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 medium-term action?

Respondents were asked what their top priority for medium-term action is. Responses were again varied and, thus, there was not strong agreement on what the top priority for medium-term action should be. However, the most common answers are set out below.

Qualifications and assessment

Around 15% of responses said that qualifications and assessments were a top priority for medium-term action. These responses were broadly similar to those given by respondents who said examinations and assessments were their top priority for short-term action. Responses can be divided into three sub-priorities: ongoing assessment; developing alternative pathways; and retaining external examinations.

Some respondents, again, argued for the reduction of external assessments and for teacher judgement to be given greater importance in assessment. However, responses had a greater focus on the importance of ongoing assessment of pupils throughout their educational journey, rather than just in the senior phase.

“That the current system of exams changes so that teacher input/observations is given more weight. An exam only provides a glimpse into what a pupil knows on that current day and can be influenced by so many variables. Exams cause so much stress and anxiety and don't give a full picture into the skills and experience that a pupil has.” – Primary school teacher

“To assess Pupils throughout their academic career rather than wait until the senior phase. It is important that ongoing individual assessments take place throughout pupils educational journey to prepare them fully for the senior phase and further education.” – High school teacher

However, respondents also recognised the workload implications this may have for teachers and the need for robust standards.

“Working on standards for internal assessment at senior phase level, and how this will be managed and maintained across Scotland.” – High school teacher

“End exams and external assessment but only with proper time and resourcing in schools to manage the increased workload of internal assessment.” – High school teachers (group)

The promotion of alternative pathways was, again, considered a priority. Responses indicated, however, that in the medium-term the focus should be on developing a broader range of vocational pathways. Respondents noted the need for vocational qualifications to have parity of esteem, with some respondents arguing that vocational subjects should be fully embedded within the curriculum for all pupils, including those who take an academic pathway.

“Create more vocational pathways for young people with equal standing as academic assessments.” – Primary school teacher

“More vocational course with a higher status- all children take some vocational courses, so has same status, this should be mandatory alongside English and Maths to develop a wider set of skills and a more resilient workforce.” – Primary school teachers (group response)

Some respondents stressed the importance of also building relationships with colleges, employers, and industries to provide a broader range of vocational opportunities, work experience, and employability skills.

“Development of more vocational subjects and stronger links with different industries to provide all learners, whether academic or not, with life-long opportunities.” – Primary school teacher

“In the medium term, establish partnerships with local businesses and industries to create opportunities for students to gain practical experience and develop employability skills, bridging the gap between education and the workforce.” – Independent school rector

Some respondents were, again, critical of the proposal to reduce examinations. The responses to this question, however, had a greater focus on arguing for the reintroduction of National 4 examinations. Respondents argued that National 4 qualifications lack credibility due to the absence of external assessment which puts pupils at a disadvantage. For this reason, they have concerns about the removal of external assessment at National 5 level.

“Not remove exams at Level 5. Review National 4 course programmes and assessment to ensure they are fit for purpose. e.g. regarding National 4 - internally assessed qualifications don't have the credibility or rigour and can lead to inequality with regards to success and achievement for learners.” – High school teachers (group response)

“…the current internal assessment model at National 4 level is inadequate and does not prepare those wishing to follow on with their studies at N5 level.” – High school teacher

Learning and Development

Around 11% of responses said that learning and development opportunities for teachers and support staff was a top priority for medium-term action. More generally, this referred to greater national investment in training opportunities for teachers and protected time for professional development. Respondents listed some specific training needs, including digital skills, ASN and inclusivity, and pupil mental health and wellbeing.

“Huge investment in upskilling staff, providing infrastructure, equity in training (i.e. rural areas included, not just the central belt)…” – High school teachers (group response)

“All teaching staff have the opportunity to participate in high quality training courses to ensure that they provide high quality learning experiences for their children.” – Primary school teachers (group response)

A more specific priority was the various learning and development opportunities that will be needed to support teachers to understand, implement and deliver the proposed changes to the curriculum and assessment and qualifications. Respondents stressed that teachers would need to be granted sufficient time to familiarise themselves with the changes and related guidance, and to access any training they will need to deliver the proposals. Many respondents said they are anxious that they will be unable to balance their learning and development needs with their workload and/or that the changes will be implemented too quickly.

“Staff are anxious and curious in equal measure about their professional learning time to prepare for change and where this will come from, and when.” – High school head teacher

“Based on what changes are coming it could be a considerable change for many teaching staff. For any changes to be successful and effective then ensuring all teaching staff have had the time to engage with the documentation around changes, what that means and have access to any upskilling or training is essential.” – High school teacher

Digital skills and infrastructure

Around 10% of responses identified digital related issues as a top priority for medium-term action. Primarily, responses referred to improving digital skills, investing in digital infrastructure, and addressing digital inequity.

Respondents said that digital upskilling is a priority for both teachers and pupils, particularly given the proposal to introduce digital profiles. The respondents identified a need to improve the digital literacy of teaching staff and to fund and expand the digital training offer. At the same time, it was noted that many pupils also lack digital skills and that a digital curriculum should be developed.

