International Council of Education Advisers minutes: 1-2 March 2023

Minutes from the tenth meeting of the ICEA on 1-2 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies

The following council members were present:

  • Professor Carol Campbell
  • Professor Chris Chapman
  • Professor Graham Donaldson 
  • Dr Avis Glaze
  • Professor Andy Hargreaves 
  • Dr Pak Tee Ng 
  • Professor Pasi Sahlberg 
  • Professor Allison Skerrett
  • Professor Alma Harris (sessions 1, 2 and 3 only)
  • Professor Edward Melhuish
  • Liz White, Headteacher of Calderglen High School  

Also present

  • Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP (sessions 5 and 6 only)
  • Joe Griffin, Director General Education and Justice (sessions 2, 3, 4 and 5 only)
  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government
  • Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, Scottish Government 
  • Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director, Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government (session 1 only)
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Inspector of Education and Chief Executive, Education Scotland 
  • Gillian Hamilton, Strategic Director, Education Scotland 
  • Ollie Bray, Strategic Director, Education Scotland (sessions 1, 2, 3 and 4 only)
  • Alison Taylor, Deputy Director, Improvement, Attainment and Wellbeing, Scottish Government (sessions 1, 2, 5 and 6 only)
  • Lorraine Davidson, Deputy Director, Education Reform, Scottish Government Peter Whitehouse, Deputy Director of Education Analytical Services (session 5 only)
  • (session 2 only)
  • Clair Henderson, Head of Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government (session 2 only)
  • Zak Tuk, Team Leader, Education Workforce, Scottish Government (session 5 only)
  • Laura Meikle, Unit Head, Support and Wellbeing Unit, Scottish Government (session 5 only – joined via Microsoft Teams)
  • Professor Louise Hayward, Chair of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment (session 3 only)

ICEA Secretariat

  • Judith Tracey, National Improvement Framework Unit, Scottish Government
  • Katie Brydon, National Improvement Framework Unit, Scottish Government
  • Eilidh McCreath, National Improvement Framework Unit, Scottish Government 

Items and actions


This note provides an overview of the discussion and key points from the tenth meeting of the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA). The meeting took place in various venues across Edinburgh on 1 and 2 March and focussed on the following areas: 

  • education reform (National Discussion and the Independent Reform of Qualifications and Assessment)
  • curriculum design and innovation
  • excellence in teaching (ensuring teacher quality through continued professional development; and investment in leadership development)

1 March 2023

Session 1: Meeting with senior officials (Victoria Quay, Edinburgh) 

The first session was chaired by Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, who welcomed everyone to the tenth formal meeting of the ICEA. The tenth meeting began with a presentation by Graeme Logan, Clare Hicks, Eleanor Passmore and Gayle Gorman. This included an overview of the current Scottish education context and key issues, strengths of the system, main areas for improvement and updates regarding progress on reducing the poverty-related attainment gap, the Health and Wellbeing Census and education reform. 

The following points were made during discussion:

  • the Council very much welcomed the Health and Wellbeing Census and the initial findings. There is a need to consider how the curriculum addresses issues around health and wellbeing and to understand the full impact it has on learners 
  • technology is a huge factor in children and young people’s wellbeing, and artificial intelligence will impact the nature of learning in years to come. How can we support young people through this transition
  • attainment is only part of the learning experience and it is important for us to celebrate other achievements, i.e. positive destinations and all the other learning pathways  
  • there is a requirement to support teachers in professional development, specifically around assessment. Data interrogation and understanding needs to be a focus for development, in order for our profession to support children and young people in the best way possible 
  • there is merit in being bold and confident to drive forward improvement and change  
  • focus on ownership – how do we get teachers to a professional level where they are taking leadership in the classroom   

Session 2: National Discussion (Victoria Quay, Edinburgh)

The second session was chaired by Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform with input from the National Discussion co-facilitators Professor Carol Campbell and Professor Alma Harris who delivered a presentation to the group on next steps following the National Discussion. 

The following points were made in discussion:

  • it is important to recognise and celebrate what Scotland is doing in terms of trailblazing internationally 
  • the National Discussion comes with expectations from the public and accountability 
  • this process is a mandate to do things differently, but we need to ensure that we are bold and confident in order to successfully drive meaningful change 
  • the call to action must look and feel different to anything that has been produced previously

Session 3: Education reform (Victoria Quay, Edinburgh)

The third session was also chaired by Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform with input from guest speaker, Professor Louise Hayward, Chair of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment who delivered a presentation to the Council.  

