Education Reform Inspectorate and Agency Delivery Board minutes: February 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 9 February 2023.

This document is part of a collection

Attendees and apologies

Attendees and apologies 


  • Gillian Hamilton (Chair)
  • Ken McAra
  • Greg Dempster
  • Janie McManus
  • Frances Douglas
  • Kerrie Laird
  • Magnus Hughson
  • Maureen Hamilton
  • Harold Hislop
  • Patricia Watson
  • Laurence Findlay
  • Andrea Bradley


  • Sean Stronach        
  • Tracy Reilly

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

GH opened the meeting and extended a warm welcome to attendees. Apologies were noted as above. 

Minutes and actions from 16th January 2023 Delivery Board meeting

The minute of 16th January 2023 was agreed as accurate. There were no outstanding actions.

Action log

There were currently no outstanding actions.

Risk register and issues log

The proposed changes to the Risk Register and Issues Log were accepted by the Board.

Chair’s update

The Chair provided an update to the board. Feedback from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills had been received in relation to the overview of the Target Operating Models (TOMs). The feedback recognised the huge amount of work that had been undertaken to support the delivery of the reform work, but that there was further work to do to realise the ambition and level of change required.  She recognised that the new inspectorate TOM was the most developed of the three new organisations, but had requested more information on what wasn’t working so well  and what the benefits are of an independent inspectorate for learners.

In relation to the new education agency, the proposal for a new research function was welcomed, and clarity of function was essential to avoid repeating the problem of Education Scotland having to be ‘all things to all people’ and that the primary audience and focus for the new agency should be educators.

Unfortunately, the timing of the feedback from the Cabinet Secretary meant that the project teams weren’t able to directly address all of the concerns prior to submitting the draft TOMs to SG by 31st January. However, the TOMs did include costings for three options for each new organisation – a bronze, silver and gold option.

The next phase in the development of the TOMs will involve significant user testing to ensure the new organisations will meet user needs. 

SG colleagues were undertaking a deep dive of the draft TOMs this afternoon and it was hoped that the project teams would receive feedback shortly after that. SG had also sought further clarification in relation to the business case submitted in December. 

Thematic projects (previously called horizontal commissions) were being established in relation to the digital requirements of the new organisations and from an HR/people perspective.  Both projects had held one meeting, with representatives from ES and SQA present.

It was recognised that there was a need to review how educational policy was developed to ensure that the profession was more closely involved in its development and implementation and a new strand of work to address this was being established.

Finally, it was noted that we still didn’t have a Communications and Engagement Strategy in place.

Delivery Board members thanked the Chair for her update and asked her to convey their disappointment that SG were not represented at the Delivery Board meeting today.   

They noted that three costing options had been included in the draft TOMs and were surprised that we still hadn’t been provided with an indicative budget for each organisation, particularly given the challenging financial situation. Concerns were raised that even the bronze option looked unrealistic in the context of the current discourse about public finances but that without clarity from SG the risk was that considerable time and resource would be applied to plans that don’t fit with the finances available.

Action:  Chair to convey Delivery Board’s disappointment that SG was not represented at the meeting today and to reiterate the urgent need for guidance about funding parameters to allow planning to proceed efficiently.

New education agency update

Members were invited to review the highlight report and also to consider the draft TOM, both previously shared.

It was highlighted that the main audience for the new agency was educators across all sectors in the education system, from ELCC to CLD. There would be three high level services – Curriculum, Learning, Teaching and Assessment and Professional Learning and Leadership. The proposed approach would build on what was working well and stop what wasn’t working. There was also a need to streamline the offer.

DB members noted it was important that there were multiple entries into the new agency – at educator, local authority and RIC level and it was crucial that roles and responsibilities across the whole system were clear, to avoid duplication. It was also essential that educators have easy access to the new agency, particularly in relation to learning, teaching and assessment. It was noted that the relationship between Senior Regional Advisors (SRAs) and the RICs was positive and that there was a need for a similar type of relationship with inspectors, which has already been identified in the draft TOM for the new Inspectorate.

DB members also noted the value of the research, knowledge and evaluation function being proposed for the new agency.

Finally, the need to share the draft TOMs with staff as soon as possible was noted. 

New inspectorate body update

Members were invited to review the highlight report and also to consider the draft TOM, both previously shared. Members noted that the philosophy of inspection – previously discussed at Delivery Board – wasn’t included in the draft TOM. It seemed that what was in the TOM was very similar to the current approach. It was suggested that a different approach would be one way of managing costs downwards, as well as providing a different model of support and challenge.

Some members expressed concern about the increase in inspectors and inspections being proposed in the TOM. Specifically, there was concern that an increase in inspectors would lead to a reduction in headteachers at school level, because this was the level at which inspectors were recruited.  The ES team suggested, an alternative model, whereby headteachers  remained in post, but joined inspection teams, would develop leadership skills and build capacity in the system – similar to the Associate Assessor model currently used. It was noted that the drive for an increase in the number of inspections would add to the demands on an already stretched profession. However, an alternative comment noted that the review of current inspection services contained in the TOM showed a very low level of inspections in schools and institutions and that if such a level of activity was to continue it would be inadequate to enable the new Inspectorate to deliver adequate quality assurance of provision and evidence-based advice to Scottish government. Hence, in this view, a higher level of core staffing would be required.

ES staff noted that without sufficient coverage in relation to the number of inspections, it would be very difficult for a new, independent inspectorate to provide evidence-based advice to Ministers on education policy.

The importance of strong links and relationships across the three new organisations was emphasised.

Members also wondered if the fact that the draft TOM was more developed meant that the new inspectorate could be established sooner than the other organisations. The Chair undertook to find out if this would be feasible, but cautioned that any new legislative requirement might impact on timescales.

Action:  Project team to consider alternative philosophy for inspection in updated TOM

Action:  Chair to establish if timescales for establishment of new inspectorate could be brought forward.

Action:  Both project teams to arrange for further sessions with DB members to provide feedback on draft TOMs.

Communications update

An update was provided by the Head of External Communications.  She highlighted that a new reform website was being developed and would launch at the end of March 2023.  The purpose of the website was to provide a one-stop-shop for all aspects of the reform across the education system in Scotland.  The site content was being developed in partnership with SG and SQA, with opportunities for ES to shape and influence the content as well as the look and feel of the site.  DB members welcomed the development of the new website.

A calendar of engagement opportunities was being developed by SG colleagues and it was hoped that this would be available shortly. 

Any other business 

Membership of delivery board

The Chair proposed that the membership of the Delivery Board be extended to include representation from ELCC, CLD and ASN. This was agreed. She also noted that it was likely that there would need to be two Delivery Boards in the near future – one for each of the new organisations.   

The next meeting of the Delivery Board will take place on 23rd March 2023.

Action:  Membership of the Delivery Board to be extended to include representation from ELCC, CLD and ASN.

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