Curriculum and Assessment Board minutes: September 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, held on 2 September 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Members and substitutes:

  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Peter McNaughton, Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
  • Jim Metcalfe, College Development Network
  • Ken Thomson, Colleges Scotland
  • Robert Hynd, Community Learning and Development Managers 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 (Co-Chair)
  • Ollie Bray, Education Scotland
  • Joan McKay, Education Scotland
  • Kathryn O ’Loan, Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • Tara Lillis, NASUWT
  • Fiona Nicholson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • David Barnett, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • John Edward, Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Aileen Ponton, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership (SCQF)
  • Graeme Logan, Scottish Government (Co-Chair)
  • Malcolm Pentland, Scottish Government
  • Linda Pooley, Scottish Government 
  • John Guidi, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Brian Green, Universities Scotland
  • Mark Priestley, University of Stirling     


  • Craig Flunkert, Scottish Government 
  • Chris McCord, Scottish Government
  • Ellen Willis, Scottish Government 


  • Richard Bell, NASWUT
  • Sheena Devlin, Regional Improvement Collaboratives     
  • Hazel Bartels, Scottish Government
  • Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association SSTA.
  • Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Neville Prentice, Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed board members to the 16th meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board and apologies were noted as above.  

Minute and actions arising from the last meeting

The minute and action from the board’s last meeting on 3 June 2021 were introduced.

Craig Flunkert provided a short update on actions from the previous meeting. 

No comments were offered in relation to the minute of the Board’s 3 June 2021 meeting and the minute was agreed.

Implementing ‘Scotland’s Curriculum: Into the Future’ (the OECD’s review of Curriculum for Excellence) workshop session – paper CAB-16(01)

The Chair introduced the agenda item and asked Malcolm Pentland (Scottish Government) to provide an overview of paper CAB- 16(01). CAB members then split into breakout groups to discuss the implementation of the OECD review. 

Summary of break out group discussion

Group 1: 

  • Mark Priestley, University of Stirling 
  • Ken Thomson, Colleges Scotland
  • Jane Brumpton, Early Years Scotland
  • Fiona Nicholson, National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Steven Quinn, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Robert Hynd, Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • Joan McKay, Education Scotland
  • Professor Ken Muir

This group considered the following OECD recommendations: 

  • R1.1 Re-assess CfE’s aspirational vision against emerging trends in education
  • R2.3 Structure a coherent communication strategy to support developments of CfE
  • R2.1 Ensure stable, purposeful and impactful stakeholder involvement with CfE
  • R4.1 Lead the next steps for Curriculum for Excellence with a long-term view

The following points were raised: 

  • CfE is 3-18; it’s important to reflect the whole learner journey and the whole education system, not simply the schools aspect
  • the refreshed narrative is an important aspect going forward. It is important to note that the purpose of the Refreshed Narrative as developed in 2019 was to clarify and simplify. There may be further mileage still to be exploited from that work
  • the refreshed narrative did a good job but it had a limited remit. The OECD implementation provides an opportunity to go further on that road and to ask if the Es and Os still the best supporting framework
  • the OECD paper contains a great deal of jargon and there is risk that any implementation plan reinforces this. We need to avoid that risk
  • there is enthusiasm from the profession and from officials to ensure that we take forward a joint plan in language that we all understand 
  • it is essential we take a long view on OECD implementation and that the profession are supportive of further change
  • we need to be realistic about what can change and how long it can take to achieve that change
  • the implementation plan needs to have both mid-term and long-term goals

Group 2:

  • Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow
  • Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority 
  • Jim Metcalfe, College Development Network
  • Aileen Ponton, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership
  • Diane Greenlees, Skills Development Scotland
  • Brian Green, Universities Scotland
  • Peter McNaughton, ADES 
  • Andrea Bradley, Educational Institute of Scotland
  • John Edward, Scottish Council for Independent Schools 
  • Graeme Logan, Scottish Government 

This group considered the following OECD recommendations: 

  • recommendation 1.2. Find a better balance between breadth and depth of learning throughout CfE to deliver Scotland’s commitment to providing all learners with a rich learning experience throughout school education: Scotland could consider how the design of CfE can better help learners consolidate a common base of knowledge, skills and attitudes by the end of BGE, and nurture and hone this base for them to progress seamlessly through senior phase and the choices its offers
  • recommendation 1.3. Adapt the Senior Phase to match the vision of CfE Scotland could consider adapting the pedagogical and assessment practices and the structure of learning pathways in the Senior Phase to enhance learners’ experience of upper-secondary education and help them develop CfE’s four capacities continuously
  • recommendation 3.3. Align qualifications, system evaluation and curriculum to deliver on the commitment of Building the Curriculum 5. Scotland could first identify modes of student assessment that could be used in school and external settings at Senior Phase levels, in alignment with the four capacities and CfE philosophy; and second, re-develop a sample-based evaluation system to collect robust and reliable data necessary to support curriculum reviews and decision making

The following points were raised: 

  • the current wording in the draft pan around learners taking control does not reflect partnership approach. It needs to be in collaboration with teachers, parents and others. 

