Education Reform Programme Board minutes: February 2022

Minutes from the meeting on 2 February 2022.

This document is part of a collection

Attendees and apologies

  • Clare Hicks (CH)
  • Alison Cummings (AC)
  • Elaine Lothian (EL)
  • Liza McLean (LMc)
  • Laura Murdoch (LM)
  • Jennifer Bradley (JB)
  • Geoff Huggins (GH)
  • Helena Gray (HG)
  • Peter Hookway
  • Michael Chalmers (MC)
  • Helen Webster (HW, delegate for Steve Pathirana)
  • Robert Skey (RS)


  • Jill Robertson (JR)
  • Jaxon Parish (JP)


  • Graeme Logan
  • Nicky Richards
  • Stephen Kerr
  • Stephen Pathirana
  • Ken Muir

Items and actions

Summary of decisions and action points

  • PB020222 – DP02: The Board agreed to the decision making criteria, subject to below changes.
  • PB020222 – AP06: Share Professor Muir report and readout from Cabinet SecretaryProfessorMuir meeting with Board members for initial feedback on implications.
  • PB020222 – AP07: Better reflect on children’s rights in decision making criteria, and add in reference to value for money.
  • PB020222 – AP08: Consider weighting and prioritisation of criteria – CH to consider and discuss with Board members.
  • PB020222 – AP09: Provide more detail around this risk in terms of capabilities and capacity risks, and develop a resource plan to bring to Board.
  • PB020222 – AP10: review framing of risk ER12 in context of post-report phase
  • PB020222 – AP11: review framing of risk ER6 in context of receiving Prof Muir evidence
  • PB020222 – AP12: CH to contact Professor Muir and Louise Hayward in connection to joining the Board as non-executive members.

Welcome and introductions

CH welcomed and introduced new Board members and acknowledged apologies.

Minutes and actions – PB1 (12 December 2021)

JP noted draft minutes circulated from PB1 had received no comments from Board members and are now approved. Decision and actions from PB1 were reviewed – outstanding action on finalising Aims and Objectives, to be circulated to Board separately.

Update on Work of Independent Advisor on Education Reform

CH updated the Board that Professor Muir’s report was in the final stages of development and that it was expected that he would send to and discuss with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills later this week (w/c 31 January).

Board members were asked to treat the information covered in this item as confidential and sensitive at this point in time.

CH flagged that it was anticipated that the report would have impacts across the whole E and S portfolio, more in some areas than others.

CH updated the Board on the next steps following receipt of Professor Muir’s report which would focus on a rapid initial assessment of recommendations to provide policy advice to the Cabinet Secretary in order for a SG response to be published at the same time as the report and Ministerial statement – 10 March (tbc).  Board members will be consulted during this process.

Action - CH to share Professor Muir report and will engage with Board members for initial feedback on potential implications.
Owner - CH
Deadline - week beginning 7 February 2022

LMc gave an overview of Professor Muir’s report and the process around engagement that Professor Muir undertook including that with children and young person’s stakeholders.

CH asked Board for initial reactions, and HW (Advanced Science), AC (ELC) and LM (Curriculum, Quals and Gaelic) provided views respective to their policy portfolios.

Decision criteria

LMc outlined the draft decision making criteria and it’s use in rapidly assessing recommendations. It will be used for initial assessment in support of decision making ahead of a SG response, and thereafter more fully developed in support of the business cases that will be developed for taking forward any recommendations.

LMc flagged the need to be realistic in of the extent to which there is quantitative data to inform assessment against criteria, but that there are a number of robust evidence bases can be drawn on from the work gone in to developing Professor Muir’s report (e.g. consultation responses and SG deep-dive work with orgs).

Board members were asked for their views on the draft criteria, particularly on weighting and prioritisation of decision making criteria

JB raised point on testing of criteria will be reliant on the evidence and data available, and asked how much Professor Muir goes into recommendations around data collection and evidence base.

