Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning minutes: August 2022

Minutes from the group's meeting on 9 August 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Sam Anson, Chair
  • Mhairi Brodie, Education Scotland
  • Anna Ritchie Allan, Close the Gap
  • Ian Menzies, Education Scotland
  • Kathryn Dawson, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Selma Augestad, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Peter McNaughton, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Hannah Axon, COSLA
  • Rebekah Cameron-Berry, COSLA
  • Katie Horsburgh, Girlguiding Scotland
  • Razannah Hussain, #iwill Ambassador
  • Ellie Craig, MSYP, Glasgow Cathcart
  • Kirsty Morrison, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Lesley Cunningham, Equality Unit, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Judith Ballantine, Secretariat, SG
  • Pauline Hendry, Secretariat, SG


  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive, Education Scotland
  • Ian Rivers, Scottish Council of Deans of Education (SCDE)
  • Andrea Bradley, EIS
  • Khaleda Noon, IYS
  • Cara Spence, LGBT Youth Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and updates

The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced himself as the new Deputy Director for the Workforce, Infrastructure and Digital Division of Learning Directorate. Attendees introduced themselves.

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting on 16 May were shared with members. One amendment was submitted by Zero Tolerance. Secretariat will confirm outwith the meeting that they are happy with the amended text as drafted. 

No other comments or amendments were offered. 

Action: Secretariat to circulate final version of minutes of the previous meeting once Zero Tolerance has confirmed that they’re content with their amendment as drafted.

Update on current thinking and position, and aim of today's meeting

Members were reminded that the previous meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the three reports which the Taskforce commissioned The Collective, the Children’s Parliament and the Scottish Youth Parliament to produce. 

Members were then asked to follow that meeting by sending in their written responses to the reports. These were reflected and summarised in the paper shared by the Secretariat on 21 June. It was clear from the responses that the key points of concern and areas where early action should be taken are:

  • the requirement to appoint a permanent chair, ideally a Ministerial one
  • reassessment of the existing Taskforce membership both to identify which organisations should be represented on it and to ensure representation is at Chief Exec or equivalent level
  • early scoping work to develop the Taskforce’s intersectional approach
  • clarification of the wording used in the recommendations and the theory of change model
  • early scoping work to identify how to position the Taskforce’s ambitions in the context of Equally Safe and the Gender Pay Gap Strategy

The first of these points, the appointment of a permanent, Ministerial chair, has already received a significant amount of support amongst members, for several reasons, including raising the profile of the Taskforce, and increasing the likelihood of engagement with senior representatives of member organisations who can bring influence to bear. In addition, the Cabinet Secretary’s previous ministerial role included the equality brief, which brings an increased level of knowledge and understanding of the issues.

Members agreed that having the Cabinet Secretary chairing the Taskforce going forwards sounds like a sensible step. It was expressed that there is a need for leadership of the Taskforce and someone to spearhead the work. It was also suggested that the Cabinet Secretary’s connections across other pieces of work i.e., the Gender Based Violence Working Group, would allow a degree of oversight, which would also be helpful.

Agreement was reached on the proposal to ask the Cabinet Secretary to chair the Taskforce.

Action: Secretariat to approach the Cabinet Secretary to ask her if she would be content to chair the Taskforce.

Ellie Craig MSYP pointed out that the previous chairing arrangement had a young person co-chair alongside the Deputy First Minister. She asked whether this would be the arrangement again. Her interest was noted by the Secretariat.

Emerging position for discussion and agreement

It is the intention to publish the 3 reports and the Taskforce’s response during the second week in September. In order to meet this milestone, it is imperative that agreement is reached on the issues of Taskforce membership and the wording of the recommendations.

Members split into two breakout groups to undertake discussion on:

  • breakout session 1 - Taskforce membership: the group is generally in agreement that there are gaps in the existing membership and that it needs to be reviewed
  • breakout session 2 - Clarification of recommendations: there is broad agreement that the wording needs to be tightened up, before the significant number of mapping exercises suggested by members can be carried out

Feedback from each group on their positions

The chair thanked everyone for their participation in the breakout groups, and for the excellent discussions held. 

Feedback was provided by Lesley Cunningham and Judith Ballantine, and their notes are appended to these minutes at annex A.

Neither breakout group was able to discuss the entire set of recommendations for breakout session 2. Members were asked to submit the points which weren’t discussed, to the Secretariat, by email.

Action: All members may submit any final comments on the recommendations by email.

Next steps

The Chair expressed his appreciation to all participants for their time and input and outlined the next steps:

  • approach the Cabinet Secretary requesting that she chairs the Taskforce. Her decision will be communicated to members once known. Action: Secretariat
  • the input from breakout session 1 will be considered, and based on that, a revised membership will be drafted and shared with everyone for agreement. Action: Secretariat
  • the input received from breakout session 2 will be incorporated into the revision of the wording of the recommendations. Further feedback on the remaining recommendations is welcomed, members can submit these to Secretariat by email. Alternatively, if members wish to speak on a one-to-one basis, that can be arranged. The deadline for any further comments is close of play on Monday 15 August 2022
  • following the procedure outlined above, a final draft of the recommendations will be sent to members for agreement, in order that we can move to publication in the second week in September. Action: Secretariat

It was also noted that the infrastructure of the Taskforce was raised during discussions. While it may be too early to take action in this area, it is helpful for members to consider subgroups/working groups that may sit below the Taskforce and what they might look like. 

Any other business

The process for implementing the recommendations made by Prof Ken Muir in his report Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education and specifically how equality and human rights organisations contribute to it has been raised by members in a number of forums.

