Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: May 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 19 May 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland (Co-Chair – and chair for this meeting)
  • Clare Hicks, Scottish Government (Co-Chair)
  • Peter McNaughton, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Sharon McLellan, Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
  • Jim Metcalfe, College Development Network
  • Matthew Sweeney, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA)
  • Jane Brumpton, Early Years Scotland
  • Andrea Bradley, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Ollie Bray, Education Scotland
  • Joan MacKay, Education Scotland
  • Jacqueline Nimmo, Education Scotland
  • Tara Lillis, NASUWT
  • Fiona Nicholson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • Julie MacDonald, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • John Edward, Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Aileen Ponton, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership (SCQF)
  • Kathryn O'Loan, Scottish Funding Council
  • Dr Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • John Guidi, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Neville Prentice, Skills Development Scotland
  • Prof Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow
  • Claire Bannister, Universities Scotland

Scottish Government

  • Hazel Bartels, Scottish Government
  • Laura Murdoch, Scottish Government
  • Jonathan Sewell, Scottish Government
  • Judith Tracey, Scottish Government
  • Craig Flunkert, Scottish Government
  • Benyamin Gaspersz, Scottish Government
  • Lucia Ramon Mateo, Scottish Government (Secretary to the CAB)


  • Ken Thomson, Colleges Scotland
  • Michael Lennon, Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • Prof Mark Priestley, University of Stirling
  • Tony McDaid, Regional Improvement Collaboratives
  • Dr Linda Pooley, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Introductory remarks

Claire Hicks welcomed board members to the 19th meeting of the curriculum and assessment board.

Minutes of previous meeting

The minute and actions from the board's last meeting on 3 March 2022 were introduced.

With regard to the actions, Lucia Ramon Mateo noted that all the subgroups referenced in the minute have taken place.

The Board noted some typographical errors in the minute which will be amended by the secretariat. Tara Lillis noted on page 3 to add “in the expert panel” after “no class practitioner present”. On page 6, it was agreed to add “across multiple strands including the work of the REAREP and the Morgan review recommendations” after “how this is progressing".

Views on draft OECD implementation work plan - CAB 19(01)

The Chair introduced the agenda item and asked Jonathan Sewell (Scottish Government) to provide an overview of paper CAB-19 (01).

Jonathan introduced the paper and thanked those who attended the workshop and also the members who have provided written feedback on this paper prior to this meeting.

He highlighted that this project is one part of the reform agenda, and that there are interdependencies between all these parts and it will be important to try to avoid duplication.

The Chair thanked Jonathan and opened the discussion for views on the range of actions and agreement if the right stakeholders are involved and the right things prioritised. The following points were made by CAB members:

  • Sharon McLellan asked for clarification on the timescales for implementation. Jonathan clarified that this would take place from April 2022 to April 2023
  • Sharon also asked for clarification on the wording of section 2.1 and if only school-based students were included or this expanded to other students. Jonathan confirmed that this was indeed referring to school-based students, and agreed that he would look into tidying up the wording on this item
  • in reference to section 3.1 of the paper, Sharon also wanted to ensure that any progress made was not at the expense of school management teams time. She added that there was an increased worried on what the no contact class time meant for teachers
  • Joan MacKay acknowledged that these points have been made before, and added that the impact of this on both the national and local level have been considered
  • Tony McDaid added that there needs to be a step forward to get an understanding of what is needed and the level and volume of work required, the capacity and resources on the system, the interdependencies and where intervention from local authorities is required
  • Andrea Bradley raised that there is a serious deficit of time for teachers with many of them working unpaid hours. She added that EIS members are very concerned about this and are mindful of the implications of this work on curriculum reform for teachers’ workload. She also added that non-contact time needs to be preserved for preparation and marking. She pointed out that while the priorities reflected the subgroup discussions there were many comments that had not been included, for example on 1.1 the impact of the pandemic on wellbeing for young people and teachers was not coming strongly. On 1.2. the focus and emphasis of curriculum design and the breadth and depth we are striving for was not present either. She highlighted that there was a focus on expanding digital input but there was no real clarity from Education Scotland and Scottish Government on what, why and how. Andrea added that the digital offer should be to enhance, not replace and with these developments we need to take into account what it takes to make these changes, as we risk an automatised approach
  • Matthew Sweeney agreed with all the points raised. He also wondered if it would be possible to know who was in the subgroup. He added that we would need resources where the links in the dependencies are elsewhere and we need to widen responsibilities
  • Brian Green commented on 1.3 and how this was translating to further and higher education. He added that there was clearly some overlap with this, particularly for the senior phase
  • Jonathan pointed that there is a need to keep the scope as tight as we can and that at the time there is no scope to include the above. He added that there a programme manager will manage the non-institutional and qualifications reform actions. One of their responsibilities is to bring all these together and ensure that there is communication across the whole programme of reform so that all pieces of work are managed together. The breadth and depth and how we can move towards a better answer is still ongoing. Culture change and empowerment is outside of the project and it will sit elsewhere, but it runs through what we are trying to do. Jonathan concluded by saying that it will be important to clarify responsibilities shared by all CAB members and to emphasise co-operation and innovation

