Education Reform: Expert Panel meeting minutes: 1 December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 1 December 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Professor Ken Muir (Chair), Independent Advisor to Scottish Government
  • Billy Burke, Head Teacher, Renfrew High School
  • Professor Graham Donaldson, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Louise Hayward, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Walter Humes, University of Stirling
  • Professor Anne Looney, Dublin City University
  • Khadija Mohammed, UWS/Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators
  • Cathy McCulloch, Children’s Parliament
  • Dr Naomi Stanford, Organization Design author and consultant
  • Gabi Gibson, Secretariat
  • Shirley Anderson, Secretariat
  • Sian Balfour, Secretariat
  • Kirsty Anderson, Secretariat
  • David Roy, Secretariat


  • none

Items and actions

Session one: key themes

KM outlined the ‘key themes’ which have emerged from his engagement activity to date, and some of the early indicative findings from the public consultation. KM invited EP member to share their thoughts on whether these key themes are similar to, and or different, to what they have been hearing through their own engagement activity.

Summary of key points raised:

  • a sense that the key findings are indeed similar to that which Expert Panel (EP) members have heard in their own engagement activities
  • agreement that there is a desire for change but a sense that in some cases practitioners are unsure about exactly what change is needed
  • recognition that there is a need to see learning as a lifelong learning process – it’s not just about school - there is a need for organisations involved in education to work in a way that facilitates learning throughout the life course
  • a need to unpack the consultation/engagement data further
  • the importance of subsidiarity and local networks and the notion that place based subsidiarity needs to be much more central going forward
  • there was a discussion about the need to consider some redistribution of power within all of the organisations/bodies that currently have responsibility for education
  • there was a discussion about the importance of United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child (UNCRC) framing work going forward
  • the importance of ensuring sufficient attention is paid to the experiences of minority ethnic groups and a need to focus on the experience of ‘all learners’
  • importance of ensuring that the views of ‘hardest to reach groups are sought

Session two: curriculum and assessment agency

Ken provided an overview of the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) and ES consultation responses. He then opened up for a discussion on the benefits or otherwise of setting up a curriculum and assessment (C&A) agency.

Summary of key points raised:

  • it was noted that there is a huge administrative task surrounding the delivery of examinations and that it would be important that this administrative task was not within any new C&A agency, otherwise there was a danger that other activities including curriculum development would be ‘swallowed up’ by the need to deliver exams
  • a sense that there needed to be much more clarity (than there is now) on who is responsible for what, and that the set-up of a C&A body which was focussed solely on curriculum and assessment could potentially provide this
  • there was a discussion about the possible governance of a C&A body and the distance that such a body ought to have from Scottish Government
  • there was broad agreement that any such body should have a small core of staff and utilise secondments from the teaching profession and other organisations
  • concern was raised about the potential perception of creating another body - would this look like adding another layer of bureaucracy?
  • the merits or otherwise of creating a single body responsible for the full range of educational functions was discussed
  • there was a discussion about the role of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) in both its current form and consideration of how they could potentially look in any future set up
  • it was recognised that there is a strong need to consider how the set-up of any new body would address the perceived problems, highlighted through the consultation and engagement
  • the importance of ensuring that expertise from SQA/ES is transitioned into any new organisations and the importance of ‘remembering’ the people currently within ES/SQA was noted

Session three: inspectorate

Ken opened the discussion seeking views on the future of inspection. Ken provided an overview of some of the indicative findings on inspection within the consultation.

Summary of key points raised:

  • inspection should get in ‘ahead’ of the problem, and be more diagnostic
  • concern that if Inspectors are constantly engaged in problems they can lose their reference points to recognise good practice
  • noted that if inspection is working well - it becomes part of the authorising environment for education
  • ‘generational cycles’ of inspection was discussed
  • an ‘Intelligence led’ inspectorate and what this might look like
  • the need to move away from terminology like ‘scrutiny’
  • what is it that people actually want from an inspectorate was discussed?
  • noted that it would be important to create an ‘evaluative eco-system’. A ‘learning system’
  • don’t focus attention on inspectorate, the system should be about being accountable to own school communities
  • what would lines of accountability look like in an ‘independent’ inspectorate?
  • ensuring young people’s voices are heard in the inspection process is of paramount importance
  • noted that improvement actions should usually be taken closest to the school

Session four: practitioner support

Ken invited views on how support for schools and practitioners should best be provided.

Summary of key points raised:

  • wide ranging discussions about the merits or otherwise of a specific support and improvement agency
  • how would such an agency benefit learners?
  • how would resources and support be deployed at a local level?
  • the role of RICs was discussed in depth
  • noted that there is huge variability within schools as well as between schools
  • suggestion that there is a need to take some of the ‘duplication’ out of the system – identify overlap and the areas where there are gaps
  • the learner and the educator dynamic is absolutely key. Quality of experience is mediated by the quality of the educator. Support and improvement and inspection must focus on these interactions. Opportunity to get closer to the granularity of each educator

Final session

Summary of key points:

  • Ken gave a summary of the afternoon’s discussion and summarised the areas of consensus and agreement
  • there was a discussion around the potential contents of the final report and EP members were invited to provide further written views and comments via email on the initial draft
  • a final meeting of EP in January was tentatively agreed
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