Education Bill: consultation analysis

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

5. Recurring Themes and Next Steps

Minority Views

Throughout the consultation a range of views and perspectives were offered, representing the experiences and needs of minority groups. As these were often discussed by just one or two respondents, or discussed very specific issues not within the scope of the set questions, these perspectives have not always been outlined in the above analysis. However, it is important to ensure coverage of these issues, (particularly in the context of closing the attainment gap), which included:

  • Gaelic Medium Education: GME needs to be treated as a full and equitable partner with English language provision throughout education, the development of any new bodies or systems, and the implementation of any changes/reforms. GME should be fully catered for and embedded within the curriculum, assessment processes, across all qualifications, and within the inspection framework and processes;
  • ASN and neurodiverse provision: fully consider education provision and inclusion for learners with additional support needs (of all natures) throughout all proposals, reforms and educational delivery;
  • Hearing impaired and deaf learners: deliver BSL as an education medium (in the same way as GME), and fully consider education provision and inclusion for deaf learners throughout all proposals and reforms;
  • Visual impairments: fully consider education provision and inclusion for blind and visually impaired learners throughout all proposals and reforms;
  • Mental health: include mention and consideration of mental health within the proposals, ensuring the views of those with lived experience are included within any Boards, Committees, forums, inspection and any engagement activities, and incorporate mental health education;
  • LGBT issues: ensure the curriculum and assessments are committed to progressing LGBT inclusive learning;
  • Gender equality: provide consideration of gender equality and issues related to violence against women;
  • Racial equality: provide consideration of equality/equity based on race and ethnic background, throughout course content, assessment, and inspection;
  • Young carers: ensure the impact on young carers is considered, and develop ways to ensure their voices are heard and needs are met;
  • Care experienced learners: adopt a trauma-informed approach throughout, and be cognisant about the lived experience of care experienced young people and the impact this can have on their education - develop an approach which meets the needs of care experienced learners and provides equity;
  • CLD Sector: fully recognise and incorporate the CLD sector into the proposals, in particular, those related to qualifications and the NQB.

It was also stressed in the events and across written responses that additional support measures may be required to engage with hard-to-reach communities, and that agencies need to be pro-active in seeking such views and supporting participation.

Links to Existing Legislation

Several respondents (across both written responses and in events) highlighted the need for the proposals and the Education Bill to explicitly highlight and comply with other associated and relevant legislation, and for the new bodies to be required to operate in complementary and compliant manner. Specific legislation which was mentioned by respondents included:

  • the UNCRC;
  • the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act;
  • the Equality Act;
  • the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), including that any new qualification or inspection bodies are listed for the PSED and Scottish specific duties;
  • legislation related to CLD; and
  • corporate parent legislation.

Other Issues

It was noted by a few respondents (in written responses and events) throughout both the qualifications and inspection sections of the consultation, that positive aspects, staff expertise, good practice and elements which work well within the existing systems and organisations should be retained and transferred to the NQB and new inspectorate.

Also, there were common calls for the Scottish Government to consider resourcing. It was felt the new bodies will only be successful if they are properly funded and resourced, although there were concerns that this could prove challenging in the current economic climate. Similarly, it was felt that resourcing across the educational sector needed to be considered, as schools and professionals would need to be resourced, both to contribute to any governance arrangements of the new bodies/agencies, and to engage with and deliver reform more generally. Likewise, it was felt that pupils and students would need to be resourced, both financially to address any attendance barriers for Board, Committee or Forum membership, and in terms of capacity building and training to allow them to fully participate in any new arrangements and processes.

Similarly, issues related to training, both in terms of ITE and ongoing career long professional learning (CLPL) were raised throughout the consultation. It was felt that new developments in both qualifications and inspections needed to be suitably communicated to the profession, and supported via training provision.

While perhaps not directly the responsibility of either the NQB or the new inspectorate, it was suggested across consultation feedback that there is a need for How Good is Our School (HGIOS 4) to be updated. Respondents (both written and events) felt this was required to make the guidance more relevant to the current post-COVID era, economic situation, and inclusion agenda, and provide greater transparency and consistency in inspections.

Issues with the Consultation

As noted at individual questions, there were recurring issues and calls for clarity in relation to the terminology used across the consultation document. This related to the need for greater detail about what particular terms and phrases meant, as well as who would responsible for developing the scope for certain concepts and setting and assessing success criteria. Greater clarity was also sought around the new organisations, their remits, what powers that would have, and how they would operate in practice. More details also were required in relation to the implications for specific sectors, other existing bodies, and the expected relationship between the new bodies/agencies and others (including the Scottish Government).

Several respondents (across both written responses and the events) felt that the proposals, for both the NQB and the inspectorate, would not address the main issues, both in terms of qualifications and inspections, and across education more generally. In relation to the NQB, it was felt this would largely mirror the current arrangements under the SQA, and therefore did not represent radical change. Respondents suggested the proposals missed the opportunity to change the thinking around, and content of, the system/qualifications/assessments.

Similarly, there were concerns that the proposals maintained the current top-down inspection system and did not tackle the key issues related to the inspection process itself. There was a strong sense that respondents wanted to see inspection adopt a more supportive approach, including fostering collaboration, peer evaluation, provide improvement oriented feedback and post-inspection support, and the removal of the one-word grading structure.

A few respondents also discussed consultation fatigue. It was noted that various previous consultations had dealt with the issues explored here, and there was a desire to see changes being actioned rather than further consultation/discussion.

Finally, a few organisations noted that the time available for the consultation (i.e. six weeks), and its timing (i.e. finishing very close to Christmas) meant it had been difficult for them to consult with the groups they represent. It was also suggested that the timing of the consultation, the complexity of much of the content, and the lack of supporting detail around the proposals would mean there would be little engagement from young people and parents/carers.

Next Steps

The findings from this consultation will be considered alongside other evidence gathered through engagement across the education and skills landscape to influence the final content of the Education Bill. This Bill is expected to be introduced later this Parliamentary year.

1 One organisation noted that the importance of adopting the same model for colleges and universities since it is important for universities that their reviews meet the European Standards and Guidelines on quality in Higher Education and that the review itself is conducted by a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).



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