The chair noted that overall the vision and outcomes are high level. In relation to messaging and communications, empowerment is a key theme but the chair would welcome suggestions from members on how we can strengthen this. It was agreed that a discussion on the methodology and the vision will need to be brought to the next CAB.Peter McNaughton commented on annex A pointing out that was too formulaic. Peter wondered if this was the best way to do it. On column three he noted that 35 points relate to Education Scotland, Scottish Government or SQA. On point 2.2 Peter raised that we should revise the vision of responsibilities as he thinks we can be more creative about how we tackle these issues.

The Chair acknowledged that this is an interrelated system and we need to represent this at early stages.

Louise Hayward shared some of Mark’s comments in his absence. Firstly we need to look at knowledge and skills and how they relate to the document. We also need to follow a model of change as we are looking at our education system.

Louise raised that we need to agree on what is the story we need to tell. How we look at our education system so that it can be better for every learner.

Ken Edwards pointed out that on the interrelation and interdependencies there was no reference to engagement with colleges and the school partnership needs to be more prominent. He added that it was important to align with the senior phase; colleges want to help and they need to be welcomed. On point 1.4 Ken added that with regards to curriculum design capacity, colleges are happy to help and they would want to be involved in curriculum hubs.

Jonathan thanked the members and reiterated that he will take the comments on board.

The Chair thanked Jonathan and CAB members and closed the discussion.

National discussion on the vision for the future of scottish education – CAB 19(02)

The Chair introduced the next agenda item and asked Liza McLean (Scottish Government) to provide an overview of paper CAB-19 (02).

Liza introduced the paper noting that it is important we keep in mind the whole activity that is taking place across education and skills and take a coherent approach to avoid duplication. However there is a huge appetite for this conversation to happen at this time and we need to keep the momentum.

We need to be clear about the purpose of the discussion and the approach. Scottish Government will facilitate and support the discussion but we will not be the ones leading it, rather we will empower the system to do so.

The Chair thanked Liza and opened the discussion. The following points were made by CAB members:

  • Eddie Carroll added that the system is too full and there is a danger of having these conversation but not really fixing the problems on the ground. People will be weary of joining this conversation. He also added that we need to focus on the now rather than in the far future

The chair added that 2030 is not very far away and that is why the framing of the questions if very important.

  • Sharon pointed out that the budgets are already really squeezed and the amount that can be spent for school changes is very limited. She also raised that we need to be conscious that we are living at challenging times, with the climate emergency and poverty rising
  • Gill Stewart added that we needed to look at emerging trends, link it to our vision for the future of scottish education and plan how we take it forward. It is important to look at the range of ways of engaging and reaching out to different communities to ensure that we have an inclusive and comprehensible approach that reaches all groups. She agreed with the benefits outlined in the paper supported the inclusivity of this approach and how it will feed into other strands of the work
  • Andrea raised that we need to set the scope and ask specific questions about what values people would like to see in our education system. She also pointed that we should not be disingenuous and suggest in some way that there is a way to achieve major change without additional financial resources. Andrea said it is key that we bring differences of opinion and we think about the audiences we are trying to attract, having ethnic and culture considerations. There should be consensus on what areas are of conflict and how we resolve them. There is also a question about timing and contingencies in place if COVID disruptions were to happen again. It is also key that we identify people who need to be part of this conversation and if they have time to articulate their thinking in a meaningful way. CAB can provide input to frame these questions to ensure we are hitting all relevant themes

The chair noted the point of being clear of what is and what is not on the table for this discussion. Liza thanked CAB members for their comments and added that the Scottish Government will take the comments on board and look at how CAB can be part of this conversation by setting up a working group that can feed into the discussion.

