Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board on 21/03/2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Anne Keenan, Assistant Secretary: Education and Equality, EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) 
  • Carrie Lindsay, Executive Officer, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Cheryl Burnett, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)  
  • Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, Scottish Government and Co-Chair
  • Curriculum and Assessment Board Secretariat, Scottish Government
  • Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Gillian Hamilton, Interim Chief Executive, Education Scotland and Co-Chair
  • Head of Curriculum Innovation, Education Scotland 
  • Head of Learning Teaching & Assessment, Education Scotland 
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland 
  • Janie McManus, Chief Inspector, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education (HMIE), Education Scotland 
  • John Guidi, District Secretary, East Renfrewshire, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) 
  • Laura Murdoch, Deputy Director, Curriculum and Qualifications, Scottish Government 
  • Lorraine Davidson, Chief Executive, Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Louise Hayward, Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation, Academic Representative, University of Glasgow 
  • Martyn Ware, Head of Policy, Research & Standards, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Matthew Sweeney, Policy Manager, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) 
  • Mike Corbett, President, The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • Neville Prentice, Representative, SDS (Skills Development Scotland) 
  • Officials, Curriculum and Qualifications Division, Education Reform Directorate, Scottish Government 
  • Officials, Education Analytical Services, Scottish Government 
  • Officials, Education Reform Division, Education Reform Directorate, Scottish Government 
  • Ollie Bray, Strategic Director, Education Scotland 
  • Pauline Radcliffe, Chief Executive, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQFP)
  • Stewart Nicolson, Joint Chair, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Tim Wallace, Representative, Association of Headteachers and Deputies in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Tina Harrison, Representative, Universities Scotland 
  • Victoria Smith, Strategic Director, General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) 


  • Andrea Bradley, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • Catherine Nicol, President, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) 
  • Claire Bannister, Senior Policy Officer, Universities Scotland 
  • Diane Greenlees, Director of Critical Skills and Occupations, Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Edward Carroll, National Official, NASUWT 
  • Erica Russell Hensens, Deputy Director, Student Interests, Access and Quality, Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • Fiona Robertson, Chief Executive, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • James Russell, Director of career education, information, advice and guidance (CIAG) Operations, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) 
  • Julie MacDonald, Vice President, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Kirsty Conlon, Head of Learning and Teaching and Widening Access, Universities Scotland 
  • Mark Priestley, Professor of Education, University of Stirling, Academic Representative 
  • Michael Lennon, Locality Manager, Scotland, Community Learning and Development Manager 
  • Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS)
  • Seamus Searson, General Secretary, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) 
  • Sharon McLellan, President, Association of Headteachers and Deputies in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Tara Lillis, National Official, NASUWT

Items and actions

Welcome and draft minutes from last meeting, 30th January 2024

The Chair welcomed attendees to the Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB) meeting 26. Draft minutes from the meeting on 30th January 2024 were agreed as an accurate record and approved by members. 
The Secretariat reported back on the actions from the previous meeting:

  • Co-Chair to share information on the overarching governance landscape with CAB members: Reform Governance Model shared via email
  • Education Scotland will bring a paper to the Curriculum Assessment Board meeting in March 2024, which will close off any outstanding [OECD] actions: this will be addressed during today's meeting
  • slides to be shared with members of the board who requested them: the slides have been sent to those who requested them 

Education Reform Update

A Scottish Government official (Education Reform Directorate) provided an update to Board members:  

