Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment Group minutes: August 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 25 August 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Louise Hayward, (Convenor) Emerita Professor, University of Glasgow 
  • Aileen Ponton, CEO of the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework (SCQF) 
  • Andrea Bradley, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • Andrew Findlater, Acting Deputy Headteacher, Charleston Academy 
  • Barrie Sheppard, Vice-chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland 
  • Beinn Grant, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Perthshire North 
  • Cheryl Burnett, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland 
  • Professor Chris Chapman, Chair in Educational Policy and Practice, University of Glasgow 
  • Douglas Hutchison, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) 
  • Doctor Edward Sosu, Research Director, University of Strathclyde’s School of Education 
  • Eileen Prior, Previously Director of Connect 
  • Gill Mann - Policy and Research Manager at Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) 
  • Professor Graham Donaldson, Honorary Professor of Education at University of Glasgow 
  • Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Director, Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment 
  • Professor Jonathan Powles, Vice Principal of Teaching, Learning & Students, University of the West of Scotland 
  • Dr Joseph Smith, Lecturer Education, University of Stirling 
  • Professor Kenneth Muir, Honorary Professor, School of Education, University of the West of Scotland 
  • Professor Ken Thomson, Principal and Chief Executive, Forth Valley College 
  • Mo Whelton, Project Manager, Scottish Youth Parliament 
  • Peter Bain, Headteacher, Oban High School 
  • Secretariat, The National Discussion, Scottish Government 
  • Tracy Black, Director, Confederation of British industry (CBI) Scotland 
  • Zainab Adeleye - Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Glasgow Southside 


  • Professor Gordon Stobart, Emeritus Professor of Education, Institute of Education, University College London 
  • Professor Mark Priestley, Professor of Education, University of Stirling 

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

The Convenor welcomed members to the third meeting of the Independent Review Group (IRG) and invited attendees to introduce themselves to a representative from the team working on the National Discussion.
The Convenor invited comments on the minute prepared for the second meeting of the IRG (June 2022). There were no comments, and the note was approved as final.

Independent Review update

The Convenor reflected on lessons learned from phase one and explained that there will be external communications and marketing agency available for support during phase two.
The Convenor stated she had met with leaders of some of the main political parties and had planned a meeting with the Convenor and Co-Convener of the Education Committee.
The Convenor invited an update on the work of the National Discussion.

National Discussion

The National Discussion Secretariat highlighted that it is important for both the work of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment, and the National Discussion to be joined up. They also noted that it was crucial to have a seamless transition from Ken Muir’s Report, ensure cross working, and put the learner at the centre. Those working on the National Discussion stated that it is important to remember that the National Discussion is being co-convened by the Scottish Government and local government partners COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities). They also stressed the importance of the narrative of the National Discussion and fitting this together with the Independent Review. It is imperative that communications are clear, and distinctions made between both Reviews. Finally, IRG members were referred to the National Discussion webpage to access further information.

Update from IRG members’ Collaborative Community Groups (CCGs)

The Convenor invited IRG members to provide a summary of the feedback which they had received from their first CCG meetings. Feedback was received from the following CCG groups via the IRG lead: 

  • young people
  • parents/carers
  • employers
  • local government
  • SCQF 
  • equity
  • SQA

The other IRG members in attendance updated the Convenor on their plans for hosting their first CCG meeting.  

Options for Change 

The Convener presented six decisions to IRG members which she explained would need to be answered in order to move towards future options. 

Decision 1: What purposes do we intend qualifications to serve? Are there purposes beyond those articulated in the Review’s Vision statement?  
Decision 2: What are the aspirations for learners as made explicit in the curriculum in Scotland and, therefore, what should be recognised as part of qualifications and assessment?
Decision 3: What approach to qualifications and assessment is most likely to encourage qualifications as part of a lifelong learning journey? 
Decision 4:  How might we best design a qualification system that recognises the achievements of every learner?
Decision 5: How might we best build flexible approaches to assessment that allow for diversity, yet provide dependable evidence?
Decision 6: How should the qualification and assessment system be designed to ensure that now and over time, it remains both stable and relevant to the fast-changing needs of individual learners and Scotland as an increasingly complex and globalised society? 

IRG members discussed this in small groups. Each group was asked to discuss two of the six decisions before moving onto another decision of their own choice if time permitted. There was then a full IRG discussion covering all six decisions. Key points noted in group discussions were:

  • the system should be inclusive and equitable
  • learners should have flexible pathways 
  • labour market is important in terms of learner outcomes and needs to be considered 
  • need to have a flexible approach to assessment, not wholly exam based 
  • a need for clarity with regards to the language of achievements, assessments, and awards 

Action 1 - Secretariat to seek views on the language of qualifications and assessment and whether this should include ‘awards’.

Final comments

The Convener discussed arrangements for future IRG meetings and noted her plan to host an online seminar for CCG members in advance of the September IRG meeting. The Convener thanked members for their time and closed the meeting.

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