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 long-term action?

Respondents were asked what their top priority for long-term action is. Responses were again varied and did not demonstrate a strong consensus on what the top priority for long-term action should be. However, the most common answers are set out below.

Qualifications and assessments

Around 20% of responses said that qualifications and assessments were a top priority for long-term action. The responses were very similar to those given in question 1 and 2 and can broadly be divided into three sub-priorities: reducing the number of examinations in favour of ongoing assessment; ensuring that pupils can access a range of pathways; and retaining examinations in the senior phase.

Most respondents agreed that there should be a reduction in external examinations at the senior phase. Some respondents suggested that external examinations should be removed entirely –

“Removal of external qualifications that exacerbate the attainment gap and create a curriculum that teaches young people the necessary skills and knowledge for lifelong success.” – High school teacher

However, in this question, more respondents noted the importance of striking a balance between external and internal assessment, and recognised the value that both forms of assessment can bring to measuring the achievement of pupils.

“Correct balance between teacher assessment and final exam assessment. Both of these are necessary to ensure equity and standards across the country as well as benefiting candidates.” – High school teacher

Respondents again stressed the importance of ongoing assessment, with pupils’ achievement being measured in a variety of ways across the school year, and throughout their educational journey. It was felt that this would be a fairer way of assessing pupils and would take into account their different strengths and needs.

“I would like to see reduced 'final' exams put in place as soon as possible, ensuring that all learners have the opportunity to succeed. I feel that ongoing assessments throughout the year should count towards final marks and this should also be in place imminently.” – Primary school teacher

“That the pupils are fully able to show their learning, skills and knowledge in an assessment environment that works for them and not only those who have excellent English academic skills to be able to show. The form of assessment should form from the way a child can display their learning the best.” – Primary school teacher

Similarly, respondents again called for a variety of qualifications to be on offer to pupils, including a good range of vocational qualifications. They again argued the importance of parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications to ensure that all pupils can leave school with a qualification that is considered equally valid.

“Parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications. Academic students to follow traditional exam route to university, less academic students to follow pathways of equal value to college and apprenticeships.” – High school teacher

“Adapting the education system to be more inclusive of vocational skills and nurturing these, rather than an education system focused on data and academic capabilities, as this is not the right approach for increasing numbers of learners.” – Teacher (school type not specified)

Some respondents, again, noted their disagreement with the proposals to reduce external examinations. Of greatest concern is whether the Scottish Diploma of Achievement will be considered credible by universities, colleges, and employers, and stand up to international scrutiny. These respondents felt that internal assessment is not robust enough and will be difficult to standardise across the country. A few pointed to, what they consider, the “inflation” of grades during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in which a model of teacher judgement was used in lieu of external examinations.

“That all courses, especially Mathematics (my own subject) can deliver courses and prepare pupils for assessments which require external examinations. Internal assessments are not robust enough - regardless of the measures centres put in, or will put in, place.” – High school teacher

“While some balance of internal and external assessment could provide a more accurate portrait of learners in the round, the preponderance of internal assessment outlined in the review is unworkable from the point of view of class teachers and easily open to abuse (divergent standards between practitioners; schools; and authority areas could easily conspire to create a playing field that would be far from level).” – High school teacher


Around 12% of responses, again, said that the curriculum was a top priority for long-term action. This can be divided into three sub-priorities: simplifying the curriculum, curriculum design and development, and ongoing review.

Some respondents, again, stated that simplifying, or “decluttering”, the curriculum was a top priority. Again, literacy, numeracy and STEM were mentioned as particularly important elements of the curriculum.

They also stated their preference for a more nationally standardised curriculum. They saw value in a more structured and prescriptive curriculum that can be delivered more consistently across schools. They had concerns about the workload implications if teachers are to develop new curriculum content individually and would prefer national resources.

“The curriculum should be streamlined/decluttered and there should be national planning documents that all teachers can access so that all teachers at the same stage across the country are not all creating planners for the same topic.” – Primary school teachers (group response)

“Prescribed courses from the SQA or equivalent body, so that all schools across Scotland know we are meeting the same target. For example, there are currently 350 high schools in Scotland teaching National 5 maths, without a prescribed curriculum. Teachers are creating course individually when surely a skeleton course should be done centrally, allowing teachers to enhance when appropriate.” – Primary school teachers (group response)

Many respondents stressed that adequate time will be needed to design and develop the new curriculum. This includes at the national level, where teachers and subject experts should be further consulted so that they are at the forefront of the development of the new curriculum, and at the school level where sufficient time will be needed to develop new materials and lesson plans. It was emphasised by many respondents that teachers will need time, between the curriculum design and implementation stages, to familiarise themselves with the new curriculum in order to feel confident to deliver it to pupils.

“Ensure that teachers are sufficiently knowledgeable and comfortable with the new curriculum to ensure parity between schools nationally.” – High school teacher

In terms of curriculum content, some respondents, again, suggested that the new curriculum should be more skills based with a focus on areas such as life skills, digital skills, and meta-skills.

Once implemented, many respondents noted the need for ongoing review of the curriculum to ensure it remains fit for purpose, inclusive, and reflective of contemporary learner needs.


Around 8% of responses, again, said that funding was a top priority for long-term action. One of the most common questions asked in the responses to the consultation was “how will this be funded?”. Many respondents noted that the success of education reform is reliant on sufficient, long-term funding for the staff and resources that will be needed to successfully deliver the proposed changes. Many respondents were concerned that funding will be insufficient given, what they perceive as, continually decreasing school budgets.

“Continued funding - this must be sustainable. Schools budgets have shrunk so much since the introduction of CfE and this is having a massive impact on attainment. We have larger classes, less support and limited resources. How can any meaningful changes be made and sustained if the money runs out?” – High school teachers and support staff (group response)

“The adequate, sustained funding needs to be put in place and it needs to be transparent. I feel this is a long term priority as it needs to be a long term commitment.” – Depute head teacher

Respondents identified particular areas in need of additional funding. The recruitment of more teachers and support staff was mentioned by many respondents as a key priority for funding. This included staff to support pupils with ASN and subject specialist teachers. Respondents stressed that more teachers are needed to reduce class sizes and workload. Many respondents also specifically mentioned funding for digital infrastructure and for learning and development opportunities for teachers and support staff.

“Sustained funding for more general staffing and specialist support. Unless the government follow through on their funding promises, the needs of our learners cannot be adequately met. Class sizes are getting bigger and support is being reduced.” - Primary school teacher

Other long-term priorities

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

  • Learning and development – Around 6% of responses said that learning and development will be a long-term priority. This was largely in relation to the implementation and delivery of the new curriculum and understanding the new assessment and qualification process. Other specific areas included mental health and wellbeing, digital skills and ASN.
  • Digital skills and infrastructure – Around 6% of responses said that investment in the digital infrastructure and training was needed to support both teachers and pupils, particularly in relation to digital profiles and digital assessment.
  • Engagement with employers and Further and Higher Education – Around 6% of responses said a key priority would be engaging with employers, colleges, and universities to ensure that they understand the new forms of qualifications and assessment. They said that this should include consultation with these stakeholders during the development of the new approach to ensure that the new qualifications will meet entry requirements and will not put Scottish school leavers at a disadvantage.
  • Teacher workload – Around 5% of responses said that reducing teacher workload should be a long-term goal. There were concerns that internal assessment methods will increase teacher workload. Respondents stressed that they are already struggling balancing contact time with lesson planning, marking, and learning and development.



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