School and college teacher recommendations: consultation analysis

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills consulted with the school and college teaching profession to seek their views on the recommendations from the National Discussion on Education and the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment. This report sets out the findings.

What is your top priority for a short-term action?

Respondents were asked what their top priority for short-term action is, in relation to the National Discussion on Education report. Responses were extremely varied and, thus, there was little consensus on what the top priority for short-term action should be. However, the most common answers are set out below.


Around 15% of responses, said that funding should be the top priority for short-term action. Of those responses, around a third quoted from the National Discussion on Education report, stating that the top short-term priority was to ensure “adequate sustained funding to provide staffing and specialist resources to achieve commitment to inclusivity and meet the needs of each learner, including those with additional support needs.”

Over half of the responses mentioned that more funding is needed for staffing, specifically to increase the number of teachers and support staff in classrooms. Some respondents were concerned about the implications of the proposed education reforms on the workload, wellbeing and learning and development needs of teachers. They stressed that staffing levels will need to increase for the proposed reforms to be successfully implemented.

“…I currently teach so much, that I frequently have days with no free periods; cover requirements for absent colleagues are high, because of the stress levels people are experiencing. Classes are full, and the marking from 32-pupil classes is incredibly time-consuming. It would be nice to have time to even think about this report, and its consequences. The reality is that most teachers won't have this time. So: more teachers, and smaller classes. I.e. more money is needed.” – High school teacher

Many of the responses noted that that funding to support pupils with additional support needs (ASN), in mainstream education, needs to be increased. Specifically, respondents argued for more trained specialist support staff to support pupils with ASN in the classroom.

“Greater funding and resourcing for ASN provision. The number of pupils presenting with high levels of need is not being matched by funding. We urgently need a dramatic increase in funding if inclusivity is to be more than a political buzz word.” – High school teacher

Particular concerns were raised by a few respondents about the impact that increasing levels of ASN have on teachers’ ability to meet the needs of not only pupils with ASN, but all pupils in the classroom.

“Year on year cuts to PSAs [Pupil Support Assistants], ASN teachers, and specialist settings mean that we are now not getting it right for any child in the education system. Unsupported young people with ASN are not having their needs met and this is also impacting on those in the classroom who do not have any additional needs.” – Primary school ASN teacher

Some respondents also highlighted the need for additional funding for the curricular and technological resources that will be needed to deliver the proposed new courses. This was seen as particularly pertinent for practical or vocational courses which are often more costly to deliver.

“Better funding and resource provision to schools. Cost of running courses are increasing significantly while budgets are being continuously reduced. Vocational subjects for example practical woodworking, metalworking and cookery are struggling due to funding.” - High school teacher

Qualifications and assessment

Around 11% of responses said that qualifications and assessments were a top priority for short term action. This can broadly be divided into three sub-priorities: reducing the number of examinations in the senior phase; parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications; and retaining examinations in the senior phase.

Some respondents said that reducing the number of examinations in the senior phase was an immediate priority. They believed that pupils should be assessed via a combination of external examinations and internal teacher judgement. For some, this was to ensure the wellbeing of young people given the stress that is often associated with high stake examinations. Others felt that more time should be focused on developing pupils’ skills and learning, rather than preparing for examinations.

“We believe that a final exam being the only way to determine an overall grade is no longer meeting the needs of our learners. A move to the new idea where learners build credit throughout the session, which then contribute to the final award is more suitable. We see this as a huge priority in Scottish education. The pandemic and the use of the ACM [alternative certification model] highlighted this, and how it gave our learners a better opportunity to succeed.” – High school teachers (group response)

“Remove external assessment in S4 to allow more time to focus on learning, developing skills, knowing themselves as learners, planning own pathway.” – Headteacher

Many of the respondents wanted to see an immediate move towards the promotion of alternative pathways. This included ensuring there is parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications and increasing access to, and funding for, existing vocational courses.

