Education Reform Programme Board minutes: January 2023

Minutes of the meeting on 24 January 2023.

This document is part of a collection

Attendees and apologies

Attendees and apologies 

  • Clare Hicks (CH)
  • Fiona Robertson (FR)
  • Gayle Gorman (GG)
  • Mathew Sweeney (MS)
  • Des Murray (DM)
  • Douglas Hutchison (DH)
  • John Wilson (JW)
  • Adela Mansur (AM)
  • Graeme Logan (GL)
  • Helen Webster (HW)
  • Victoria Bruce (VB)
  • Laura Murdoch (LM)
  • Robert Malpass (RP)
  • Peter Hookway (PH)
  • Louise Haywood (LH)
  • Lisa Bird (LB)
  • Liz McGrath (LMcG)
  • Gillian Hamilton (GH)
  • Sarah Hart (SH)
  • Chris Dunne (CD)


  • Laura Cavan
  • Andrew Watson
  • Stephen Pathirana 
  • Geoff Huggins 
  • Stephen Kerr 
  • Ken Muir 
  • Jenny Stewart
  • Nicky Richards


  • Mike Baxter (MB)
  • Neil Cardwell (NC)
  • Kieran Watson (KW)


  • Gill Winters (GW) 

Items and actions

Summary of decisions and action points

  •  Update on progress of roles and responsibilities work to be given at next meeting -  PB240123-AP61
  • NC to provide an updated user and stakeholder engagement plan which details the approach and gives further clarity to the Board ahead of the delivery phase - PB240123-AP62
  •  NC to share branding commission with Board for feedback before issuing - PB240123-AP63
  •  Board to review risks and feedback any comments to CD on how mitigations can be improved - PB240123-AP64

Welcome and introductions

CH welcomed members to the 9th meeting of the Programme Board and noted apologies. CH highlighted that Jenny Stewart, a non-Executive Director for the Scottish Government, will be joining the Board from February.

Minutes and actions

Minutes from the previous meeting were issued for comment on 16 December 2022. Comments were received via correspondence and minutes now marked as approved. GW took Programme Board through actions in the log. Of the 11 actions open, 10 have been closed and one action remains open. PB081122-AP57 - NC to share resource slide deck with Board - Work has been ongoing and an up-to-date version will be shared with the Board.

Feedback from Cabinet Secretary on progress & next steps

Since the Extraordinary Programme Board in December, where progress in developing the draft Target Operating Models (TOMs) for the three new Bodies was presented, CH has reviewed progress and discussed with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

This feedback was shared with the Delivery Directors prior to the Programme Board meeting.

CH invited LB to share the Cabinet Secretary’s views and our assessment of current progress with the Board.

LB thanked the Delivery Directors and colleagues for all the engagement and hard work they have demonstrated to support the delivery of this reform Programme and to get us to where we are now. The Cabinet Secretary was grateful for the significant work that has been undertaken in challenging timescales.

In terms of overall progress, the draft strategic TOMS are not yet reflecting the significant and anticipated level of change that the Cabinet Secretary is looking to see in terms of how each new body will operate. In the next stage, she is keen to see greater clarity on the proposed roles and functions, individually and within the system. LB acknowledged there has been some delay in beginning the wider work on ‘roles and responsibilities‘ which had impacted on progress, and that we are looking at how we can accelerate this work. This will be explored further with Delivery Directors across the programme. It will be important in this next phase to ensure that TOM development across all bodies more clearly articulates the level of ambition for the future, and how the model and ways of working will be different as a result of reform. The new bodies should be agile and adaptable to change to ensure we effectively capture innovation and deliver transformational change.

New inspectorate

The proposal for the new independent inspectorate is currently the most developed. The Cabinet Secretary would like to see more detail on what is currently not working, (whilst acknowledging existing consideration of the coverage of inspections) and how a new operating model might resolve any issues identified. Independence itself is a significant change and we need to be clear on the benefits of that, which will enable the new body to then determine much of the way forward. She would also like to see further work on how any proposed changes in the delivery of services could lead to concrete improvements for learners and practitioners. Going forward, the focus should be on how the new model will improve ways of working. The planned user engagement will be core to this consideration.