How should we proceed to implement these recommendations and monitor their delivery?

  • experiences and outcomes in the senior phase are very different to Es and Os in the Broad General Education; our implementation activity needs to address this issue
  • employers want problem solvers, young people who can collaborate and take risks, and the implementation plan should very clearly support this goal
  • it is important to be clear from the outset as to whether we wish to respond to the OECD in a minimal way or address longer term issues
  • implementation should tackle important issues such as whether the senior phase should be a subject based approach or with greater focus on the 4 capacities with a leaving certificate?
  • it will be important to tackle the question of moving to a wider qualification with more work based learning skills and qualifications 
  • the focus in the current draft of the plan is more on what rather than how we are responding to recommendations. We need to consider and address the “how” and we need a system wide response
  • in relation to young people gaining appropriate breadth and depth in their learning, we need to develop a shared appreciation of what is deemed as appropriate
  • there is lot of work across agencies already, and a great many strengths, which mean that we have a good starting point
  • in relation to Senior Phase, we must be mindful that in parallel there is a Scottish Funding Council Review

What work is already underway or has been on hold (due to Covid) that may contribute to these recommendations?

  • we need to be clear that there is a great deal of reform already going on in the sector; for example, the later CAB paper on School College partnership report provides good examples of where schools are working with colleges 
  • CAB were previously working to promote the refreshed narrative for CfE which was paused due to Covid. This should be revisited

What can your individual organisation contribute as way of action under each of the recommendations, either in the short, medium or long term?

  • it is perhaps too early to ask the question about how we can help because we don't quite know the “how” yet.  Professional associations can support in capturing the voice of the profession which should be strong within this reform process
  • it will be important to factor in the recommendations from the Careers Review
  • it is important to reflect the fact that Skills Development Scotland are working with Scottish Qualifications Authority and others around work based qualifications and how to embed meta skills across curriculum
  • it will be important to engage with the Council of Deans, who could help to translate the implications for the teacher workforce
  • some of the story of reform could be about local curriculum design. There are many different types of qualifications already available which could be used to continue the development of the 4 capacities for young people.
  • a further example of current/ongoing work is that SCQF are working with over 140 schools to create wider pathways and share experiences across schools
  • an important strategic decision is: do we have local curriculum design or a more comprehensive overhaul? 

Group 3:

  • Tony McDaid, Regional Improvement Collaboratives (TM)
  • Matthew Sweeney, COSLA (MS)
  • David Barnett, SLS (DB)
  • Tara Lillis, NASUWT (TL)
  • John Guidi, Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (JG)
  • Greg Dempster, AHDS (GD)
  • Kathryn O’Loan, Scottish Funding Council (KO)
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland (GG)
  • Ollie Bray, Education Scotland (OB)

This group considered the following OECD recommendations:

  • R1.4 Continue building curricular capacity at various levels of the system using research
  • R2.2 Revise the division of responsibilities for CfE
  • R3.1 Provide dedicated time to lead, plan and support CfE at the school level
  • R3.2 Simplify policies and institutions for clarity and coherence

The following points were raised:

  • the current draft response to recommendations 3.1 is solely looked at through the lens of a classroom teacher; it needs to look at leaders as well
  • it’s important for the OECD next steps plan to be aware of broader work (e.g. Audit Scotland Report, International Council of Education Advisers) 
  • the plan needs to understand and articular what the outcomes mean in practice
  • there are a number of wider documents that should be on our radar. During the last 12 months some items of work have moved out of focus due to Covid i.e. Learner Journey. There are further developments on the horizon that need to be considered, e.g. the work on land-based qualifications needs to inform the broader qualifications debate
  • the objectives around ensuring adequate time to the profession is fundamental. Teachers in Scotland have more call on their time than in other countries, both in terms of class contact time and implementing CfE
  • it is welcome that the plan is teacher focused rather than top down. We should look at the class teacher for where learning takes place; central to our thinking should be how we resource teachers and leaders
  • we fully endorse how we create more time. In relation to the commitment on additional 1.5 hours, Scottish Government looked at this before OECD, maybe something to be looked at again but we need to ask, is this enough?
  • one of the main concerns around implementation is workload and time constraints of teachers
  • we had moderation with the alternative certification model, and arguably, it was bureaucratic and excessive, micro management
  • it will be important to ensure cohesion across the recommendations and also sequencing of the plan. We need to consider what actions should be prioritised early
  • it is important that the plan covers early learning and tertiary education. The current draft focuses very much on schools when there is an Early Learning and Childcare and tertiary education aspect
  • we need to take the opportunity of this plan to look at models of international good practice. This is a once in a life time opportunity for Scottish education
  • teacher education is incredibly important but mentions of it in the OECD report are fairly infrequent
  • it is important to be aware of the current Scottish Funding Council review which is looking at creating a framework for quality, improvement and enhancement
  • local government funding and budgets are contributing to system impacts at the moment 
  • if we’re serious about system-wide change there needs to be a discussion about adequate resources to bring about that change, for example potentially increasing staffing to allow non-contact time for teachers
  • the empowerment agenda is important. There is a focus on “school” empowerment we need to talk about teacher empowerment and teacher agency as well as accountability
  • there needs to be effective channels of communication between SQA and ES and linked to profession more widely
  • the Regional Improvement Collaboratives were envisaged as a way to support class teachers directly, but whether or not that is happening is questionable. (It was noted that a review of RICs is due to be published in October)

Plenary discussion

The Chair invited comments from each group once they returned from their breakout group. 

The Chair acknowledged contributions from attendees and made the following summary points:

  • there was broad agreement on the need to articulate the vision about where we want to go
  • sequencing of events in the OECD next steps plan is important and should be clear
  • there will be a need for the next steps plan to be jargon free
  • it will be important to reflect the experiences and perspectives of children and young people
  • a key priority for the next phase of reform will be to improve teacher ownership and provide appropriate time and resources

The Chair thanked attendees for their contributions to the discussions undertaken in groups.

Role and remit of the CAB – paper CAB-16(02)

The Chair introduced the next agenda item and ask Craig Flunkert (Scottish Government) to give the group background on the paper.

The Chair opened discussion for attendees and the following points and questions were offered:

  • the Scottish Education Councils’ bandwidth is not sufficiently wide to cover the detail of this area (i.e OECD implementation and curriculum reform)
  • there was general agreement on the question of whether the CAB should take on the responsibility for overseeing the package of reform arising from the OECD report; however it was noted that its remit can extend further
  • a key question is: “where in our system does the future of qualifications and how does this feed into the system.” It was noted that the CAB could be central to those discussions
  • it was noted that CAB generally is not a decision making body, but it does provide a forum for discussion and it can formulate recommendations to Ministers
  • some CAB members asked for greater clarity on the process after CAB makes a recommendation to Ministers. They stated that the CAB have effective discussions, but there can be frustration in what is then received by Ministers by way of advice
  • there was general agreement on the need for even greater clarity on the role of CAB, and the potential to rework this role in a collaborative way

The Chair thanked everyone for their contribution and brought the discussion to a close.

Update from Professor Ken Muir on the work on reform of SQA and Education Scotland

The Chair introduced the agenda item and asked Professor Ken Muir to update the group on his work to consider reform of SQA and Education Scotland. 

Professor Muir gave a brief introduction on his work and took the group through his presentation. He asked members if they had any other stakeholders that they feel he should be meeting with to contact

The Chair thanked KM for the presentation and the following comments were noted: 

  • it was noted that the consultation is vast piece of work in a challenging timescale
  • the Board noted that Professor Muir is trying to engage as much as possible, and that they should get in touch if they feel there is another group that Professor Muir should be meeting with

The Chair thanked attendees for views and comments. 

“Co-Creating the Learner Journey” school college partnership report – paper CAB-16(03)

The chair introduced the final agenda item and asked Ken Thomson to give background to the School College Partnership.  The following discussion points were raised by members:

  • the foreword by Minister gives the report important substance
  • it was welcome to see a whole system approach, and the principle of no one left behind
  • the report can help to raise the profile of tertiary education (it was noted that early learning and childcare and tertiary are not mentioned in the OECD report)
  • it was noted that work with colleagues in Advanced Learning and Science is ongoing, with the aim to pick up the pace on learner journey
  • it will be important to improve the visibility of report, reinforcing the fact that so many young people are really engaging with colleges and also with apprenticeships
  • one board member welcomed in particular recommendation 7 about some practical difficulties, however they noted that the aim of recommendation will not happen on its own, and is likely to need funding
  • it was noted that overall, it is a coherent report and that there are a great many points in the report that align with the OECD report

The Chair asked attendees if they approved the report. The board gave full support to the report and its recommendations.

Any other business (AOB)


Meeting concludes


No actions.

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