The chair thanked Liza and closed the discussion.

Oral update on the structural reform

The chair introduced the next agenda item and asked Liza McLean (Scottish Government) to provide an overview on the item.

Liza updated the group on the work that has been underway to set up the structural reform programme. The appropriate governance bodies are being put in place and the framework is being developed alongside the approach.

She highlighted that there will be a programme board as well as a stakeholder advisory board in which organisations represented on the CAB will have an interest and role in.

Liza added that the aim is to operate in an open and transparent way. This means that all information will be published online and available to everyone.

Liza confirmed that the work is moving into the mobilisation stage to gather views on the functioning and operation of the new bodies, but clearly there is still a lot of work to be done on the underpinnings needed on establishing new bodies, including legislation.

The aim is to have a target operating model by the end of 2022, with the new bodies established in mid-2024. The timing might seem too distant, but it is not given the scale of the work that is being done.

The Chair thanked Liza and moved on to the next item on the agenda.

Oral update on Professor Hayward’s work

The chair introduced the next agenda item and asked Professor Louise Hayward to provide an overview on the item.

Louise updated the group on the work that has been taking place on the review of assessment and qualifications. She placed an emphasis on looking at where we are now and where we would like to be in order to make sure that every young person is well served by our education system. Louise also highlighted the need to recognise the context of the past two years and how it has put an incredible amount of pressure in the system.

The review will seek to involve more people and place learners at the very heart of the work. The group is drawing on three broad key areas: 1) those for whom qualifications matter most, that is learners, parents or carers; 2) those who are involved in design, development and delivery of qualifications; and 3) those who use qualifications, colleges, employers, universities. All these groups are essential if we want qualifications to serve the purpose we want them to serve.

There are a number of people who will be able to help with the challenge of alignment of qualifications with the ideas of CfE. Professor Hayward confirmed it will be important to ensure that Gordon Stobbart’s report ideas are part of this and that the processes of change and experiences and ideas of equity are also present in the process of change.

Louise added that the senior phase includes schools and colleges. She highlighted that if we are aiming to make a cultural change, the group needs to represent communities rather than organisations on their own, to focus on the development of recommendations that will serve society and individuals. The group will collaborate with people from their own sphere to engage a wider range of voices ensuring those who are not usually heard are part of the conversation.

Louise also shared with the group that at this time the work was about developing the vision, what they were trying to do, and its principles, but also how this would look like if the vision was realised. She added that the review team are taking in views and comments in order to reflect on these and generate options of how all will look like in practice.

From this work the group will develop a draft report and then will test these ideas with people. It is key that this is a continuing conversation throughout the process. Louise also highlighted that the national conversation needs to be linked up with this and there needs to be a compelling and coherent story of how the two workstreams come together.

Louise pointed out that the vision and principles have been set with Children’s Parliament and SYP and introduced their representative, Chelsey Clay who talked the group through the work they have conducted.

Chelsey explained the approach that they have taken to put together the vision and principles. She added that they have taken into account what young people have been raising over the last two years, gathering views from both those who are now going into exams and those who have left the system. She pointed out that the main points being risen were about flexibility and what achievement meant.

Chelsey added that they wanted to better understand what are young people looking for in their education and what achievement looks like across the board. There are four key areas for the principles:

  • qualifications should be inclusive in design and development and it should involve the 3 groups that have been mentioned above. Particularly those with different needs from the education system. Curriculum, assessment and qualifications should be in alignment and they should reflect the skills that are needed to be an adult in society
  • qualifications should recognise the achievements of every learner. It should also recognise changes in society and challenges such as climate change and how the system is changing and adapting in a post-pandemic world. It is important that we understand that learners’ needs and goals have changed and we need to incorporate these into the education system
  • lifelong learning is important, as learning does not stop when you leave school, you need to be able to have experiences within your education setting that encourage this
  • assessment should be flexible and there should be different ways to contribute to recognition. There are also many different ways to capture different capabilities and this should be implemented within the system. Not everyone fits within the same mould as learner and assessment should represent the diversity of learners and what young people want

The initial principles incorporate feedback from learners with whom the Youth Parliament has been engaging. Louise added that they will be likely to bring the finalised principles to the next meeting so the CAB can comment on them.