New agency

On the new national agency proposal, the inclusion of a new function on evidence and research is welcome. The Cabinet Secretary would like assurance that a rigorous analysis of current services, alongside identification of areas for improvement clearly informs the TOM for the new agency.

Further work on governance and the responsibilities of each proposed leadership role in the structure is required, along with a clear articulation of where and how the agency will operate in the wider system. More specifically; building on the work of Professor Muir, the project work has identified that for Education Scotland a core problem has been ‘trying to be all things to all people, and there is a need to ensure that this is addressed, and that the new agency has a clear vision, functions and services, and role within the wider education system.   

The Cabinet Secretary made clear that the primary focus should be education practitioners, which in-turn will improve learner outcomes. This is core to the model development and while the TOM work to date has more clearly affirmed educators as being the core users of its services, and that the broad functions set out in the commissioning document are in the right territory, the model does not yet provide sufficient assurance that this challenge is being addressed. The model should build on the proposed research function and its role in curriculum leadership, as well as how the model will enable the organisation to operate effectively and in a sustainable way. Core to this will be testing user needs from the perspective of education practitioners.

New qualifications body

The Cabinet Secretary recognises that the split deliverables and differing timescales mean that the new qualifications body proposal is at an earlier stage. The links with outputs from the independent review of qualifications and assessment and the skills delivery landscape review are noted. It is recognised that the findings of these reviews will have an important influence on the work of the new body, however the functions of the body will remain broadly the same. It is the structural changes and approach to governance that need to be developed to ensure that the new qualification body meets the expectations of and provides added value to the end user experience.

The Cabinet Secretary would like to see exploration of the areas where there is the potential to signal change in the culture and governance of the new organisation. As with all models, it should also clearly illustrate how the principles in the design framework will be embedded in the future delivery models.

Next steps

LB noted that Scottish Government (SG) will continue to support colleagues in reviewing and refining the proposals as they develop and will ensure the continued provision of transformational design expertise for the Programme. Across all proposals further work will also be needed to translate the opportunities identified in the Muir report into specific options for the future. In summary, the Cabinet Secretary is looking for greater clarity in how the individual bodies will operate in the wider system. She is looking for the TOMs to clearly articulate ambitions for the future and how each model and ways of working will improve outcomes and differ as a result of the reform.

Looking forward, we will consider how in the next phase we can support greater collaboration to explore ways of working, including areas where there might be potential for shared services, both across the new bodies and wider system. Updated TOM proposals will be considered at the end of January, so we can take stock of progress. This will inform any changes we may make regarding the Programme. We will discuss opportunities for sharing and testing the models, as per the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment.

The Board broadly welcomed the feedback, acknowledging the scale and ambition of reform and the complexity of the programme. A number of members highlighted critical dependency, including the cross-cutting work that supports this, such as the commission on ‘roles and responsibilities’ and discussions underway on the role of digital transformation. The roles and responsibilities work needs to provide clarity on the relationships that the bodies will have with practitioners, head teachers, local authorities, and other users.

The Board also acknowledged that the feedback from the Cabinet Secretary is based on the presentations delivered at the Extraordinary Programme Board in December.

CH noted further work being undertaken to consider the structure of the Programme, and the prioritisation and sequencing of work. An official level review of the updated draft TOMs is planned, (drafts of which are due to be received at the end of January). This will support more detailed planning and clarity on delivery timescales and key milestones.

Action: Update on progression of roles and responsibilities work to be given at next meeting.

Owner: PMO

Deadline: 28/02/2023

Stakeholder engagement update

NC provided an update on communications and engagement activity. NC highlighted that the approach will evolve further to reflect the development of the TOMs and engagement with partners, stakeholders, and users.

The approach being taken has an emphasis on engaging with a wide and broad range of stakeholders to create a bespoke and standalone user panel. It was noted that this is an ambitious undertaking and advice and support is being drawn from areas in SG which have undertaken similar or related processes. NC asked the Board for support and input on networks which should be included as part of the programme’s engagement with stakeholders and users.

