It's Our Future - Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment: report

Final report of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment in Scotland.

Appendix 9.3 Terms of Reference


This document sets out the remit for the Qualifications and Assessment Independent Review Group (IRG), which will be led by Professor Louise Hayward, Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation at the University of Glasgow (the IRG Convener).


This work stems in part, from the recent OECD reports into Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence - Into the Future (2021) found that whilst CfE “continues to be a bold and widely supported initiative, and its design offers the flexibility needed to improve student learning further the structure, learning practices and assessment approaches in the Senior Phase also need adapting to be consistent with CfE’s vision, and to allow for the smooth curriculum experience promised from 3 to 18.” The subsequent report by Professor Gordon Stobart, (2021) Upper-secondary education student assessment in Scotland: A comparative perspective sought to provide insight into the perceived ‘misalignment’ between curriculum and assessment and to highlight opportunities for reform of assessments in the Senior Phase.

In addition to these recent OECD reports, following the cancellation, due to COVID-19, of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams in 2020 and 2021 there has been a renewed public debate in Scotland about assessment, particularly in the Senior Phase. Thus, in October 2021 the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills announced that Professor Louise Hayward of Glasgow University would lead work, consulting on the purpose and principles which should underpin any reform of national qualifications and assessment.

This work will take as its starting point, a consideration and analysis of the OECD reports; prior engagement, research and the numerous consultation responses received as part of Professor Ken Muir’s work which relate to qualifications and assessment specifically; early engagement by Professor Hayward with colleagues from the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament and relevant prior research and surveys of students, teachers and parents & carers on this subject.


The Convener, supported by the IRG and Collaborative Community Groups (CCGs), will provide a report and recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, advising on the purpose and Principles which should underpin any reform of national qualifications and assessment in the ‘Senior Phase’. This will predominately cover S4-S6 in school and ages 15-18 out with school, however it is also recognised that there may be implications for some adult learners who study courses which fall within the remit. The focus of this work will be school and college qualifications accessible in the Senior Phase. The Review will not consider or make recommendations on the content of individual courses.

It is anticipated that the IRG will explore issues such as:

  • the purposes and uses of a qualification/exams system, including recognition of learning, accreditation, selection and accountability;
  • consider the approaches to assessment in vocational and technical subjects and lessons that could be learned from these approaches;
  • fairness, equity and the impact of different approaches to assessment for qualifications;
  • from ideas to practice – the process of change and learning from our past and;
  • wider National and International approaches to the future of assessment and qualifications.

The conclusions that the Convener and IRG reach will be made independently of the Scottish Government and all other institutions.

The Convener will invite membership to the IRG from individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds and who have a range of skills, expertise and knowledge.

Membership of IRG and CCG

Membership of the IRG and CCGs will ensure that all interested groups with a stake in the future of qualifications have the opportunity to feed into the Review.

Membership will include, but is not limited to:

  • those most directly concerned (users, students, parents and carers) ensuring that there are individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds from all of these groups;
  • those immediately responsible for delivering courses leading to qualifications – teachers, lecturers, school and college leaders and training providers including those representing the Gaelic Medium Education Sector;
  • those who use these qualifications as young people transition from higher education, further education, employers, and external agencies (for example. Skills Development Scotland);
  • those responsible for providing such qualifications: for example. SQA, other awarding bodies and other regulatory bodies;
  • those responsible for local policy in relation to qualifications, for example. local education authorities and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES);
  • researchers in fields essential to the work of the group, for example. curriculum, qualifications and assessment, equality and social justice, accountability, national and international assessment systems, sustainable change and;
  • representation from all parts of the country, in both urban and rural settings.

Here you can access a full list of activities, outcomes and approach of the Review.

Last updated: December 2022



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