National discussion on education: consultation analysis

This report outlines the key findings from the ‘listening phase’ of the National Discussion on Scottish Education which took place between September and December 2022.

1. Introduction

Background to the National Discussion on Education

A National Discussion on Education, co-facilitated by Professor Carol Campbell and Professor Alma Harris will produce:

  • a vision for the future of Scottish Education that is coherent, aligned and meets the needs of all Scottish learners
  • a 'Call To Action' with priorities for the future of Scottish education that engages learners and meets their needs

The listening phase of the National Discussion took place between September and December 2022. This was an opportunity for children and young people, parents and carers, and educators to share views about what the education system should look like for the next 20 years. There were multiple ways to participate in the listening phase, including a national consultation hosted on Citizen Space; events and discussions led by schools, community groups and third-sector organisations; online assemblies and online public events; and social media activity under the hashtag #TalkScottishEducation.

Structured around ten questions, the National Discussion asked what kind of education will be needed in Scotland in the future and how that could become a reality. Most responses were submitted via the Citizen Space portal, and some participants shared feedback gathered in discussion groups or through social media, using different formats including photographs, mind maps and drawings.

Participant profile

The National Discussion received 5,671 unique responses, representing the views of at least 12,323 people[1]. In addition, approximately 26,000 people participated in National Discussion Live Assemblies coordinated by Education Scotland. Therefore, a total of at least 38,323 people were reached in the National Discussion.

The analysis in this report is drawn from the following:

  • over 45,000 answers from 5,380 survey participants, including 400 organisations and stakeholders and many schools
  • of the 4,980 individual participants, half (49%) were parents, 15% teachers, and 10% learners, with the remainder being support staff, education practitioners and unclassified individuals
  • outputs from 232 group discussions facilitated by schools, organisations and the National Discussion team with children and young people, parents and families and teaching staff
  • a further 59 non-standard responses which were received outside of Citizen Space

In addition, over 1,300 original Tweets with the hashtag #TalkScottishEducation were reviewed as part of a social media analysis. A breakdown of the respondent profile is available in Appendix B.

Analysis approach

The Lines Between was commissioned to provide a robust, independent analysis of the responses to the National Discussion. Public consultation of this kind means anyone can express their views but individuals and organisations who are interested in the topic are more likely to respond than others. This self-selection means the views of participants do not necessarily represent the views of the entire population. The main purpose of consultation analysis is not to identify how many people held particular views but to understand the full range of views expressed. For this reason, the analysis is qualitative, and this report outlines the key themes in responses to the Discussion.

The analyst team analysed responses using a coding framework, which was developed in three stages. Firstly, we identified themes through a review of a sample of responses, then tested the draft framework in a pilot exercise with another sample of data before the full analysis began. Finally, through an iterative coding process, new codes were created if additional themes emerged as we processed the full data set. The final framework included around 80 common codes, which spanned questions, and a further 10-20 specific codes for each question. More detail on the methodology is provided in Appendix A.

Where appropriate, quotes from a range of participants are included to illustrate key points and provide useful examples, insights and contextual information[2]. Reflecting the large number of people who took part in the Discussion, it is not possible to detail every response in this report; some participants shared lengthy submissions which reflect their specific area of interest or expertise. Full responses to the consultation, where permission for publication was granted, can be found on the Scottish Government's website.

Report structure

This report focuses on presenting the most prevalent themes in the National Discussion to clearly inform the vision and Call to Action.

  • Chapter 2 presents the most prevalent themes in responses to the Discussion
  • Chapter 3 outlines other recurring themes which were evident throughout
  • Chapter 4 details less common themes which were typically raised by some participants at a few questions, or a small number at all or most questions
  • Chapter 5 covers equalities and responses about education in relation to people with the protected characteristics set out in the 2011 Equalities Act
  • Chapter 6 presents an analysis of how views differ between learners, parents and teaching staff and highlight the views expressed by young learners aged 3-7
  • Chapter 7 sets out the conclusions

We highlight a significant overlap in the themes which emerged across responses to each question. The same themes were often evident across multiple questions. Chapters 2 to 4 provide an overview of each overarching theme.

Appendices A and B provide detailed overviews of the analysis approach and the profile of participants in the National Discussion.

Appendices C to L (see supporting documents) present a full question-by-question analysis. For each of the ten discussion questions, we present an overview of the themes identified. All themes, including those mentioned by a very small number of participants, have been included. We also highlight any differences in prevalence or additional themes arising from group discussions. However, these aligned very closely with the themes in the main sample. This is followed by a detailed sub-group analysis. A small number of other questions were included in the facilitator guides for group discussions. A review of the themes arising from responses to each of these questions is also included.

Appendix M (see supporting documents) presents an analysis of social media contributions to the discussion.

Throughout this report, the themes identified in responses are listed from most to least commonly mentioned. Qualitative analysis of open-ended questions does not permit the quantification of results; an insightful view expressed by a very small number of participants is not given less weight than more general comments shared by a majority. However, to assist the reader in interpreting the findings, a framework is used to convey the most to least commonly identified themes in responses to each question:

  • 'many participants' is used to denote a prevalent theme mentioned by more than one in five participants
  • 'several participants'; a recurring theme raised by between one in 10 and one in five
  • 'some participants'; another theme mentioned by fewer than one in 10
  • 'a few / a small number'; fewer than one in 20, a less commonly mentioned



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