Education Bill: consultation analysis

The independent analysis by Wellside of responses to the consultation on the Education (Scotland) Bill, commissioned by the Scottish Government.

1. Introduction


The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published its report on Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future June 2021. This recommended the creation of a new specialist agency responsible for curriculum and assessment and to consider refreshing the remit of an inspectorate of education. Professor Ken Muir CBE was then appointed by the Scottish Government as an Independent Advisor on Education Reform to provide independent and impartial advice around the proposed changes. His report, Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education, was published in March 2022.

The Scottish Government’s response to the Muir report accepted all recommendations in relation to the qualifications body in full, and accepted the recommendation to establish a new inspectorate to be underpinned by legislation in principle.

Significant work has been done to explore options for progressing these recommendations, including:

Building upon the above work, and being mindful of the recommendations in the Hayward and Withers reports, the Scottish Government conducted further public and stakeholder consultation to inform the development of an Education Bill. This aims to set the legislative framework to replace the SQA and remove the inspection function from Education Scotland, thus creating two new organisations.

The Public Consultation

The consultation was open for six weeks, running from 7 November to 18 December 2023. Nine online events were also conducted to gather feedback.

The consultation asked 12 questions, three of which included a closed (agree/ disagree) element and space for qualitative feedback, while the other nine questions sought qualitative comments only.

The consultation paper was split into two sections. The first sought to explore the creation of a new qualifications body (NQB), proposed to be established as a non-departmental public body (NDPB). The second section focused on separating the inspection function from Education Scotland to create a new inspectorate.

Response Rate and Profile

In total, 386 substantive responses were received and were included within the analysis. This included 327 responses submitted via Citizen Space (the Scottish Government’s online public consultation portal), 54 responses submitted via email, and five responses which represented collated returns (i.e. where more than one response was received from the same respondent and combined into one composite response). One blank response was also received and screened out of the analysis process.

Of the 386 responses, 234 were provided by individuals and 152 represented organisations. Organisational responses were broken down by sector as shown in the table below.

Number Percent
School/Early Years 28 18%
Third Sector 28 18%
Local Authority 27 18%
Trade Union/Professional Representative Body 22 15%
National Agency/Public Body 15 10%
Post-School Sector/College/University 14 9%
Representing parents/carers and/or children and young people 9 6%
Awarding Body 4 3%
Industry and Private Sector 2 1%
Other 2 1%
Not Disclosed 1 1%
Total 152 100%

The above represents the number of responses received; however, the number of people who contributed feedback was higher. A few organisations noted that they had engaged with staff, their membership, young people, parents/carers, or other groups that they represented to develop their response. This included one organisation that had conducted a survey of 169 parents/carers, as well as other organisations which had utilised focus groups, meetings and other engagement methods to gather views.

As noted above, nine online consultation events were also held (facilitated by the Scottish Government) to discuss the proposals and obtain feedback. These included events with Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), Community Learning and Development (CLD), two sessions with teacher professional associations, and four public sessions. Just under 1,000 people attended these online sessions, with summary write-ups and copies of the ‘chat’ facility transcripts (where available) included in the analysis.


All responses (including written responses and event summaries) were downloaded and collated into an Excel database for analysis. Responses were read and iterative thematic analysis used to identify and extract the key issues and recurring themes from the data. Comparative analysis was also conducted to identify the level of consistency and any differences in feedback by respondent typology (i.e. between individuals and organisations, and between organisational sector).

Caveats and Reporting Conventions

It should be noted that some respondents indicated either a lack of information in the consultation document to allow them to provide informed responses, or expressed difficulty in interpreting information/terminology. Some of the questions asked were also perceived to be very broad, and to not specifically link back to the proposals being made or the options outlined at each section of the consultation. As a result, many of the responses discussed a wide range of issues, some of which were not always directly relevant to the proposals. It also meant that there was often no clear indication regarding preferences between proposed options that had been set out. There was also some repetition between responses given at different questions, and instances of respondents including information at one question which was more relevant to later questions. In this latter case, the report tries, as far as possible, to include consideration of feedback at the relevant question/section.

Another key issue was that, at a number of questions, the consultation paper sought feedback on legislative issues and options which either required or did not require legislation. However, many of the responses focused on the subject matter more generally, discussed more practical implementation or operation of functions, or outlined the pros and cons of each option, without indicating a preference for adopting legislation or not. The report highlights both the issues related to legislation preferences where available, and outlines the range of other issues discussed, but it should be noted that it was often very difficult to identify any overall preferred approach.

While no campaign responses were received as part of this consultation, there was some evidence of limited co-ordination of responses, particularly between a few local authorities, and between trade union/professional representative bodies and other organisations/individuals. It was not clear which responses were the ‘originals’ but there was evidence of responses at individual questions having been adopted by others. The impact of this on the analysis and findings, however, was negligible given the small scale of co-ordination and the range of views expressed - typically the issues highlighted in these co-ordinated responses were also discussed by others and so merited inclusion in the report, regardless of the co-ordination between a few respondents.

It was possible for respondents to participate in the consultation in multiple ways, i.e. submitting a consultation response, either via the online portal or directly via email, and attending an event. In such cases, all input has been considered and included here for completeness, but this should be borne in mind when considering the results as there might be some duplication in views offered by people who contributed using more than one method.

While the events adopted a broader approach and facilitated more open discussion which did not follow the set consultation questions, they tended to identify many of the same issues as the written responses. Therefore, the findings from both strands have been collated and presented together in the relevant sections below.

Where individual respondents offered views that differed from those submitted by organisations, or where views differed between the different organisational sectors, this is identified and outlined in the narrative of the report. However, it should be noted that there was much overlap in the views between respondent types.

Finally, the findings here reflect only the views of those who chose to respond to this consultation. It should be noted that respondents to a consultation are a self-selecting group. The findings should not, therefore, be considered as representative of the views of the wider population.

Remainder of this Report

Chapters 2 and 3 below set out the findings in relation to the proposals for the new qualifications body and the new inspectorate respectively. These chapters present the results as they relate to each consultation question. A significant volume of additional comments, often related to more operational elements of the new organisations or of the delivery of qualifications, assessments and the inspection process, were also provided across responses. This information is included at Chapter 4 and is presented by theme rather than by consultation question in order to avoid repetition. The final chapter sets out recurring comments that were repeated across the consultation questions, and outlines next steps for progressing the Education Bill.



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