Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: September 2020

Minutes, agenda and supporting papers from the thirteen meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, held on 9 September 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Members and Substitutes

Peter McNaughton, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
Tim Wallace, Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
Jim Metcalfe, College Development Network
Ken Thomson, Colleges Scotland
Matthew Sweeney, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA)
Jane Brumpton, Early Years Scotland
Andrea Bradley, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland 
Alan Armstrong, Education Scotland
Mike Corbett, NASUWT
Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
Mhairi Shaw, Regional Improvement Collaboratives
David Barnett, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
John Edward, Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)
Aileen Ponton, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership (SCQF)
Dee Bird, Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
Graeme Logan, Scottish Government 
Jonathan Sewell, Scottish Government
Linda Pooley, Scottish Government 
Malcolm Pentland, Scottish Government
Hazel Bartels, Scottish Government 
John Guidi, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
James Russell, Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
Aoife Keenan,  Universities Scotland
Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow


Liam Cahill, Scottish Government 
Craig Flunkert, Scottish Government

Additional Attendees

Julie Anderson    Scottish Government
Stuart Downes     Scottish Government
Paul Fleming    Education Scotland
Joan MacKay    Education Scotland


Robert Hynd, Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
Neville Prentice,  Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
Mark Priestley, University of Stirling 
Brian Green, Universities Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed board members to the meeting and apologies were noted as above.  

Minute and actions arising from the last meeting

The minute and actions from the Board’s last meeting on 26 June 2020 were introduced.

The following comments were made in relation to the Board’s June meeting: 

  • it was commented that the wording in paragraph 5.2 of the minute did not accurately reflect discussion. The proposed minute suggests that “contingencies” are in place in relation to the delivery of National Qualifications in 2020/21 but it is more accurate to say that a number of alternative options are being considered. The Chair agreed that the wording of the minute should be changed. 
  • upon reflecting on the Board’s previous assessment discussions, there was an ask if Board members would be able to raise assessment challenges as part of the ongoing CfE review. The Chair alerted attendees to the fact that the review process would be discussed at agenda item 7. 
  • it was commented that it was important that the Board seeks to collectively agree actions that are impactful as possible. 

The minute of the Board’s June 2020 meeting was agreed subject to a change of wording in paragraph 5.2.

Action: The Board’s secretariat to ensure that the minute of CAB’s 26 June 2020 meeting is amended in relation to the discussion on National Qualifications in 2020/21.

Session 2020: schools reopening and the development of curriculum offerings during the education recovery phase

The Chair introduced the agenda item and handed over to Paul Fleming (PF) who provided an overview of the paper. The paper specifically related to the development of curriculum offerings in the context of education recovery and changes to the delivery of learning and teaching since the emergence of the pandemic. 

The Chair invited comments from attendees and the following were offered. 

  • it was acknowledged that the new COVID-19 guidance was necessary but that there was also a need to continuously update it as the pandemic progressed.
  • it will be important to have mechanisms in place to understand how guidance is being received in education establishments. Some attendees felt that there is currently too much guidance and that this could negatively impact on teacher workload. It was also suggested that views of teachers could be collected through the teaching unions while the views of young people could be captured using focus groups. 
  • there was an ask that guidance for the delivery of:
  •  - practical subjects
  •  - blended learning 
  •  - education of learners with additional support needs
  • is developed urgently. In response attendees were informed that guidance for practical subjects was in development. 
  • there was a further ask that any new guidance is less abstract, more practical in nature and more visually engaging. For example, it could be less text heavy and cover effective methods for teaching whilst physical distancing measures are in place. 
  • more thought should be given to how learners having to self-isolate are supported. It was noted that parents had expressed concerns about support for home learning in these circumstances. 
  • some attendees felt that further guidance on the delivery of SQA qualifications and exams for 2021 was also required.
  • other attendees felt that the expectation for delivery of guidance and best practice should not all sit with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland. Local authorities and the Regional Improvement Collaboratives had an important role to play in sharing effective practice. This is important as it supports education empowerment work. 
  • Colleges Scotland stated they did not recognise the ‘reported tensions’ between curriculum offers (including consortia arrangements in the senior phase) and restrictions introduced to reduce virus transmission. It was agreed that they would discuss this perceived challenges further with the Scottish Government and Education Scotland. 
  • there was an ask that education funding for local authorities be looked at to ensure that it is sufficient to deliver the expectations set out in the reopening of schools guidance. In response it was noted that the Scottish Government was in discussions with CoSLA in relation to the cost of new ways of working. 
  • it was noted that while teachers and learners were generally very happy to be back in schools and other settings, evidence of the impact of lockdown was starting to emerge. For example, behaviour could be challenging as learners readapt to a more formal school day. 

The chair summed up discussions and thanked attendees for their contributions.

Improving curriculum design

The Chair introduced the agenda item and handed over to Joan MacKay (JM) who informed attendees that work on the refreshed curriculum narrative had led to work focusing on learner pathways and interdisciplinary learning (IDL). Thought papers on each topic had been co-developed and recently published. 

JM invited attendees to comment on how the Board could make the most of this work and ultimately support the development of more effective learner pathways and interdisciplinary learning (IDL). The following comments were offered.  

  • IDL requires a relatively high degree of planning time to be implemented successfully. Schools, especially secondary schools, can struggle to find this time. 
  • there continues to be a challenge in ensuring that practitioners understand what IDL is.
  • it is important that National Qualifications make time for interdisciplinary learning. It was noted that the Scottish Baccalaureate was an example of what is possible in the senior phase. 
  • it would be advantageous if the thought papers were used as resources to influence learning and teaching. JM confirmed that there are already examples of this happening. 
  • in regard to learner pathways, it was noted that the SCQF Partnership have already provided training on alternative learner pathways. This has included the development of route maps. 