Members were reassured that this work is still at a very early stage, with some activity beginning to unfold. An online event is to be held by Education Reform colleagues at 1pm on Thursday 11 August. If any members have not received an invitation, they should let Secretariat know. 

Razannah Hussain offered insight on young people’s input to the Taskforce, as the previous co-chair. She considers that a group of children and young people being involved in the work would be preferable to one young person acting as co-chair, given the pressure it can put on one individual compared.

Action: Secretariat will get in touch with Razannah for any further reflections on her time as co-chair.

Annex A

Breakout session 1

Re-evaluate the membership of the Taskforce and reconsider the membership of the Taskforce to include relevant stakeholders, in line with agreed activities.

Group 1


We discussed the optimum level of seniority of members and agreed that there was a balance to be struck.

On one hand, members need to have knowledge of their specific briefs and sufficient time and commitment to engage in and move work forward – in this respect delegation isn’t always bad. On the other hand, members need to have sufficient decision making authority, influence and agency in relation to their organisations to ensure work is progressed.
We acknowledged that the future structure of the Taskforce, including if it has sub groups or working groups, may impact on the seniority of members at different levels within that structure.

Representation of young people 

We agreed that it is crucial that the taskforce benefits from hearing the voices of children and young people and that children and young people have opportunities to share their views with the taskforce.

But we acknowledged that this doesn’t necessarily mean that inviting a young person to co-chair the Taskforce as a member is the best way to achieve this – it is quite a different ask of a young person to share their views versus to chair a meeting of professionals, possibly with the Cabinet Secretary as Co-Chair.

We didn’t rule this out but agreed that it if consideration was to be given to asking a young person to co-chair the Taskforce, it has to be meaningful and not tokenistic and it requires support to be put in place to enable that young person to carry out their role.

General Teaching Council for Scotland 

We agreed that the General Teaching Council for Scotland should be invited to join the taskforce.

Group 2

Taskforce membership: the group is generally in agreement that there are gaps in the existing membership and that it needs to be reviewed.

Organisations that were suggested being missing from the current Taskforce membership: General Teaching Council for Scotland; Skills Development Scotland; Scottish Qualifications Agency; SG Education Reform colleagues; Youthlink; Early Years rep – Care Inspectorate; Unions and professional organisations 

Discussion points made included: 

  • there is a need for a core group, which has the potential to be flexible, in to which a larger number of stakeholders report or feed in, as they take forward recommendations
  • children and young people’s input – whatever form this takes, but particularly where CYP are interacting with established senior stakeholders, work must first be undertaken mitigate the power imbalance inherent in that setting. The NACWG was given as an example of a potential model for consideration, whereby there is a core council, which is relatively senior, with only 1 young person on it, and sitting alongside it, a lived experience group which is more diverse. The lack of diversity on the taskforce was noted and the point was made that it should seek a more diverse composition 
  • COSLA’s joint delivery board was also suggested as a model of good practice for engaging with CYP
  • one challenge question was asked: should the Violence Against Women and Girls organisations that have programmes for male perpetrators be represented?

Breakout session 2

Facilitated discussion on clarification of The Collective’s recommendations and Theory of Change model and how to take this forward.

Group 1

A1. We agreed that linking A1 and A3 makes sense in principle but that the combined text suggested would benefit from some simplification, or may be better described in two distinct but linked parts. 

A2. Following discussion, we agreed that consideration be given to removing “anti-racist” from the first strategic goal under A2, because:

  • there is a risk that the focus of the taskforce grows and/or becomes diluted by adding additional objectives. The need to challenge other forms of inequality could also be referenced but haven’t been – e.g. “anti-ableist”. We agreed that additional terms shouldn’t be added for the sake of it but only if they are intended to be a key component of the work going forward
  • sufficiently covered by the reference to “professionals who understand intersecting inequalities”
  • it was raised that the terms “gender competent” and “anti-racist” are not equivalent – “racially literate” was offered as a better term in terms of equivalency should it be decided to keep the reference

In relation to the third strategic goal under A2, we suggest referring to “woman and girls” at the end of the sentence.

In relation to the last strategic bullet, we agreed that while it is true that we want all young people to freely choose subjects and areas of study irrespective of gender, there is a risk that referring to men and boys implies that the action needed to address the barriers experienced by men and boys is the same as for women and girls. 

As a group, need to be clear if the focus of the taskforce is women and girls or gender – does this need to be more explicit? 

A4. We didn’t discuss the suggested revised wording of A4.

A5. We agreed that A5 and C6 be merged. 

In relation to the suggested text, we suggest that consideration is given to the wording to ensure that it is clear that it is the meaningful participation of children and young people themselves that is sought, as opposed to the participation of groups, or representatives of groups that represent children and young people (although both may be important ).

C7. The importance of involving school staff in the development of learning materials was raised and it was suggested that this be made explicit in in the wording of C7 or in the explanatory text for C7. 

Group 2

There is broad agreement that the wording needs to be tightened up, before the significant number of mapping exercises suggested by members can be carried out.

  • it was agreed that in principle, A1 and A3 should be merged to create one recommendation, but that the newly proposed wording was a bit unwieldy/repetitive and could be more articulate
  • the suggested wording for recommendation A2 was agreed but a decision was not reached on what extent to include the bold text, added by The Collective. There was some agreement that the focus needs to be on women and girls, reflecting the ambitions of the NACWG, but that men and boys need to be acknowledged as part of the solution to the problem
  • with recommendation A4, it was suggested that “re-assess” be replaced with “review”, reflecting the fact that the next phase is all about having the most appropriate stakeholders on the group
  • recommendation A5 – remove the words “in schools”
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