Education Reform Qualifications Body Delivery Board minutes: May 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 11 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Mike Baxter (Chair) (MB)
  • Liz McGrath (LMcG)
  • John Booth (JB)
  • George Brown (GB)
  • Martin Campbell (MC)
  • Ken Thomson (KT)
  • Stuart McKenna (SMcK)
  • Andy Harvey (AH)
  • Julie MacDonald (JM)
  • Lyndsay McRoberts (LMcR)
  • Kieran Watson (KW)
  • Fiona Robertson (FR)
  • Liz Cunningham (LC)
  • Dawnne Mahmoud (DM)
  • Isabel Nisbet (IN)


  • Erin McCabe (EMcC)
  • Sharon McGuigan (SMcG)
  • Kieran Watson (KW)


  • Nicola Hutchison (NH) (Admin)
  • Raymond Holloway (RH)
  • Sharon Coyle (SC)
  • Martin Campbell (MC)
  • Steve Borley (SB)

Items and actions


There was no representation from Scot Gov, so any requests for clarification and follow ups from April’s Delivery Board will be sent to Scot Gov in writing after the call. Also, there was no representation from Unite today.

Minute of previous meeting

George Brown showing as a member twice and Julie MacDonald was only able to attend the SQA Delivery Board on 19 April 2023 for 30 minutes.

Previous actions

Please find a summary of todays actions and decisions:

  • remove GB from the members list and note that JM attended SQA Delivery Board 19 April 2023 for 30 mins - Action: QBD-50 - Owner: Nicola Hutchison
  • feedback to be received by midday 17/5 by all Delivery Board members. - Action – QBD-51 - Owner – All Delivery Board members
  • MB to articulate the risks and impacts of the delay in funding and additional dependencies to SRO. - Action: QBD-52 - Owner: Mike Baxter
  • risk QBR_002R, resource expertise may not be available to support to the reform programme due to SQA’s ongoing operational and delivery obligations, highlight as an issue and quantify to add in for evidence. - Action: QBD-53 - Owner: Liz McGrath

The actions and updates from the previous Board on 16 March 2023 can be found in the board pack, titled “2. 20230419 - NQB (New Qualifications Body) DB2023 - Actions from the NQB Delivery Board V1.0”. Find below updates from today’s meeting.

  • amend the PID (Programme Initiation Document) to highlight that Accreditation and Regulation may now be considered a part of this Board’s objectives but a decision on future scope and function has not yet been made by ministers. - QDB-07. Update – 11/05/2023 – PID is on agenda for discussion.
  • MB to update SQA Colleagues on the Scot Gov resource bid. - QBD-37. Update – 11/05/2023 – No update on reform funding so far. Core funding for SQA has also yet to be confirmed, both are having an impact on reform which will be covered in highlight report and the status of programme.
  • MB to draft a letter replying to the SRO’s Response to  Delivery Board Letter/Cab Sec Letter, acknowledging the points noted by the Delivery Board and the proposal for moving forward. - QDB-46. Update – 11/05/2023 – Draft still to be circulated, MB has been trying to resolve several issues relating to this.
  • LB/KW to provide further update at next Delivery Board meeting on engagement that has taken place on Legislative intent. - QBD-49. Update – 11/05/2023 – Comments from the last Delivery Board were all passed to Scot Gov colleagues. 

Programme initiation document (PID)

LMcG noted the refreshed PID in our papers had SQA comments added but currently no update back from Scot Gov colleagues so could Delivery Board members provide feedback on this version please. It was noted that the PID is a little old and some elements out of date, so some comments are general, and points highlighted in yellow relate to Accreditation and Regulation.

New qualifications body programme summary update

LMcG gave an overview of the current status noting that the programme is red again, mainly due to the lack of sign off on the resources bid. We are continuing recruitment preparations in the background i.e., approx. 10 posts to help with the transition and thematics. A recent call with Education Scotland colleagues confirmed they are in a similar position. There is a delay in finance resource due to a significant pressure in the Scottish Gov and budgets are under scrutiny.

She noted that we are continuing to make progress on the milestones, working our way through customer journeys and pathfinder service improvement projects for both Awarding Body and Accreditation and making good progress, but that Accreditation and Regulation scope has yet to be confirmed. We are working towards the 30 June iteration of the TOM report.

Top risks and dependencies remain the same and by the next Delivery Board we will be able to provide an update on the Thematic Projects/Steering Group and a draft of the 30 June TOM.

The Delivery Board asked at what point are we are unable to progress without resources. SQA responded this is a significant issue and that there is an interdependency between resource funding for reform and core funding for SQA. The resource plan put forward recognises that the work needs to ramp up as we are c.16 months from the beginning of the NQB. It was further noted that SQA are unable to subsidise reform from the SQA core budget. Work will continue with the resources we have; however, resources are now ‘red’, and it is anticipated that this will result in other parts of the programme moving amber or red as a result.