The chair added that there is work being done in schools on the use of different methodologies to measure outcomes.

NIF consultation on data and key measures – CAB 19 (03)

The chair introduced the next agenda item and asked Kit Wyeth (Scottish Government) to provide an update of item CAB-19 (03).

Kit presented the paper and sought views from members on the questions set out in the consultation paper and the engagement process with stakeholders.

The Chair thanked Kit and opened the discussion. The following points were made by CAB members:

  • Aileen Ponton commented on the mention to wider achievement on page 5. She highlighted that we need to be mindful of what is on Insight and what is not, as there are qualifications/achievements that are neither on SCQF nor on Insight. This is a conversation that SCQF will be happy to pick up with relevant colleagues. Neville Prentice commented on question 6 to highlight that Scotland annual participation measure could be improved to review performance over a longer period of time. He added that it was important to look at continuity of status, potentially linking in to the education and skills impact framework(ESIF) work. Neville offered kit a more detailed discussion with SDS on this subject
  • Louise supported both Neville and Aileen comments. She added that we need to be careful so that the measures we implement do not have unintended consequences. Louise asked how can we anticipate these unintended consequences. Kit replied that there is no answer yet, but that when we initially consulted on the measures there was a clear steer for these to be wide and there is no doubt that the risk exists. Louise added that those involved in the practice will be able to spot these risks and those gathering the data will be able to find them. She concluded that it is important we are mindful of what can go wrong and how to implement mitigations
  • Gill also agreed. She added that while a wider basket of measures can be helpful for accessibility for other groups, it can also be more challenging, so it is important to find the right balance so there can be more diversity of pathways

The Chair thanked members and moved on to the next agenda item.

Skills development scotland – careers review – recommendations on phase 1

The Chair introduced the next agenda item and asked James Russell and Ken Edwards (Skills Development Scotland) to provide an update on item CAB-19 (04).

James provided a summary of the work on phase 1 of the careers review, which has been looking at all the aspects of the education ecosystem to look at how children and young people are supported to make decisions on their career as part of their education.

James added that a key aspect was the drivers for change recognising the context of the pandemic and how these have affected people in their life, with multiple career choices or having to reskill. He acknowledged that the education reform was a good opportunity for this change and to take these considerations forward.

James highlighted that this was a good opportunity to bring the change together, focus on equity and inclusion and bring alignment and coherence within education, economy and society. He added that one of the key themes in the review was the inconsistencies about experiences of transition from education into the world of work.

James pointed out that we have a good system that is recognised internationally, and that the partnership between education and employers are good, but we need to bring the ecosystem together. However, he also raised that career education is not embedded systematically in all settings, and that there are no resources in place to provide this. He highlighted that alignment through the system is necessary if we want to provide equal access.

James then provided an update on phase 2, which will be the operationalisation of these recommendations. The implementation plan has now been submitted to Scottish Government, putting an emphasis on the need for career education at all levels, and consistent work and integrated learning in the curriculum.

The chair thanked James and opened up the floor for discussion:

  • Tony McDaid pointed that Scotland has an excellent offer of careers, but questioned how do we ensure that we are delivering what young people need and how do we bring consistency to the system
  • Gill agreed with Tony and added that we need to think about building on the system we have. There has been progress in diversifying pathways, and this is why career education is important, to help young people make well informed choices
  • Louise agreed with Tony and Gill’s comments and offered collaboration to place this within the broader context of her work on qualifications and assessment
  • Aileen highlighted that it is evident that young people are keen and interested in understanding what their skills profile and qualifications look like
  • James concluded that there is a huge opportunity to further understand how we can change the understanding about careers and bring together the education ecosystem around the recommendations of the review

The chair thanked James for the presentation and members for their contributions and moved on to the next agenda item.

Any other business

The chair pointed out that this is the final meeting of this session, and meetings will resume by September 2022. The chair asked for some indication from members on whether there is an appetite for moving to in-person/hybrid meetings for the next session.

Members were keen for the possibility of meeting in-person and it was agreed that the Secretariat will explore possible venues for the September meeting.

The chair thanked CAB members for their contributions and closed the meeting.

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