Education (Scotland) Bill: equality impact assessment

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

Stage 1: Framing

Results of framing exercise

The Bill has been developed through engagement and collaboration with key stakeholder and partners across the education system including both the SQA and Education Scotland and their employee representatives, who are directly affected by the provisions within the Bill, as well as wider educational and ELC stakeholders and the general public through our Bill consultation. With the policy aim of putting the learner at the centre we have taken and considered the views of children and young people and organisations who support them. The Bill was informed by:

  • The findings and recommendations of the OECD’s Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE): Into the Future report, published in June 2021. The specific recommendation being addressed through the Bill is to “Simplify policies and institutions for clarity and coherence. To align the institutional structures with clear ownership of CfE, Scotland could explore assigning leadership and development responsibilities for curriculum (and perhaps assessment) to a specialist stand-alone agency; and consider refreshing the remit of an inspectorate of education regarding CfE.”
  • Professor Muir’s report: ‘Putting Learning at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education[2]’ published in March 2022. This included: 851 consultation responses to an open public consultation - consisting of: 690 responses to the main consultation document or set questions; 74 responses submitted by email which did not follow the consultation questions set; and notes from 87 meetings and webinars.
  • Professor Muir’s work was informed by comprehensive consultation with education and Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) system stakeholders which included commissioning Together/SYP/Children’s Parliament to seek the views of children and young people -Consulting with Children and Young People. This included 1,210 primary school and 394 secondary school aged children engaged with the online or downloadable toolkits, taking part in conversations facilitated by adults known to them; and in addition, 3,889 12- to 18-year-olds responded to an online survey; in a tailored consultation aimed specifically at gathering the views of children and young people.
  • The views of ELC aged children were gathered through the ELC sector representative bodies.
  • An Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment was announced by the former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Sommerville in October 2021 and Emerita Professor Louise Hayward began work in Spring 2022. She set out a detailed and comprehensive report with 26 recommendations, published in June 2023. The recommendations centred around the introduction of a Scottish Diploma of Achievement (SDA) with three mandatory elements: Personal Pathway, Programmes of Learning and Project learning.
  • James Withers was asked by Scottish Ministers to undertake a Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape in August 2022 in order to make recommendations on how the skills delivery public body and advisory landscape should be adapted to drive forward the Scottish Government's ambitions for a skilled workforce as set out in its National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) and the work it was undertaking to respond to the Scottish Funding Council's (SFC) Review of Coherence and Sustainability. His report, published in June 2023, set out fifteen recommendations to Ministers, five of which are key structural recommendations aimed at rationalising and improving the agency landscape, and the remaining ten of which are operational recommendations which relate to the governance structures and processes.
  • A public consultation on the provisions of the Bill, which ran for six weeks between 7 November 2023 and 18 December 2023. We received 386 responses to the consultation, of which 234 were provided by individuals and 152 represented organisations. Alongside this written consultation, we hosted nine public engagement events with stakeholders across the education landscape, which were attended by nearly 1,000 people.
  • As part of the consultation, some partner organisations such as the National Parent Forum for Scotland (NPFS) undertook tailored surveys and/or focus groups of their membership to ensure full input from parents and carers into the consultation process. A comprehensive overview of all input from Children and Young People throughout the education reform process that is relevant to the Bill was also provided as evidence to support the consultation (see Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment for further details).
  • Engagement with education reform programme governance structures. The recently revised structure includes a Ministerial Group chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and a Programme Board chaired by the Senior Responsible Officer for the education reform programme. Membership of the Ministerial Group includes independent experts and professional advisors. Membership of the Programme Board includes Scottish Government officials, the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland as well as experts, professional advisors and individuals working across Scottish education, ensuring insights, assurance and challenge on the delivery of the new organisations. Historically, additional external challenge on the establishment of the new national education bodies had been sought via an Education Reform Stakeholder Reference Group. This group, which met from September 2022 to March 2023, discussed a range of topics related to education and skills reform, and was chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. It brought together a range of stakeholders from across the education system including early years, school and tertiary sectors, trade unions, professional associations, and academic representatives. At the March 2023 meeting of the group, Scottish Government officials provided an overview of the policy intent of the proposed Bill for discussion.
  • Consideration of the rights of children and young people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This included engagement with children and young people on their rights via the Muir Review.
  • As well as the National Discussion on the Vision for Scottish Education. This was established in line with Professor Muir’s recommendation for a national discussion to take place to establish a compelling and consensual vision for the future of Scottish education which places the learner at the centre of all decisions.