Attendees were thanked for their contributions. In summing up discussion it was agreed that co-design work in relation to both IDL and learner pathways should continue as planned by Education Scotland. This should include an aim to share and upscale effective approaches to learner pathways and to IDL across the system.

Action: Education Scotland to progress co-design work in relation to IDL and learner pathways and share and upscale effective approaches where appropriate. 

SQA Diet 2020 and preparation for the 2021 Diet 

The Chair introduced the agenda item and handed over to Gill Stewart (GS) who provided further background.

GS delivered a presentation which covered responses and findings from SQA’s recent consultation on modifications to the assessment of national qualification in the 2020/21 academic year and to the timetable for diet 2021. It was noted that in addition to the formal consultation, the teacher professional associations and young people had also been approached. 

GS confirmed that consultation responses had influenced next steps and she set out the changes that SQA intended to make. GS also confirmed that a full consultation analysis report would be published in due course.

GS then invited comments from attendees and the following were offered: 

  • SQA’s consultation with the teacher professional associations was welcomed, however there was a feeling that more of the feedback could have been implemented or at least implemented sooner. It was noted that these changes would now take effect after teachers had started to deliver national qualifications. 
  • there was an ask that SQA consult more frequently with groups such as Directors of Education and the teacher professional associations.
  • some attendees expressed a concern in relation to a proposed removal of assignments as this could disadvantage learners who have additional needs and find exams more challenging. 
  • continuous assessment should be considered by the SQA. However, it was noted that this would be a matter for consideration as part of the OECD review about the future of assessment.
  • it was noted that SQA’s changes were set against a context of trying to maintain the integrity of national qualifications. However, some attendees felt that there should be more flexibility given the unprecedented circumstances brought about by the pandemic. For example, the significant changes made to awards in 2020 has already impacted the integrity of national qualifications. Therefore there may be scope to apply flexibility in relation to national qualifications in 2021. 
  • there was an ask that there is a prompt system wide communication relating to the planned changes. 

GS thanked attendees for their views. It was agreed that SQA would implement the proposals for modifications that were supported by teachers and amended proposals in light of feedback received. GS noted that the SQA were aware of frustration in the system and stated that some delays with the process had been caused by a requirement to carry out work on awarding for 2020 and to identify appropriate modification to the courses for 2021 awards at the same time. At all times having to take account of loss of learning, loss of teaching time and current public health advice. GS also informed attendees that there has been challenges in securing teacher input during the summer holidays. GS also stated that ultimately any decision relating to a change to the approach to assessment for the 2021 exam diet rested with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. 

The Chair summed up discussions and noted the Board’s feedback to the SQA in relation to:

•    favoured approaches to assessment in 2021;
•    the timing of changes; and
•    collaboration between SQA and others in the education system.

Action: The SQA to implement proposals for modifications to the assessment of national qualification in the 2020/21 academic year based upon feedback from their related consultation.

LGBTI Benchmarks

The chair introduced the agenda item and handed over the Stuart Downes (SD) who provided further background. SD set out that the Scottish Ministers had accepted all recommendations of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group. In doing so committed to reviewing relevant curriculum benchmarks and experiences and outcomes.  

SD informed attendees that there is a desire for the Scottish Government to set up a short life working group to take forward these recommendations. 

The Chair invited comments from attendees and the following were offered:

  • the establishment of a working group was welcome as was the commitment to develop appropriate and relevant professional learning opportunities.
  • it is important to ensure that all protected characteristics are equally promoted within the curriculum. 
  • it will be important to first look at the benchmarks and experiences and outcomes to see where they currently align with the recommendations of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group. Decisions by CAB to amend curriculum content can be taken after that process.

The Chair thanked attendees for their contributions and committed that the Scottish Government would feed views into the development of this work.

Action: The Scottish Government to consider the views of the CAB when progressing work to implement curriculum relevant recommendations of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group. 

Curriculum for Excellence Review

The Chair introduced the item and handed over to Julie Anderson (JA) who provided further background. JA informed attendees that an evidence base for the review has been provided to the OECD, a Scottish Practitioner Forum has been set up to support the review and a week (28 Sept 2020 – 2 Oct 2020) has been set aside for the review team to speak to education stakeholders operating at a national level. 

It was confirmed that CAB members will be invited to discussions during the week beginning 28 September 2020. It was also confirmed that the review team would consult with learners, practitioners and parents on the week beginning 2 November 2020. 

The review team are also scheduled to visit Scotland in March 2021 with the review published in June 2021. 

JA invited comments and questions from attendees. The following were offered: 

there was an enquiry as to whether stakeholders could submit written evidence to the OECD and in response it was confirmed that the OECD had expressed a preference for evidence to be provided verbally.
SSTA advised that they could conduct a survey of members’ views in relation to National 4 and National 5. JA confirmed that the findings of that survey would be of interest to the review team.

H Any Other Business (AOB)

The chair invited attendees to raise any other business and the following was raised: B

  • attendees were reminded that a paper asking for views on the 2021 National Improvement Framework had been circulated with the meeting papers.
  • the Chair was alerted to the fact that ACER, who provide the Scottish National Standardised Assessments, had been advertising assessment products designed to assess loss of learning following lockdown. This appeared contradictory to the Scottish Government’s SNSA guidance. The Chair confirmed that the Scottish Government was aware of this and were looking into the issue.

The chair thanked attendees for their contributions and reminded them that the next meeting is due to take place on 2 December 2020.

Meeting concludes

Curriculum and Assessment Board Secretariat
Scottish Government 

Paper 2: learner pathways and IDL thought papers
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