02(05) (learner engagement).

Curriculum and Assessment Board Secretariat Scottish Government

CAB meeting paper 2 - March 2018 - Literacy and Numeracy.pdf
CAB meeting paper 3 - March 2018 - Senior Phase.pdf


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)

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