Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment Group minutes: January 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 25 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Louise Hayward (Convenor), Emerita Professor, University of Glasgow
  • Andrea Bradley, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland
  • Andrew Findlater, Acting Deputy Headteacher, Charleston Academy
  • Professor Chris Chapman, Chair, Educational Policy and Practice, University of Glasgow
  • Douglas Hutchison, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Doctor Edward Sosu, School of Education, University of Strathclyde’s
  • Eileen Prior, formerly Executive Director, Connect
  • Doctor Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development, SQA
  • Professor Gordon Stobart, Emeritus Professor of Education, Institute of Education, University College London
  • Professor Graham Donaldson, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Director, Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment
  • Doctor Joseph Smith, Lecturer Education, University of Stirling
  • Professor Kenneth Muir, University of the West of Scotland
  • Professor Ken Thomson, Principal and Chief Executive, Forth Valley College
  • Mo Whelton, Project Manager, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Pauline Radcliffe, Chief Executive, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework   
  • Peter Bain, Headteacher, Oban and Tiree High Schools
  • Secretariat, Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment, Scottish Government


  • Beinn Grant, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Cheryl Burnett, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Professor Mark Priestley, Professor of Education, University of Stirling
  • Tracy Black, Director, Confederation of British Industry, Scotland
  • Professor Jonathan Powles, Vice Principal of Teaching, Learning and Students, University of the West of Scotland

Items and actions


The Convenor welcomed members to meeting eight of the Independent Review Group (IRG) and extended her welcome to Pauline Radcliffe, the new Chief Executive of Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) , replacing Aileen Ponton. Pauline will take up Aileen’s role as a member of the IRG.  The Convenor invited comments on the minute of IRG 7. There were no comments, and the note was confirmed as final.

Convenor Update

The Convenor reiterated the revised timetable to the group; Interim report due at the end of February 2023 and a final report due for submission to the Cabinet Secretary by the end of May 2023.

Collaborative Community Groups (CCG) Updates

The Convenor invited IRG members to provide the group a summary of feedback from their CCG meetings.

Comments and suggestions from CCGs included the following: 

  • there is a need for change and substantial risk, for society and learners, in maintaining the status quo
  • there is consensus that learners should not sit high stakes exams three years in a row
  • there is strong feeling that needs to be a better balance between internal and external assessment
  • there are concerns amongst teachers around workload and any recommendations must include support for the profession
  • appropriate phasing must be considered
  • the terminology of ‘educational setting/establishment’ as opposed to school or college is more inclusive and should be used by the Review going forward
  • it is essential that learners, parents, colleges, universities and employers are supportive of potential recommendations

Public Consultation: Initial Draft Analysis 

The Secretariat provided an overview of some of the emerging findings of the public consultation but noted that the independent analysis was still in progress. The Secretariat noted that a comprehensive summary of the public consultation will be available to IRG members ahead of Phase Three.

Developing a Preferred Model for Qualifications and Assessment 

The Convenor presented the draft paper: “Developing a preferred model for Qualifications and Assessment”.  

The paper contained five tasks which the group discussed:

  • task one – consider the preferred model based on discussions from IRG 7 and possible further development
  • task two – stand back from the detail and consider if the model reflects our Vision
  • task three – consider how we might better represent the ideas in the diagrammatic form
  • task four – begin to discuss how potential challenges identifies during IRG 7 might best be addressed
  • task five - consider issues raised in IRG 7 about ideas of exit qualifications and an overarching leaving qualification

Comments from members included the following: 

  • any leaving certificate should capture more than exam results. It should engage learners in the learning process and empower them to highlight their individual achievements
  • any leaving certificate should not be graded – a grading system would bring in a range of equity challenges
  • the model has the potential to meet the Vision but also a risk that it becomes exclusive rather than inclusive – important that unintended consequences are considered
  • we should be striving to ensure that every learner regardless of their background succeeds – the model needs to facilitate this
  • Highers are portable and have high international currency. We need to be careful we do not lose this
  • the challenge of recording Personal Pathways was raised. It was suggested that young people will continue to focus on qualifications and exams and the “test” for schools will be in how they support a young person to articulate what they have been doing beyond exams – whether it be at the level of a carer for a family member or at the other extreme a trip abroad. It was noted that a survey had shown that a quarter of young people in Glasgow have some sort of caring responsibility
  • concerns around workload may in part be related to the belief that what we are proposing will be in addition to what teachers are doing at present. Removing the two-term dash may allow space for new practice

Next Steps 

The Convenor thanked members for their time and noted that the next meeting would be on the 23rd of February. 

Action List  

  • CCG membership to be confirm by IRG members to Secretariat
  • IRG members to scheduled Phase Three meetings with support from Secretariat
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