  • newly constituted governance arrangements for education and skills reform, which reflect the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to bringing more teachers and other practitioners into the work on a number of levels
  • Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment: The Cabinet Secretary led a debate on the recommendations in the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessments (IRQA) on 28 February. There was some cross-party consensus during the debate, such as on the need to rebalance assessment methods so that there is less reliance overall on high stakes exams. The Cabinet Secretary has committed to providing a Scottish Government response shortly
  • Centre of Teaching Excellence: since the last meeting of this Board, the co-production group for the Centre for Teaching Excellence met for the first time on 27 February, with a second meeting of the group taking place on 26 March. This group has been designed to closely involve a range of stakeholders from across the teaching profession and wider education sector, in line with the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment that the Centre will be co-designed with the sector. As indicated previously, the Centre is anticipated to be hosted by a university, learning from the successful model of the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS) 
  • structural reform: legislation underpinning aspects of the new qualifications body and new inspectorate function will be introduced in this parliamentary year. The Scottish Government will also publish an independent analysis of the responses received to the consultation on the legislation carried out at the end of last year

The Chair invited questions from the Board: 

  • on the timeline for announcements, any bill is bound by parliamentary procedure and Cabinet Secretary has indicated that the response to the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment will be made shortly
  • on how advisors will be selected for the various boards and roles, in regard to the Centre of Teaching Excellence, a secondee from the higher education sector will be appointed shortly; work is ongoing for the other roles
  • it was noted that the responses to the teacher survey suggests a more complex response from teachers around the reforms and that it was important to acknowledge that some of the concerns expressed related to fear that time and resources may not be forthcoming to implement reform, rather than about the reform proposals themselves. Clare Hicks (Director of Education Reform, Scottish Government) noted that the survey does not seek to undermine the work of the review, but provide additional evidence, to support a sustainable and achievable programme of reform, given the wider context in schools with issues including behaviour and attendance

OECD Implementation plan update

Update on Actions

Ollie Bray (Strategic Director, Education Scotland), provided an update on OECD Recommendations 1.1-1.4. These are curriculum specific recommendations led by Education Scotland in partnership with ADES Curriculum and Qualifications Group. They have been a standing item at CAB since the action plan was first approved by the Board in 2022. 

Ollie noted that the actions have interdependencies with the outcomes of reports such as the IRQA. Going forward actions 1.1 – 1.3 will return to the Scottish Government Education Reform Directorate and action 1.4 will remain with Education Scotland. 
Board members were invited to comment:  

  • it was important to be clear that these actions were not being closed, as there are unresolved outcomes for example, aspects of professional development for classroom teachers and use of teacher professional judgement. Ollie Bray agreed that some of the work will continue to support ongoing improvement 
  • the Board sought clarity on the age group we are considering in regard to the curriculum, it was confirmed that this is the 3-18 age group
  • challenges in terms of progression were noted and this work is a good opportunity to address those  
  • the ongoing approach of involving agencies in the process was welcomed

Capacity Building in Curriculum Design 

Head of Curriculum Innovation, Education Scotland, presented on a draft paper on Building Capacity in Curriculum Design. There was a request for feedback and input from board members. 
The purpose of this paper is to:

  • note relevant curriculum design activity between September 2019 and March 2024
  • outline how Scotland’s Curriculum Framework (the ‘refreshed narrative’) is being used to ensure a shared understanding, and 
  • summarise progress in relation to building capacity for curriculum design

The paper provides a contextual background for the work outlined beginning with the initial work commissioned by CAB in 2018 arising from the OECD 2015 report ‘Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective’. Two summaries set out key activities between September 2019 and March 2024. The first summary notes work undertaken between the publication of the ‘refreshed narrative’ (September 2019) and the publication of the June 2021 report from the OECD (Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future | en | OECD).

The second summary covers work undertaken between June 2021 and the present where the main focus of activity has been in relation to recommendations 1-4. 

Update 1 gives an overview of the use of the Scotland’s Curriculum Framework (the ‘refreshed narrative’), resource against intentions and aspirations set out by CAB in 2018/19 and reported in summary by OECD in 2021. The update draws on the feedback from users of Scotland’s Curriculum Framework along with observations from the Education Scotland teams who use Scotland’s Curriculum Framework to shape their work. 