The Delivery Board discussed how the delay in funding and recruitment would impact on the programme, noting the other dependencies impacting the programme including work on Accreditation and Regulation scope, outcome of the Hayward report, the Withers report, and the National Discussion. Also, the Thematic Projects have yet to make much progress, and the start date for the NQB has not changed. It is important therefore that the Delivery Board take a view on how the risk should be raised and to be clear sighted on the impacts.

Workstream updates                                                                 

Target Operating Model (TOM) workstream

RH noted that since the last Delivery Board, the key focus here has been the production of the end of April interim TOM paper for Scot Gov. The paper is authored by Jo Martin, consultant to Scot Gov. The core team have worked with her and have checked in with SQA EMT and Trade Unions on content. It has been through several iterations and is almost at a point it can be shared with Delivery Board. The text will be a useful starting point for the 30 June TOM. It is very much focused on 'As Is' and it strongly identifies the various dependencies and the difficulty in creating a TOM by end of June, when many of the dependencies won’t be known until September.

Work has also been done on the commercial workstream with 70+ colleagues undertaking working on the commercial ambition of the NQB.

Colleague engagement

RH provided an update on the Connect with Reform workshops have been held at SQA sites in Optima and Lowden with 130 SQA colleagues attending and a further 60 due on 31 May. The sessions focussed on ‘What is a TOM?’; Culture and Engagement discussion on why cultural change is expected and how to communicate and engage with colleagues; Customer Journey Maps and how we may create Service Improvement Projects up to and beyond day 1 of the NQB. There was also a session which focussed on the design principles which was showcased through the work of SQA’s Next Gen HN Programme of work which has been ongoing since 2018. We shared high level timelines and information on the thematic projects.

The sessions were very interactive and included a temperature check where each delegate was able to use a set of emojis to share how they are feeling about reform. The results so far show we are leaning towards positive feelings, which is quite encouraging. The anxiety and frustration that is being felt was noted to be around structure, jobs, and future. We know we can build on these things as we have more information to share.

The Delivery Board was advised that the sessions were for internal staff and Delivery Board members recognised that external stakeholders, for example, in schools or colleges would be interested to hear more too, however we can’t do this yet as we don’t have enough detail for meaningful engagement. This type of engagement will follow in due course.

It was confirmed that there is not yet a date to release the name of the NQB.

External communications and engagement

JB noted that work on branding and identity has been slow to progress without the TOM, output from thematics including the one on Culture and Branding and the new body name. The focus has been on -

Outcomes from each of the reviews (Hayward, Withers etc) are due and SQA will ensure the sequencing and messaging for them is given proper consideration in relation to the NQB.

Scot Gov has a plan to have user panels and round tables for engagement on reform matters and SQA will help Scot Gov shape this programme. It was noted that there has been discussion on the breadth of stakeholders and user representation and that it will not just be focussed on schools.

The design of the new Scot Gov reform website has been collaborative, that the digital standards need to be approved and resource at Scot Gov has yet to be fully confirmed.

Policy and legislation

Delivery Board members discussed work that was continuing within Scot Gov around the NQB policy memorandum and financial memorandum.

They noted that formal lead in time before a Bill is introduced with parliamentary procedure is 2-3 weeks, it would be expected that the committee would scrutinise the Bill at stage 2. Also, it would be expected that the financial memorandum be about change (reform) and not about As Is. Bills can change as they make their way through parliament which could have implications for the programme. The Bill will also cover the establishment of the Inspectorate as well as the replacement of SQA.

Accreditation and regulation

SQA are meeting with Scot Gov to discuss the Short Life Working Group (SLWG) on Scope on 02 June 2023, which will focus on the membership of the group and key areas of focus.

Work is well progressed on drafting the Customer Journey Maps (CJMs). Dates are planned in with the wider Accreditation team to confirm the CJMs. Aim is to complete work with the Accreditation Team by the end of the May.

The Accreditation team are in a more positive place due to the CJM work, and the Scope SLWG being set up.


DM updated the group on the preparation work is underway on Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) and due diligence work. There is a lot to do in terms of Trade Union engagement and how to address any restructuring processes and SQA are keen to get to a point where processes are agreed well in advance of transition to support and facilitate a seamless move.

QBR programme risks, dependencies and issues update

Delivery Board members decided that Risk QBR_002R on resource availability should be highlighted as an issue to reflect the budget conversations from the earlier part of the meeting.

The programme will move from amber to red due to resources. Members noted that the wording of the HLR was dispassionate and suggested that the degree of risk and strong feeling from Delivery Board members could possibly be better reflected going forward.

Highlight report for education reform programme board

Available within the Board pack for Delivery Board review.

Any other business              

FR raised the point that during June, July and the first half of August, key personnel will not be engaged in the Reform Programme as the focus will be on NQ Awarding and Certification.

The next NQB Delivery Board is scheduled for Thursday 8 June 2023 10am – 11:30am.

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