“Progression of Digital Training for staff and Digital Education for children and young people. There is no doubt that the world has changed and there is no going back on the digital revolution… compulsory training needs to be given to every staff member to ensure they are digitally proficient to teach the next generation.” – High school teachers (group response)

“Further guidance needed on how to develop digital curriculum in school. Staff need further training and support on using the digital technology.” – Primary school teacher

Respondents also pointed to, what they consider, inadequacies in digital infrastructure in schools. There were concerns that the proposals to use digital profiles and digital assessments are unrealistic given that some schools lack adequate numbers of computers or reliable internet connectivity. They stressed the need for funding for digital technology and infrastructure.

“Many schools across the country do not have the ICT infrastructure to cope with the need that this new model would demand. Again, in theory the ideas behind this new model sound good but we have genuine concerns that schools do not have the infrastructure to support this. In my current school there is no Wi-Fi, no phone signal, ICT is extremely limited and is not fit for purpose.” – High school teachers (group response)

“We need to see schools which are better funded and better equipped digitally. Local Authorities need to be able to upgrade their infrastructure in order to be able to cope with the volume of digital traffic across school establishments. ICT needs to be well funded. There needs to be good quality hardware in place. Devices need to be made available for every pupil AND for every staff member in order to be able to plan and prepare for their work.” – High school teachers (group response)

Respondents highlighted inequity in digital access, both at a local authority level and pupil level. They argued that digital funding needs to be equitable across all local authorities and that all pupils should have access to a digital device. They suggested that digital inequity contributes to educational inequity, with some pupils unable to access online learning resources or develop their digital skills.

“Access to digital resources and Wi-Fi is essential in allowing equitable access to learning but currently nowhere near the level needed in may schools. Many pupils still have no regular access to learning key resources which are entirely online (Teams, Scholar, Achieve etc.). Additionally, there is a severe lack of hardware and software available to pupils in school and at home to cope with the evolution of new and increasingly computer based subjects (e.g. Higher Applications of Maths).” – High school teacher

“Medium-term it is vital that we look at providing schools with digital technologies. Currently, there is a vast difference in the access to digital technology. For example, schools in Edinburgh have a 1-1 device policy, and at my school we have a set of 30 Chromebooks between 5 subjects. It is vital we address this quickly in order ensure there is parity in the new system.” – High school teacher


Around 10% of responses said the curriculum was a priority for medium-term action. This can be divided into three sub-priorities: simplifying the curriculum; curriculum design; and ongoing review of the curriculum.

Some respondents were critical of, what they deem, an overcrowded curriculum. This has two elements – the notion that pupils study too many subjects, and the notion that some parts of the curriculum are prioritised to the detriment of others. Largely, these respondents think the curriculum should be simplified, with a greater focus on literacy, numeracy, and Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. What is more, some respondents argued that Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) promotes skill-based learning at the expense of knowledge-based learning. Respondents also called for greater consistency in the content and delivery of the curriculum across schools and local authorities.

“Streamlined and standardised curriculum across Scotland with clear expectations of delivery.” – Primary school teachers (group response)

“A refocussing of the curriculum with increased emphasis on knowledge as a core element of learning - the current focus on skills creates fragmented projects which has led to a decrease in literacy and numeracy.” – High school teacher

Respondents recognised that a key priority will be designing a new curriculum to deliver the principles of the proposed Scottish Diploma of Achievement. They saw this as an opportunity to develop a curriculum with a greater focus on life skills, employability, and meta skills such as: communication, presentation, and analytical skills; critical thinking; emotional intelligence; and resilience. They also hoped to see increased inclusion of digital learning, outdoor learning and, in the case of primary schools, play-based learning.

It was important to these respondents that the curriculum is designed collaboratively across the teaching profession, with more national based resources and standardisation across schools.

“There is a huge need for more collegiate working in all subject areas. Materials need to be available for all to use for every area of the curriculum, that are meaningful, adaptable and help to give teachers the tools to teach areas out with their expertise. Workstreams involving teachers from every local authority from every subject area, who could work together then feedback resources, information and tools to teach courses and create assessment strategies that are meaningful and meet the national standard.” – High school teachers (group response)

“Learning part of the course needs to be developed for the whole of the country with a clear curriculum content resources, exemplars etc. and not rely on teachers having to do their own thing and develop whole curriculums themselves. This would then allow time for teachers to be trained and develop the pathway and project aspects of the qualification which will be a huge thing for staff to take on.” – High school teachers (group response)

Respondents also stressed the importance of ongoing curriculum review to ensure that it is fit for purpose, inclusive, and meets the changing needs of young people and the wider world.

Other medium-term priorities

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

  • Funding – Around 8% of responses stated that funding is needed to support the delivery of the proposals. Specific funding priorities included: recruitment of more teachers and support staff; support for pupils with ASN; digital infrastructure; and learning and development.
  • Staffing – Around 8% of responses said that teacher recruitment and retention was a priority, including the recruitment of more specialist teachers for key subjects and more support staff for pupils with ASN.
  • Clarity – Around 8% of responses said greater clarity is needed on the details of the proposals and the implications for teachers and pupils. This included: clearer timescales; clear guidance on the content of courses, the different elements of the diploma, and how internal assessment will be carried out; and clear actions for teachers and schools to take.
  • Workload – around 6% of responses noted worries about teacher workload. Respondents were particularly concerned that teachers will not be given sufficient time to prepare for the changes or to develop curriculum resources. They are also concerned that a greater reliance on internal assessment will have an adverse effect on workload.



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