Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment in Scotland: interim report

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

Part 1 – The Independent Review So Far


This section of the paper provides an update on the work of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment. The Review has now completed its first two phases and following the publication of this interim report will seek views on a draft new model for Qualifications and Assessment in Scotland. The Review will conclude by the end of May 2023 with the submission of a final report and recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

The Context for Qualifications and Assessment Reform

The Cabinet Secretary initiated this Review of Qualifications and Assessment in response to issues raised during the pandemic and subsequent reports on Scottish Education.

COVID-19 disrupted the traditional approach to qualifications in Scotland. 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 including school and college partnerships.

The OECD report on Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence - Into the Future (2021) suggested that the original potential of Curriculum for Excellence was yet to be realised. They argued 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." (OECD, 2021)

As part of that OECD Review, the report by Professor Gordon Stobart, Upper-secondary education student assessment in Scotland: A comparative perspective (2021) sought to provide insight into the perceived 'misalignment' between curriculum and assessment and to highlight opportunities for reform of assessments in the Senior Phase. Professor Stobart argued that Scottish Education was part of an anglophile tradition heavily dependent on examinations and that learners in Scotland were amongst the most heavily examined in the world. He presented a range of alternative traditions in practice internationally and suggested that if the aspirations of CfE were to be realised, Scotland should consider a broader approach to Qualifications and Assessment.

The starting point for this Independent Review was to consider evidence from the COVID-19 experience and the international reports on Scottish Education. In addition, Qualifications and Assessment had been a major theme emerging from the Muir Review and the Morgan Review. Evidence from both Reviews has been influential in the thinking underpinning this Review.


Any innovation that seeks to lead to change that is deep, meaningful and sustainable has to pay attention to a number of features. Often change focuses on what has to change and, of course, that is crucial. However, it is equally important to consider why the change being proposed is important for learners and for Scottish society, how change might best be achieved and what the journey should look like as we move from where the system is now to where it wants to be in future. Finally, for change to be sustainable, it is important to identify what needs to be different in the wider educational system to support the innovation in practice, e.g. accountability, Inspection and ITE.

The approach to engagement throughout this Review is based on the Integrity Model of Change (2010) that pays attention to:

Educational Integrity - the need to ensure that what is done will lead to better educational opportunities and better life chances for every learner, i.e., is informed by policy, practice and research. The development of the Vision and Principles focused attention on the educational purpose driving the Review.

Personal and Professional Integrity - the importance of ensuring that everyone who has a role to play in making the innovation successful is involved in its design and development, recognising and valuing the crucial role that each will play. The development of the Independent Review Group (IRG) and Community Collaborative Groups (CCG), the engagement with schools and colleges and the public consultation were vehicles to promote personal and professional integrity within the Review.

Systemic Integrity - the need to ensure that the various parts of the system e.g. teacher education, inspection, professional organisations, national and local government and national bodies are aligned to support the innovation in practice. Meetings of Review members with key groups and organisations as well as membership of strategic committees sought to ensure attention was paid to systemic integrity.



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