Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning minutes: December 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the taskforce on 16 December 2020.

Attendees and apologies


Scottish Government Learning Directorate

  • Andy Drought, Deputy Director, Workforce, Infrastructure & Reform
  • David Roy, Unit Head, Teacher Education, Leadership & Reform
  • Judith Ballantine, GETEL Secretariat
  • Keith Dryburgh, Education Analytical Services
  • Anna Savage, Education Analytical Services


  • Eileen Flanagan, Gender Equality Team Leader, Scottish Government
  • Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director, Education Scotland
  • Dr Laura-Ann Currie (on behalf of Gayle Gorman), Head of Inclusion, Wellbeing and Equality, Education Scotland
  • Dr Marion Allison, CLD Standards Scotland
  • Peter McNaughton, Executive Officer, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director, Close the Gap
  • Emma Ritch, Chief Executive, Engender
  • Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Participation and Rights, Children in Scotland
  • Hannah Axon, Policy Manager, COSLA
  • Khaleda Noon, Founder & CEO, Intercultural Youth Scotland
  • Jan Savage, Director of External Affairs and Strategic Development, Enable Scotland
  • Laura Wylie (on behalf of Kathryn Dawson), Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Maisie Geelen (on behalf of Rachel Adamson), Policy and Research Officer, Zero Tolerance Scotland
  • Katie Horsburgh, GirlGuiding Scotland
  • Ellie Craig MSYP, Deputy Convener Education and Lifelong Learning Committee

Also in attendance

  • Nicoletta Primo, GirlGuiding Scotland
  • Kirsty Morrison, Scottish Youth Parliament


  • Louise Macdonald, Chair, National Advisory Council for Women and Girls
  • Andrea Bradley, EIS
  • Professor Ian Rivers, Scottish Council of Deans of Education
  • Dr Mhairi Crawford, Chief Executive, LGBTI Youth Scotland

Items and actions

1.  Welcome and introductions

Andy Drought (AD) welcomed members to the second meeting of the Gender Equality Taskforce and asked everyone to introduce themselves.  He noted that Lauren Kelly, Deputy Convener of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Education and Lifelong Learning Committee has been replaced by Ellie Craig. 

2.  Opening Remarks

AD thanked members for attending.  Due to the workshop nature of this meeting, he noted that he would chair, but that the established arrangement whereby the Deputy First Minister and Razannah Hussain co-chair would resume at the next full meeting in the spring.     

He made the following points: 

  • despite the impact which the Covid 19 pandemic has had on some of the Scottish Government’s aims and ambitions, the work of the group remains of significant importance to the SG and Ministers are fully committed to driving it forward.
  • that the wholesale closure of school buildings for the first time ever in Scotland’s education history had repercussions for everyone, which officials in Learning Directorate, along with valued partners, continue to work hard to mitigate, and will continue to do so for some time to come.
  • that the decision to close school buildings and child care settings in March 2020 was not taken lightly.  He acknowledged that closures impacted disproportionately on women, due to the nature of employment patterns and caring roles, as well as the fact that the majority of the teaching workforce and child care employees are female. This was also a significant driver in re-opening school buildings in August and remains a significant driver in keeping them open.
  • that the pandemic has shone a light on where inequality continues to exist, across the range of protected characteristics - this will help inform the Taskforce’s progress. 
  • a reminder that at the first meeting of the Taskforce, it was agreed that in order to realise its ambitions, a clear vision and shared goals required to be identified, using up to date evidence, and identifying gaps and articulating actions required to fill address those. Picking up that theme, AD noted that  colleagues from Learning Directorate’s Analytical Services Division would help the group work through aims, objectives, methodology and timeline in order that a specification can be completed to procure a Theory of Change (ToC) model for the Taskforce.

3.  Workshop Exercise – breakout groups

Keith Dryburgh (KD) provided an overview of what a ToC consists of and endeavours to achieve.  He used existing models to demonstrate this.  Action:  Secretariat to share these examples with members. 

KD set out what the workshop sessions would consider:  the key ambition was to agree the aims and outputs of the ToC as set out in paper 02/02, how the Taskforce would use the results of the ToC, and whether members had comments on the approach proposed in paper 02/02 and how to improve it.

