Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: March 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 22 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and HM Chief Inspector of Education, Education Scotland (Co-Chair)
  • Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, Scottish Government (Co-Chair)
  • Officials from the Analytical Unit, Scottish Government
  • Andrea Bradley, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland
  • Ollie Bray, Strategic Director, Education Scotland
  • Cheryl Burnett, Chair, National Parents Forum Scotland
  • Officials from the Curriculum and Qualifications Division, Scottish Government
  • Andy Creamer, Head of Learning, Teaching and Assessment, Education Scotland
  • John Edward    Representative, Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • Gillian Hamilton, Depute Chief Executive and Strategic Director for Corporate Services and Governance, Education Scotland
  • Tina Harrison, Representative, Universities Scotland
  • Louise Hayward, Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation, University of Glasgow
  • Tara Lillis, National Official, NASUWT Scotland
  • Julie MacDonald, Vice President, School Leaders Scotland
  • Joan MacKay, Head of Curriculum Innovation, Education Scotland
  • Tony McDaid, Executive Director of Education Resources, South Lanarkshire Council
  • Curriculum Assessment Board Secretariat, Scottish Government
  • Sharon McLellan, Past President, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland
  • Peter McNaughton, Executive Officer (Lead), Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Jim Metcalfe    Chief Executive, College Development Network
  • Professional Advisor from the Education Reform Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Laura Murdoch, Deputy Director for Curriculum and Qualifications, Scottish Government
  • Catherine Nicol, President, Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association
  • 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
  • Robert Quinn, Head of Service, Humanities, Arts and Business, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Pauline Radcliffe, CEO, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework
  • Scottish Government Official, Senior Phase and OECD Curriculum Reform Division
  • Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive and Registrar, General Teaching Council Scotland
  • Stakeholder Engagement Manager from the Education Reform Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Matthew Sweeney, Policy Manager, COSLA
  • Statistician, Scottish Government


  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Edward Carroll, National Executive, NASUWT Scotland
  • Michael Lennon, Locality Manager, South Lanarkshire Council
  • Fiona Robertson, Chief Executive, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Ken Thomson, Principal and CEO, Forth Valley College, Colleges Scotland
  • Martyn Ware, Director of Policy, Analysis and Standards, Scottish Qualifications Authority

Items and actions

Welcome and draft minutes from last meeting

Co-Chair, Gayle Gorman, welcomed members to the Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB) meeting.
Except for one minor change, draft minutes from the meeting on 18 January 2023 were agreed as an accurate record and approved by members. The Secretariat noted that there were no actions from the last meeting.

OECD recommendations 1.1-1.4, Update on progress

Ollie Bray (Strategic Director, Education Scotland) summarised a paper providing context to ongoing work being led by Education Scotland on four curriculum specific recommendations that sit under the broad heading, “Balance Curriculum for Excellence so students can fully benefit from a coherent learning experience from 3 to 18 years”, that was published in the 2021 OECD report, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future.

Following suggestions made in the 2022 Muir Review to bring young people and those working with young people, such as teachers and practitioners, closer to policymaking by listening to their voices, a process of co-design has been implemented across this work where appropriate. Work is now underway, spanning a number of key themes.

To date key activities have followed a model where current curriculum challenges are firstly explored with the system, clearly defined by the system, and exemplified across the system with the intention of empowering and enabling the system. A set of tools and approaches have been developed as part of the process that can be adapted meet local and community needs. Early evidence suggests that this is having impact.

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

  • on how each stakeholder was identified to participate in the process, Ollie Bray explained that they were pinpointed via engaging people through different groups and experimenting with different ways to do that
  • there were queries about progress on identifying options, in order that impacted stakeholders know what changes to expect. Ollie Bray noted the impact of the forthcoming reports relating to education reform, and the importance of ensuring that these can help inform options
  • the importance of focusing on quick wins was noted, as while medium- and long-term implementation is important, ensuring the short-term implementation of the action plan was vital
  • lastly, it was stated that it was important to sense check ideas and to be forward thinking with regard to the action plan

Action: Ollie Bray agreed to provide a standing update on OECD Recommendations 1.1 – 1.4 as described in the current OECD implementation plan to CAB meetings going forward.

Developing a systematic approach to curriculum review

A Scottish Government Official from the Senior Phase and OECD Curriculum Reform unit delivered a paper outlining a project that is currently being carried out in-tandem between Education Scotland and the Scottish Government to explore options in response to recommendation 3.4 of the 2021 OECD report, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future, to: “Develop a systematic approach to curriculum review. Scotland could consider establishing a curriculum review cycle with a planned timeframe and specific review agenda, led by the specialist stand-alone agency”.