“Improve existing vocational qualifications. Fund them properly and make them equal with academic achievements. Provide resources for teachers to deliver vocational courses.” – High school teacher

“Improve access to existing qualifications in school and/or promoting college options to suitable students in S3/4.” – High school teacher

Some respondents stressed their disagreement with the proposal to reduce examinations. Concerns were raised about: whether internal assessments are robust, credible and can be standardised nationally; how to mitigate bias in internal assessment; the impact of internal assessment on teacher workload; and the perceived lack of consultation with teachers and other stakeholders.

“Abandon any attempt to remove external assessments from National 5 courses. Examinations are the most equitable way of assessing pupils, and should stay.” – High school teacher

“Further reflection is needed before serious changes are made to the Scottish education system which will have a lasting and negative impact on generations of pupils to come. Greater consultation is required with both employers and further education bodies, to ensure that the removal of National 5 qualifications is in the best interest of all of our young people. In my opinion these examinations should be retained, however schools and centres should not be 'forcing' all students to attempt them.” – High school teacher

Clarity on how education reforms will be implemented

Around 10% of responses said that a top priority for short-term action was to receive clearer guidance on what education reform will look like and how it will be implemented. Overall, these respondents felt that the current recommendations are too vague in explaining how the reforms would work in practice. That said, they believe there is an immediate priority to provide more detailed information on the proposals.

This included a clear timeline for implementation which should set out key milestones and deadlines for any actions required by schools and teaching practitioners, and which should be clearly communicated to all relevant stakeholders.

Respondents also said that they need clear examples of what the three pathways of the Scottish Diploma of Achievement (SDA) would look like in practice, as this is currently hard to envision.

“Significantly more information for school staff - show us what this potentially looks like in practice. Give a specific and concrete subject example of each of the three elements of the Diploma, including teaching resources, assessment and verification procedures.” – High school teachers (Group response)

“Full examples of what an SDA may look like for different students including different subject areas.” – High school teachers (Group response)

Similarly, respondents wanted clarity on how the proposals will impact on curriculum design, with clear examples of how it will look for specific subjects across the curriculum. There was also confusion on how Project Learning and the Personal Pathway will be integrated into the curriculum.

“Need to know much more detail about what this implies for curriculum design & delivery in a practical sense, for both learners and teachers.” – High school teachers (group response)

“As teachers we need very clear guidance on the project learning - we need to know if this will be timetabled separately from the programmes of learning and who will be responsible for guiding, assessing the project learning, what will course looks like and will there be national resources”– High school teachers (group response)

Respondents also wanted clear guidance on what assessments will look like, particularly how internal assessments will be designed and who by, and how the credibility and impartiality of internal assessments will be maintained.

“Exemplar/Clarification document that is a clear and robust guide to: what will the certificates entail in the teaching, assessing and implementation; how will each modules be created, assessed and verified; how will there be a unified standard set for each subjects with a wealth of support materials, a la Understanding Standards on the SQA site and; how the new qualifications will be promoted to pupils, parents, third party agents and employers, unis and colleges.” – High school teacher

Other short-term priorities

A range of other short-term priorities were identified in fewer numbers. This included:

  • Digital skills and infrastructure – around 7% of responses noted the need for digital upskilling of teachers and pupils; upgrading digital infrastructure; and ensuring all pupils have access to a device.
  • Learning and development – around 7% of responses stressed that teachers and support staff will need adequate time to participate in learning and development opportunities as the recommendations are developed and implemented.
  • Ongoing consultation - around 5% of responses argued for further consultation with teachers, pupils, parents, employers, and higher and further education institutions throughout the planning and development of the proposed reforms.
  • Behaviour and attendance – around 4% of responses wanted to see clear actions put in place to tackle poor behaviour, violence, bullying and low attendance.
  • Pupil and teacher wellbeing – around 4% responses wanted to see a greater focus on, and more support for, the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of pupils, and action to reduce teacher stress and workload.



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