Scotland's post-school education, research and skills ecosystem sits at a crossroads. In terms of educational outcomes, quality of research, growth in apprenticeships and globally recognised institutions – we have a strong story to tell. Yet we know that a confluence of social and economic factors such as an ageing workforce, globalisation, the climate emergency, financial pressures, pace of technological change and pandemic response are challenging both the expectations of learners and employers and the traditional assumptions, structures and modes of delivery for skills, education and research.
These drivers mean that we must now reimagine and reform our post-school education, skills and research landscape to deliver for learners, employers and for Scotland as a whole. The Purpose and Principles for post-school education, research and skills fulfils this need setting out a long term aim and strategic policy narrative for the ecosystem to meet its future challenges. It will form the decision making framework on which future reform of this ecosystem is based.
Engagement is ongoing around an interim version of the Purpose and Principles published in December 2022. This interim version articulates the need to provide more flexible opportunities for more people to access the right learning at the right time, to attract and retain talent, and to support the teaching and research base in its own right as well as in its role as an international asset. It also sets out that there needs to be collective responsibility to ensure that people have the skills they need at critical points throughout their lives and that employers invest in the skilled employees they need to grow their businesses. A final version will be published in Spring 2023 accompanied by supporting documents on engagement, evidence, outcomes, and impact assessments.
In developing the Purpose and Principles the Scottish Government is mindful of the three needs of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) - eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not, and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Where any negative impacts have been identified, we have sought to mitigate/eliminate these. We are also mindful that the Equality Duty is not just about negating or mitigating negative impacts, as we also have a positive duty to promote equality.
This is a draft document which we are publishing to be open and transparent about the barriers and enablers we are finding. The final EQIA will include further information about how the implementation of the Purpose and Principles will help tackle barriers and encourage enablers in the system. At this stage we wish to be confident that we are understanding the system as it presents for people with protected characteristics and their intersectionalities. We welcome any further comments on this by 30th May 2023 to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Purpose and Principles contributes to a range of National Outcomes both directly and indirectly.
Primary National Outcomes links
- Education: We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society
- Economy: We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy
- Children and Young People: We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
- International: We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally
- Fair Work and Business: We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone
Secondary National Outcomes links
- Communities: We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe
- Culture: We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely
- Environment: We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment
- Health: We are healthy and active
- Human Rights: We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination
- Poverty: We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally
As part of developing the Purpose and Principles, we are setting outcomes for each principle to help define success and the metrics we will use to measure progress towards it. The development of outcomes is based on logic models which have been build through engagement with stakeholders. These will continue to be refined.
Who will it affect?
The Scottish Government believes that the Purpose and Principles, which we will publish in Spring 2023, must guide our decision making in the face of a challenging set of imperatives for reform. The Purpose and Principles, along with the implementation plan, provide a vehicle to drive reform in the post school ecosystem as part of a wider education reform programme. The Purpose and Principles will change the post-school ecosystem and will have an impact on people who are no longer in compulsory education now and in the future. It will also affect people working in or connected to the different public, private or third sector organisations and businesses within the ecosystem.
This strategy will impact on people throughout Scotland with one or more of the protected characteristics directly and indirectly, through their participation in the post-school education, research and skills ecosystem as part of their lifelong learning journey or through paid or community-based work.
What might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved?
Lack of Collaboration
The development of the Purpose and Principles is taking place within a complex and rapidly changing national and international context. Policy development relies on successful joint working and collaboration with a range of stakeholders including learners, employers of all shapes and sizes from the public and private sector and parts of the economy and wider society who benefit most directly from the current ecosystems as well as the staff and leaders of the agencies, non-departmental public bodies and institutions who are responsible for delivery. The current engagement programme has secured interest and willingness to understand the issues, barriers and potential solutions. Continued collaboration will be critical as we jointly seek to implement the Purpose and Principles.
Lack of Coherence
The learner journey needs to make sense from a learner's perspective, helping them to fulfil their potential. There is a wider education reform programme underway including a National Discussion on Education, a Qualifications and Assessment Review and a Skills Delivery Landscape Review. Lack of transparency and collaboration across these reviews, understanding the full breadth of a learner journey, could lead to diverging policy direction. The Purpose and Principles should also coherently link to the National Strategy for Economic Transformation so that public investment in work-focussed education and skills development is aligned to economic priorities providing solid careers and transferrable skills across the foundational, tradeable and global economy. Careful monitoring of existing and new programmes as they are developed and implemented will be essential to the development of the Purpose and Principles.
The development of the Purpose and Principles will form a decision making framework for future reform. The Purpose and Principles will be accompanied by an implementation plan detailing strategic action. The implications of the Principles and the implementation plan along with current financial imperatives may impact on the structure of the ecosystem including on the opportunities available to learners and the staff working in the ecosystem.
Screening of actions from the implementation plan will be assessed and impact assessments will be undertaken where required to ensure that negative impacts are minimised, and equality is fostered as the policy develops.
Data and Understanding
Data collection and sharing across the system is fragmented. Quality, availability and comparability is variable making the establishment of a shared evidence base and robust understanding of outcomes and impacts challenging. This includes data on some protected characteristics. The evidence gathering process for the EQIA has highlighted some gaps in key areas – for example, understanding outcomes of different learner journeys, data that allows robust comparison of delivery and outcomes across the ecosystem, and incomplete intersectional protected characteristics data. As future specific policy decisions arise from the Purpose and Principles, data collection and /or reporting on current and new programmes will be improved such that we can assess the impact of our efforts to target specific groups who face barriers or discrimination to the ecosystem and promote equality. This draft version of the EQIA provides further opportunities for external stakeholders to provide relevant evidence and insights to inform any data gaps within the draft EQIA.
We recognise the importance of capturing intersectionality by which we mean:
- A recognition that people are shaped by simultaneous membership of multiple interconnected social categories.
- The interaction between multiple social categories occurs within a context of connected systems and structures of power (e.g. laws, policies, governments). A recognition of inequality of power is key to intersectionality.
- Structural inequalities, reflected as relative disadvantage and privilege, are the outcome of interconnected social categories, power relations and contexts.
We aim to recognise this through three aspects of our work. First, we will seek to recognise our experiences and power dynamics as policy makers in shaping this work and subsequent reform. Second, we will use data to understand existing structural inequalities. For example, there is often insufficient data across the range of intersectionality of protected characteristics, however, we do know that some groups of people experience additional challenges, for example young disabled people are less likely to have good employment outcomes; men from 'White' ethnic groupings who live in disadvantaged areas are less likely to achieve positive destinations and attainment, similarly women from a minority ethnic background who have a learning difficulty are doubly disadvantaged. Finally, we will recognise intersectionality by ensuring that we seek and hear the data and voices of people with intersectional lived experience such that it positively influences policy making and system design.
This write-up of the EQIA follows the standard template which asks for responses based on individual protected characteristics. Intersectional issues have been identified where data is known but the above approaches will ensure that we build intersectionality into our policy development. As the subsequent equality impact assessments for individual reform action are developed, further evidence gathering may be required to identify how the policies and interventions being designed can address any intersectional barriers faced by people in fulfilling their skills potential.
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