The presentation, set out what problem needs to be solved in terms of an approach to curriculum review and what success would look like. Overall this was seen as being more ‘standalone’ from other papers relating to the reform of education in Scotland. The presentation highlighted that co-designing the process is important, with a co-design group made up of practitioners from across all local authority areas, curriculum areas and settings having been established. One-to-one discussions with interested stakeholders have also been undertaken. From these conversations it is clear that there is widespread support for the OECD recommendation for there to be a curriculum review cycle, however how that looks is still to be determined.

CAB members were invited to provide feedback on the draft success criteria and provide initial advice and direction on what the key components of a good process of systematic curriculum review should look like in Scotland.

CAB members raised the following points:

  • this work was widely welcomed and there was interest in how the work develops
  • various members raised issues about the timing of a review, with concerns raised about the frequency due to lack of time and the toll it would take on the system
  • a clear definition and focus of what will be reviewed as part of the curriculum review will be necessary
  • practitioners and learners should be placed at the heart of the review and involved at appropriate stages
  • it was suggested that the voice of employers should be a part of curriculum reviews
  • equality should also be built into the review of the curriculum
  • a concern was raised about this sitting with the new education agency and the potential for the review to overburden them
  • additionally, asking academics to complete the review is not always feasible as they are employed in the tertiary sector and may not be available to undertake such work

Action: the team working on the project will consider the feedback and a further paper will be brought to CAB at a later date to provide an update on the work’s progress

School leaver attainment – core measure for improvement

A Scottish Government statistician delivered a verbal update on a proposal to expand the scope of Scottish Government National Statistics on school leaver attainment, with a view to address the following aims:

  • alignment to government policies on broader attainment and a wide range of learner pathways
  • alignment between outputs used at a national level and products used at school/LA level
  • continued provision of a consistent time series based on the ‘narrower’ NQ-only attainment

Summarising this work, the SG statistician highlighted that there are methodological differences between the statistics so this work will bring about alignment so that national and local bodies would both use the same core measure for improvement to ensure there is consistency. Initially the existing Insight ‘All SCQF awards’ measure would be used with any changes resulting from the planned Insight consultation subsequently being adopted in the National Statistics publication. There has been broad feedback so far, which shows support for this change but also for continued provision of measurements on national qualifications.  It was proposed that alignment with the existing Insight measure will be adopted fairly swiftly to align with the requirements of users.

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

  • the direction of travel with this work was welcomed
  • some members were unsure about continuing to report on a National Qualifications only measure, feeling that reporting on qualifications from a range of different qualifications bodies will be beneficial and more inclusive. An example of this would be reporting on completion of apprenticeships
  • it was suggested that looking at the measurement of the poverty related attainment gap would be helpful
  • it was also noted that the number of measurements should be more streamlined and the ask of schools should be made more clear with parental involvement where necessary

Action: Scottish Government Statistician will circulate a written paper to CAB members after the meeting. This was shared with the CAB membership on Friday 24 March. Members are invited to share any comments on the proposal for a core measure for improvement, which can be sent to 

Choice, Attainment and Positive Destinations: Exploring the impact of curriculum policy change on young people

Prof Mark Priestley (Professor of Education, University of Stirling) delivered a presentation of a report he co-authored following research funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Prof Priestley noted that the evidence produced by this project will inform curriculum policies and practices, as well as deepen understanding of how curriculum-making relates to educational attainment, early transitions of young people and other outcomes.

After explaining what the aims of the study were, the methodology used, and how the data was generated, Prof Priestley set out an overview of the findings of the report which can be found in the report via this link: Choice, Attainment and Positive Destinations: Exploring the impact of curriculum policy change on young people

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

  • it was suggested by some that the report focused too much on qualifications, rather than courses taught, while others thought that it pinpointed the current issues with the curriculum
  • setting aside time for teachers for curriculum planning was important, but would come at a substantial budgetary cost – which is a political decision
  • capacity in the teaching system needed to be built to enable teachers to contribute more effectively. Networks of teachers being established and using a national supply network of teachers were both discussed
  • there was a significant difference between causation and correlation in the data

Look Forward Agenda 2023

An official from the Curriculum Assessment Board Secretariat, Scottish Government, provided an overview of a workplan for CAB for the year ahead. CAB members were encouraged to consider submitting proposals for items at future meetings by contacting 


The Co-Chair, Gayle Gorman, thanked members for their input today, and welcomed any feedback to be sent to the CAB Secretariat.

As this was Gayle Gorman’s last CAB meeting, Co-Chair, Clare Hicks, thanked her for all her hard work in supporting the CAB and, on behalf of the group, wished her well in her future endeavours.

The next meeting will be on Thursday 15 June 2023, calendar invites to follow.

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