Education (Scotland) Bill: equality impact assessment

Equality impact assessment (EQIA) for the Education (Reform) Bill.


Policy Aim

The objectives of the Bill are to provide the legal underpinning to support the design and delivery of a national organisational infrastructure for education in Scotland that more effectively supports the system, to deliver the vision for education in Scotland. The intention is to support the right balance of responsibility and autonomy between the different parts of the education system, including national and local government, national education bodies and schools, colleges and other places of learning. It is part of the holistic approach to education reform reflecting a clear expectation that all elements of the education and skills system will work together as one single system that has a collective responsibility to deliver for learners of all ages.

The education and skills reform being taken forward by the Scottish Government aims to reshape the ways in which the Scottish Government supports improvement in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and achieve improved outcomes and experiences for pupils and students in every setting.

Feedback from the recent reviews and consultations undertaken by the Scottish Government, set out later in this assessment, showed that Scotland’s national education organisations are not always close enough to pupils and students. Reform provides an opportunity to increase trust and confidence in these organisations from teachers, practitioners, parents and carers and other stakeholders. There is a clear desire to simplify policies and institutions for clarity and coherence. The establishment of a new qualifications body and the establishment of an independent HM Chief Inspector of Education in Scotland are important steps in changing the system for the better. The Bill is in two substantive parts. Part 1 establishes a new qualifications body, to be known as Qualifications Scotland, to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). It will be set up as a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), including appropriate governance arrangements and statutory functions. As an operationally independent organisation, the provisions set out the framework for how Qualifications Scotland will be able to operate. The operational detail is being developed in parallel as part of the design of the new body.

Part 2 establishes the office of His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education in Scotland. The statutory functions will be conferred on HM Chief Inspector. HM Chief Inspector will lead a new independent education inspectorate, to take forward the education inspection functions that currently sit within Education Scotland. The Bill sets out the governance arrangements and statutory functions necessary in relation to the full range of educational establishments and services currently inspected, from early years to adult learning.

National Outcomes for which the Bill provisions will seek to support are:

  • We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society.
  • We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential.
  • Public services treat people with dignity and respect.

Who will it affect?

The provisions within the Bill specifically impact on particular groups within society who share one or more of the nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. These are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

We recognise those impacted by the policy may have one or multiple protected characteristics, and it is important to take into account the intersectionality of these. In this Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) we have paid particular attention to the known vulnerabilities of those directly affected by the provisions within the Bill. This document should also be read in conjunction with the range of other completed impact assessments, including the Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment[1].

In developing this plan, the Scottish Government is mindful of the three aims 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 - and recognises the measures may positively impact on one or more of the protected characteristics. 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.

We expect the Bill to chiefly affect learners and teaching professionals across all of the nine protected characteristics in some form. The bodies the Bill will create will also be expected to understand how their operations – delivered independently of the Scottish Government – affect their various service users and stakeholders and how inequalities will be addressed within these.

There are a variety of specific sectors, groups and stakeholders within education, skills and across the economy that the functions of both bodies will affect through the delivery of their operations. These include but are not limited to:

  • Children and young people in the ELC sector, schools and college sectors, including learners with additional support needs, and adult learners in college, community learning and family learning;
  • Children and young people who are home educated;
  • Learners in education provision in prisons;
  • Those involved in the provision of education in Local authority schools, independent schools, grant-aided schools and parents who provide home education;
  • Those providing and receiving Gaelic Medium Education;
  • Teachers and practitioners;
  • Training organisations;
  • Those undertaking modern apprenticeships;
  • Those who design qualifications and/or deliver the associated courses and programmes of learning;
  • The staff and management team within the Scottish Qualifications Authority;
  • HM Inspectors of Education;
  • The staff and management team within Education Scotland; and
  • Parents/carers of learners.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education in Scotland and Qualifications Scotland will be subject to the general equality duty as set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and the Scottish Specific Duties Regulations 2012. In summary, they will be required to:

  • report on mainstreaming the equality duty;
  • publish equality outcomes and report progress;
  • assess and review policies and practices;
  • gather and use employee information;
  • publish information on board diversity and succession planning;
  • publish gender pay gap information;
  • publish statements on equal pay;
  • consider award criteria and conditions in relation to public procurement; and
  • publish required information in a manner that is accessible.

What might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved?

There are several factors that might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved:

  • Required changes to systems, structures, processes, supports and ways of working in respect of stakeholders and other agencies, alongside changes to working practice, cultures and attitudes;
  • The need to ensure adequate implementation support (including resources, workforce and financial) across agencies, sectors and systems, including internally within Scottish Government, within a context of already stretched resources, recruitment challenges, and implementation gaps;
  • Many of the proposed changes intended to take place with the creation of Qualifications Scotland relate to strengthening governance. It will therefore be important to ensure that those changes to governance will not restrict the discharge of its functions. There will be a need to retain a flexible and responsive approach to the challenges that it will face.



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