The Taskforce split in to 4 workshop groups of between 4 and 6 members, in order to work through the following questions:

  1. what do you think the aims and outputs of the Theory of Change should be? Do you agree with the aims/outputs proposed in the paper?
  2. how will the Taskforce use the results of the project?
  3. do you have any comments on the approach/methodology being taken (document review and workshops)? Is there anything that would improve the proposed approach?

A range of diverse views and opinions were considered and the more overarching points which emerged across all 4 groups during the joint discussion were as follows:

  • there was general support across the groups for using a Theory of Change model to identify the Taskforce’s aim.
  • it is of fundamental importance that the scope of the Taskforce is defined as quickly as possible.   
  • there was an emphasis on the need to articulate ‘what works’ over ‘what already exists’. 
  • the importance of Young People being represented on the Research Advisory Group and involved in the workshops which the successful contractor will deliver.  This should go beyond the membership of the Taskforce.
  • the Taskforce’s vision must take account of the need to address behaviour (rather than just attitudes)
  • the aim must be realistic and evidence led
  • the ToC model must support the creation of ambitious recommendations which are wide reaching, linking with other sectors while avoiding considering schools in isolation.

Specifically in relation to each of the questions, the following points were made:

1. what do you think the aims and outputs of the Theory of Change should be? Do you agree with the aims/outputs proposed in the paper?

The aim in the proposal paper which is that the Taskfoce has a "long term vision which will achieve systemic change, delivering a gender equal experience of education and learning” was deemed to be vaguely correct but needs to:

  • Be more explicit in order that girls and young women with different protected characteristics (eg Black and Minority Ethnic, disabled and LGBTI groups) are included.  However it requires to be balanced with not being prescriptive to the point that others are unintentionally excluded.  Intersectionality requires to be embedded from the start
  • The term “gender equal” requires specificity:  for example does it mean e.g safe classrooms? a stereotype free learning environment?
  • Recognise its interconnectedness:  that the Taskforce’s aim will not be achieved in isolation. 
  • The ‘how’ needs to be apparent:  how gender inequality will be tackled in a systemic way needs to be explicit
  • Needs to be realistic, in particular that the aim is not simply to use a strategic thread to tie together all the existing pockets of good work – current strategies, programmes, projects etc. 
  • The need to decide how we are framing gender equality – what are the intersections with male pupils and staff?  And how to address the demographics of the teaching workforce?
  • A strategic framework with clear priorities is required

2. how will the Taskforce use the results of the project?

  • The results will help identify gaps and a focus for the work of the Taskforce
  • A Comms strategy is required in order to link with hard to reach groups
  • To augment reciprocal policy benefits, for example with Equally Safe, and in particular, Equally Safe in Schools 
  • To work with students in tertiary level education
  • To inform policy change, possibly including changes to Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes.

3. do you have any comments on the approach/methodology being taken (document review and workshops)? Is there anything that would improve the proposed approach?

  • Learning from what works is more important than what we’re already doing, otherwise we run the risk of a past dependent ToC model
  • Young People should be represented on the Research Advisory Group (RAG) and work alongside gender and education experts to decide upon impactful outcomes.
  • Cognisance needs to be given to UNCRC integration.
  • The inclusion of a rapid evidence review would be beneficial. 
  • The approach should include a section on assumptions.
  • Existing expertise and evidence from organisations should be used.
  • The ToC’s intersectional approach should be apparent from the start.

4.  Next steps

The Secretariat committed to:   

  • sharing a summary document which reflects the diverse issues discussed and position reached during the meeting
  • asking members submit examples of existing drivers which they believe contribute to achieving systemic gender equality in education and learning.     
  • asking members to express their interest in joining the small research advisory group (RAG) which will oversee the research, as well as the research specification and workshop design. 
  • share the DFID ToC model which KD referred to in his presentation

The next full meeting of the Taskforce will take place in the spring and a date and time will be confirmed shortly by the Secretariat. 

5.  AOB

No other business was tabled

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