AC raised point on not being constrained by budget in reference to “affordability and risk” given current budget fluctuations, and should focus more on value for money. CH flagged there will be a planned spend but also considerations around investment to save.

MC was pleased to see reference to children’s rights but questioned if it needed incorporated throughout all decision making criteria given current Government’s key focus around UNCRC.

Action - Better reflect on children’s rights in decision making criteria and ensure appropriate reference to value for money.
Owner - LMc
Deadline - by 9 February 2022

LM gave views on “simplicity, coherence and stability” and “efficiency, flexibility and user focus” being most important criteria.

CH questioned how articulation of prioritisation and weighting of criteria in advice to Cabinet Secretary, suggested an offline discussion on this.

Action - Consider weighting and prioritisation of criteria
Owner - LM
Deadline - 15 February 2022
Decision - decision making criteria taken as agreed by the Board, subject to the above changes

Risk deep dive

JR talked the Board through the risk management process and current risk status of the Programme’s 3 highest risks, including mitigating controls and actions taken to reduce them.

Risk ER20 – Programme capacity to deliver reform H4

GH suggested this risk is broken down more into detail – what are the skills gaps we have, how will we fill them and when.

HG noted risk information didn’t give a sense of scale of team needed to deliver the programme; what are the vacant positions and skills?

LM flagged capacity and capabilities needed to be clearer in this risk, and also on wider risks beyond the Programme’s control (e.g. HR, recruitment issues). Important also to note that this risk takes in the capacity of SQA and ES to engage in the change process.   

It was noted that the input of specialists, such as an independent Change Management and digital would be important but that these are areas that are in high demand. Noted need to reflect a resourcing and capabilities timeline to cover peak requirements versus BAU requirements.  AC agreed, and pointed to the potential need for independent specialist from outside SG.

EL mentioned the need for a resource plan linked to a timeline, including single points of failure and mitigations.

CH reflected on points made; this risk is an unknown unknown while waiting to understand what will be needed from the report. Now in a position to begin fleshing this out more.

Action - Provide more detail around this risk in terms of capabilities and capacity risks, and develop a resource plan to bring to Board
Owner - JR
Deadline - 26 April 2022 (PB4)

Risk ER12 - Breakdown in relationship with SQA, and Board /CEO /Management Team resigning or union led industrial action

LMc noted that this is a point in time risk which has been significantly reduced since Cabinet Secretary commitments on job security have been made. Will need reviewed as we move into the next phase where risk may increase.

Action - review framing of risk ER12 in context of post-report phase
Owner - LMc, JR
Deadline - 15 March 2022 (PB4)

LM said work on contingencies for this risk will be key. CH agreed with LMc that programme is approaching a critical point.  Contingencies are being worked on but there may be elements where not everything will be mitigated.

JB flagged need to keep key leaders on side, and HG noted communications being key to this. EL touched on identifying key players with the influence to disrupt, and messaging to these is key.

CH mentioned reviewing how we continue to work with trade unions.

LM asked are we engaging with rest of board, finance, corporate and how this is helping with communications. LMc said engagement with all these groups is ongoing (weekly meetings) but we are still in relationship building phase. Good lines of communication have been established to try and provide clarity around the programme for all.

Risk ER6 – The information and analysis to underpin effective decision making

LMc noted links of this risk to the discussion on the draft decision making criteria, and moving into a new phase now we have Professor Muir’s report

CH was conscious of how we make decisions with the information we have, but when we don’t necessarily have it all. Added risk is that we may be viewed as making decisions only on partial information, so a need to link across SG to gather the evidence.

Action - review framing of risk ER6 in context of receiving Professor Muir evidence.
Owner - LMc and JR
Deadline - 15 March 2022 (PB4)

Any other business

CH noted that the ToR has been updated since the last meeting. Key update being CH suggested to the Board that Professor Ken Muir and Prof Louise Hayward are approached to be non-executive members of the Board.

  • PB020222 – AP12: CH to contact Professor Muir and Louise Hayward in connection to joining the Board as non-executive members.

CH thanked members for contributions and ended the meeting

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