NC updated the Board on the development of a website proposition for sharing programme documents, highlighting it will be a Programme-owned resource.

The Board suggested that an action plan should be developed as a priority to give detail and clarity to the approach engaging with stakeholders as we move into the delivery phase.

The Board highlighted that it is important that users and stakeholders feel their views are being sought as part of work to genuinely change how the new bodies will support them. It was noted that the user panel approach needs to be flexible to ensure it provides participants with capacity and support to participate fully.

Action: NC to provide an updated user and stakeholder engagement plan which details the approach and gives further clarity to the Board ahead of the delivery phase

Owner: Neil Cardwell

Deadline: 28/02/2023

Branding & identity

NC highlighted that a cross-cutting commission on branding is being developed in discussion with the bodies and will be shared in advance of the next Programme Board. It is anticipated it will set out short and medium-term work and thinking on developing names, brands and identifies for the new national bodies. This will include consideration of how these should interact with brands and identities already in place across scottish education.

The Board noted that this work needs to be accelerated to ensure that implications and wider impacts of changing branding can be identified.

Action: NC to share branding commission with Board for feedback before issuing.

Owner: Neil Cardwell

Deadline: 21/02/2023

Programme update

CD give an overall update on the Programme position and noted progress on the outline business case. A draft which reflects comments from the Board on the strategic outline case, draws on the detail from forthcoming target operating models, and provides further detail on benefits and outcomes will be brought to the next Programme Board.

Following the development of the dependency management strategy a workshop to discuss and agree mitigations has been arranged for later that week. Risks are continuing to be monitored and managed, the focus will be on risks which have lower controls confidence, ensuring actions are taken forward to mitigate risk. Future Programme updates will include a list of dependencies to provide context for risks.

Action: Board to review risks and feedback any comments to CD on how mitigations can be improved.

Owner: Chris Dunne

Deadline: 20/02/2023

Progress update from delivery directors 

Policy and legislation

LB noted that Board meetings have been paused as part of the review of progress and that work is progressing via bilateral and project specific discussions.

LB highlighted some changes to the SG reform division; Kieran Watson is heading up the new quals body, bill team & SQA sponsorship unit, and as part of that, John Keenan is leading on policy development to support the new qualifications body. Sarah Hart is leading the unit to oversee delivery and engagement.

LB updated the Board on the progress of the Bill, noting that significant progress has been made on policy and legal instructions to create the legislative underpinning for the new qualifications body and the new inspectorate. A paper is currently in development which will set out the measures that we intend to include in the bill. This will be shared with Delivery Board members and other external stakeholders for views by the end of February. The team are also working on the accompanying documents for the bill and further input will be requested regarding these.

LB informed the Board of progress on the cross-cutting commissions and also some work that is being developed to support the transition work. A meeting to explore digital transformation is scheduled for Monday 30 and a meeting to agree transition planning, on corporate functions and HR responsibilities is scheduled for today.

Some Board members noted concern regarding the pausing of this Board and progress on some of the cross-cutting commissions. LB assured the Board that this is being considered as part of the wider review.

It was agreed that an update on the roles and responsibilities work will be brought to the next Board meeting.

New agency / new inspectorate

GH summarised progress to date and noted that the focus is currently on the drafting of TOMs. Feedback from the strategic Board, Stakeholder Reference Group and Cabinet Secretary is being addressed and will be included in the end of January submission. CH highlighted that further clarity of SG engagement with end-users and stakeholders is needed to ensure a strategic approach is taken across the bodies and to mitigate any consultation fatigue.

Going forward they will be focusing on internal engagement with staff to showcase progress and receive feedback.

New qualifications body

LMcG summarised her highlight report and highlighted the agreed split in deliverables which means that the presented draft strategic TOM was therefore at an earlier stage.  Going forward they will be focusing on development of TOMs and internal engagement with staff on the design principles and how they are embedded in the TOM.

Any other business


Review and close meeting

CH thanked the Board for their contributions and ended the meeting. The next meeting will be 28 February 2023.

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