In this EQIA we look at published evidence available and gathered under the protected characteristics as listed within the Equality Act 2010: Age, Disability, Gender Reassignment, Marriage or Civil Partnership (in employment only), Pregnancy and Maternity, Race, Religion or Belief, Sex and Sexual Orientation.

It is important to note that the protected characteristics listed along with other considerations are not independent of each other and some people may experience complex and interconnected issues related to disadvantage at any one time. The Bill will affect the groups listed on page four along with the Board members and staff within the two new organisations and any others impacted by the functions delivered by both organisations.

Initial reflections from the evidence gathering and engagement to date indicate that the Bill and the changes it will bring will likely have an impact on some people and/or communities, directly or indirectly, and in different ways. This includes people with protected characteristics and the reflections have identified a broad range of potential impacts.

Extent/Level of EQIA required

Our ambition is for the Bill to have a positive impact on outcomes for people who share one or more of the protected characteristics.

The Scottish Government is clear that Qualifications Scotland must have a strong, legislative mechanism that provides a means for strengthened accountability and transparency. To do this, the Bill places a requirement on Qualifications Scotland to create two specific “charters”: one for young people and learners; and one for teachers and practitioners.

The purpose of the charters is to set out what service users and delivery partners should expect from Qualifications Scotland. The charters will serve as frameworks for ensuring the rights, needs and views of all different categories of learners, and of the teaching professions, always shape how Qualifications Scotland delivers its services, and the culture in which it does this. The charters will act as a clear additional accountability tool for the Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament and the public to assess the performance of Qualifications Scotland from the perspective of these groups, as well as supporting Qualifications Scotland to appraise itself of how it can better deliver in the interests of its core service users.

How these charters are created is important. They must be co-created by the groups they are designed to support. The Bill requires Qualifications Scotland to co-create the charters with learners and with teachers respectively. This means engaging with (in the case of the learner charter) young people, adult learners, and their representatives such as parents and carers, or (in the case of the teacher and practitioner charter) teachers, lecturers and their representative and professional bodies.

For the learner charter, it will be paramount that the charter’s contents, and how it is developed, is underpinned by Article 12 of the UNCRC to ensure the rights of children and young people to be heard are central to its creation and purpose.

The Scottish Government recognises that Qualifications Scotland will also have a suite of other key stakeholders that will have certain expectations of it and how it conducts its services. The Bill therefore requires Qualifications Scotland to consider the creation of other charters that support greater fairness, openness and accountability to the wider education, skills and economic system. Qualifications Scotland’s Board membership is to include two members with experience of providing relevant teaching or training as a registered teacher, two members with experience of providing relevant teaching or training as a college lecturer, and one member with relevant experience and knowledge of the interests of young people and other learners. These voices are intended to provide the views and perspectives from these stakeholder groups and ensure the diversity of needs are being considered at all levels of decision making. It is also the intention of the Bill that employees’ views are appropriately represented in the governance of the organisation.

In Qualifications Scotland, there will be the requirement to establish statutory committees for learners and for teachers. These will be a clear route for the voices of children and young people, and of different teachers and practitioners, to be heard as part of the decision-making process within the new qualifications body. As key end-user/beneficiaries of the education system, this enables decision makers to take account of learner views and tailor service provision to meet those learner needs caused by a variety of circumstances, like additional support needs or those of care experienced learners. Crucially, the membership of these committees will be required to have a majority of external members and, importantly, a majority to have lived experience. The membership will be expected to consist of individuals from a range of different backgrounds and reflect the diversity of needs and interests these stakeholder groups have.