Update 2 gives an overview on capacity building work since the publication of Scotland’s Curriculum Framework (the “refreshed narrative”) and how it has been developed around three main areas: Place based, National practice and Professional Learning. 
The Chair invited comments:  

  • it was noted that greater awareness of work that is already ongoing to support improvement would help respond to any frustration in the system about reform/change. The Chair noted that we aspire to a network learning system, which is very different from a top-down approach and takes time
  • in the draft paper there is a section on profiling achievements that raises some concerns around digital literacy and the ability of schools to implement the necessary changes, with limited funding and resource available
  • concerns were also expressed about online delivery happening in some local authorities, alignment of timetables, the rationale behind change and the correlation with efficiencies, innovative timetabling, and commercialisation of project learning, and the resulting implications for the quality of teaching and learning. We must be sure to stay conscious of not only widening access but ensuring quality
  • there was a discussion about how the programme of work engages teachers to ensure it supports continuous improvement from the bottom-up

Any further feedback from CAB was invited via email and Education Scotland are content to return to CAB for further discussion as required. 


  • Education Scotland to hold further discussions on the paper separately with SSTA, EIS and NASUWT
  • Education Scotland to contact Mark Priestley, to discuss his response

Curriculum improvement cycle 

Ollie Bray (Strategic Director, Education Scotland) shared some early thinking on the Curriculum improvement Cycle work and asked for volunteers to form a short life working group to test early thinking. It was proposed that Education Scotland would host three meetings of the group across April and May. It was proposed that the June CAB meeting will be an extended in-person session with a focus on the Curriculum Improvement Cycle. 


  • Ollie Bray (Education Scotland) / the CAB secretariat to share slides from this item with the Board members via email
  • Ollie Bray (Education Scotland) to write to members with a request to join the short life working group
  • CAB secretariat to organise an in-person and longer meeting of CAB in June on the substantive item on the curriculum improvement cycle, where we can further discuss the outcomes of the subgroup

Statistics for Attainment and Initial School Leaver Destinations 2022/23

An official (Education Analytical Services, Scottish Government), presented the statistics from this publication from the end of February which: 

  • provides information on the attainment and initial destinations of school leavers in Scotland
  • reports initial destinations for school leavers approximately three months after the end of the school year
  • reports on school leavers’ attainment in National Qualifications. For this report these are the National Courses (National 3, National 4, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher) and Skills for Work
  • for the first time in this edition reports on school leavers’ attainment in all qualifications and learning programmes on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). This includes National Qualifications as above, but also other qualifications provided by the SQA and other providers

Following the presentation, an official (Senior Phase Learner Pathways team, Scottish Government) led a discussion on S4 leaver data. The statistics show an increase in the last 2 years of young people leaving school at S4.  The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills is keen to explore this with partners and stakeholders. 
It is important to note that 92.7% of S4 leavers are going to positive destinations (the highest on record). The destination chosen is most often employment. Potential reasons for S4 leavers include: 

  • poverty & deprivation
  • the cost-of-living crisis
  • a buoyant labour market
  • increases in S4 attainment
  • factors reducing choice in the senior phase
  • increased awareness of other options, e.g., College

The Chair invited comments from the Board: 

  • it was confirmed that there is a follow-up leavers destination publication in June (4 months after the initial data is published) which focuses on leaver destinations 9 months after leaving school, amid some concern about the value of the initial destinations data in terms of long-term prospects
  • work by Skills Development Scotland on leaver destinations was highlighted and that it would be helpful to be able to track students from school into employment. The Annual Participation measure may be helpful here
  • it was noted that it was important to consider to what extent the apparent drop off in level 6 attainment is reflecting the diversification of senior phase curriculum and how schools are responding to needs and aspirations of leaners, some of which are not captured through the SCQF or National Qualifications


Senior Phase Learner Pathways team, Scottish Government, to work with Scottish Government analysts and Skills Development Scotland to see how the collective data could be combined to provide a better picture of school leaver destinations and report back to CAB. 


There was no other business. The next meeting will be held in June 2024 (exact date to be confirmed). 

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