The following points were made in discussion:

  • we need to recognise all the achievements of our learners and give people a choice in the way in which they gain qualifications. We know that some children and young people like the exam process whereas others prefer gathering a range of evidence over time (i.e. project or portfolio work) A variety of approaches can make education more inclusive, ensuring that there is flexibility in the system and all learners needs and preferences are met 
  • to improve the quality of education, the issues around progression in learning should be front and centre. Processes need to be in place to support effective assessment and moderation. To build and share good practice, there needs to be cross-sector learning and collaboration 
  • assessment and examination is important but we cannot view it as the only source of evidence we have to assess children and young people  

Session 4: Curriculum design and innovation (Victoria Quay, Edinburgh)

The fourth session was chaired by Ollie Bray, Strategic Director, Education Scotland who delivered a presentation on curriculum design and innovation. 

The following points were made in discussion:

  • it is important to let go of some of the centralised control of the system and take some learning from other countries who have benefited from inclusive co-creation (e.g. Wales)
  • there should be a shift from a centralised managed position in education to a place where agencies will take on a different style of leadership in terms of brokering, making connections and building relationships. This would be a welcome shift in working towards a networked learning system

On the evening of 1 March, the Council members attended a formal dinner hosted by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills at Space Broomhouse, a charity that works with the people of Broomhouse, Parkhead and Sighthill as well as the wider South West Edinburgh area to create better futures for those who are in most need of support.  

2 March 2023

Session 5: Excellence in teaching (Old Moray House, Edinburgh)

The fifth session on excellence in teaching was chaired by Graeme Logan with input from Gayle Gorman and Gillian Hamilton. Laura Meikle, Unit Head from the Support and Wellbeing Unit, dialled in via Microsoft Teams to discuss additional support for learning. 

The following points were made during the discussion:

  • mentoring and coaching can be extremely beneficial to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Matching new teachers with experienced practitioners can increase confidence and can also instil a sense of support. These coaches and mentors also have to be very strong in pedagogical content knowledge
  • there is an immense amount of professional development available for teachers in Scotland but we need to ensure that we are maximising those opportunities for all 
  • quality of teaching and learning is closely linked to quality of the curriculum.  Is it engaging your young people and your teachers  
  • it is important to think about what we know about disengaged teachers.  Why are they so disengaged, are we speaking to them about it and supporting them as best we can
  • technology and artificial intelligence are key issues that will affect education now and in the future. Teachers do want change but only if it is positive. There is an anxiety amongst some of the profession about the unknowns of AI and how it might impact on the job of teaching 

Session 6: Feedback and conclusions (Scottish Parliament, Committee Room 4, Edinburgh)

The final session was chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley Anne-Somerville. Council members were invited to present their conclusions based on the information they had gathered, and the discussions that were held, over the two-day meeting.

Allison Skerrett acted as spokesperson for the group, and set out four specific recommendations for the Scottish Government to consider:

  • be bold, transformational and ambitious, and focus on implementing change. There is a risk in not taking action following the careful listening process during the National Discussion 
  • engage in development of the workforce. The word ‘delivery’ has connotations of a top-down approach. Consider redistributing power to those directly involved in change processes and give them the capacity to do so. Think about resourcing needs and deployment into priority areas with the right incentives  
  • harness and harmonise the opportunities of the digital world without losing the benefit of community and relationships. It is important to develop a system poised and ready to embrace unpredictable technological changes  
  • increase cultural and racial diversity in policy and practice. Increase representation at all levels and areas of the education system and leverage the benefits that diversity provides. Build a curriculum where people can see themselves represented, and ensure that anti-racist pedagogies are embedded within that. Ensure that professional learning initiatives show the principles around an anti-racist curriculum 

Any other business

No other business was raised. The Cabinet Secretary thanked the Council for their time and contributions across the two days and confirmed that the secretariat would be in touch in due course to arrange a further meeting. It was agreed that the Council would produce their third formal report and submit it to the Scottish Government in Autumn 2023. 

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