For Qualifications Scotland, it will be important to ensure that those who are impacted by poverty have equal access and opportunities to and can subsequently achieve the qualifications that they need without being disadvantaged. This is an entitlement under ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. It is important to ensure that those qualifications and awards will be available to them following the establishment of Qualifications Scotland and through its partnerships with schools, colleges and training providers who offer their qualifications.

While not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, it is important that individuals with care experience do not experience additional inequalities as a result of establishing Qualifications Scotland, and that barriers are removed, and additional support provided where needed. Qualifications Scotland will be a Corporate Parent and have a duty to ensure those with care experience are supported. Further information on this is set out in the Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment.

The provisions described above are expected to have a positive impact and offer further opportunities for the involvement of people with protected characteristics.

As is current practice, all children and young people attending education provision (from early learning and childcare to adult learning), in Scotland, may be impacted by the carrying out of the inspection of their establishment and the use of evidence captured by the new inspectorate to secure improvements for all learners. For the purposes of this EQIA, inspection of ELC refers only to inspection by the Education Inspectorate. We do not anticipate different impacts for different groups of children and young people.

It should be noted that there will be different considerations with regard to ‘age’ between the new qualifications body and the Inspectorate. The new qualifications body will offer qualifications that are available to learners of all ages, i.e. both school-age and adult learners, while the Inspectorate will predominantly be relevant to young learners, given its remit to inspect ELC institutions, primary and secondary schools and publicly funded colleges, (although engaging with some adult learners through inspection of modern apprenticeship training, English language schools, initial teacher education and educational provision in prisons).

Currently, inspection activity includes reference to the impact on learners and communities, including those most marginalised and at risk of being excluded. This includes many of those with protected characteristics and those living in areas of deprivation. The evidence produced by inspection helps to communicate complex issues to the system. Furthermore, levels of deprivation are currently one of the factors used to inform the inspection programme and this is expected to continue.

The new inspectorate requires a policy shift to enable more learner and service user representation. It is considered that this may be achieved, not just in the model of how inspection is carried out, but through a strengthened role of learner and parent / carer voices in governance arrangements.

As per Articles 13 and 17 of the UNCRC, children and young people have a right to information. Article 30 states children and young people of ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin have the right to learn the language, religion and culture of their families, and in Scotland this also includes Gaelic and Scots speakers. The new inspectorate will retain an explicit duty provided to HM Chief Inspector to publish individual establishment / service inspection reports which are easily accessible by everyone. We recognise that those with an interest in HM Chief Inspector’s work are diverse and in particular include young people, people who require additional support, and Gaelic language users.

Furthermore, HM Chief Inspector will be required to report annually on the ‘Performance of Scottish education’, helping to monitor performance in the education system at a national level. This will provide improved information to learners, parents/carers, professionals and others with an interest, and provide an evidence base to support improvement, which will benefit those stakeholders and in particular learners themselves.

The new inspectorate will be digital by default, reflecting the Scottish Approach to service design. This is further supported by Professor Muir’s recommendation in his report to: “capitalise on the increased use of the latest digital technologies to promote and share inspection findings.” It will help to promote easy access to all required information, especially considering and increasing the use of digital technology. Digital technologies can be used creatively to communicate, find and analyse information. In addition, this will benefit teachers and practitioners who will be able to access information more easily.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act is designed to ensure the public sector in Scotland plays its part in creating a sustainable future for Gaelic. Within this context, we have explored where focus on Gaelic Medium Education can be strengthened in the legislative underpinning of the new inspectorate. Within this context, the Bill includes a requirement for HM Chief Inspector to publish all reports relating to Gaelic medium education in the Gaelic Language in addition to English.

This EQIA has been completed alongside other impact assessments and should be read in conjunction with those.



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