National Strategic Commissioning Group minutes: April 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 April 2021

Attendees and apologies

  • Margaret Orr (Chair)
  • Capability Scotland, representing Grant Aided Special Schools (GASS)
  • CALL Scotland, representing CALL, Scottish Sensory Centre and Enquire
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • The National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Association of Scottish Principal Eduactional Psychologists (ASPEP)
  • Children and Young People's commissioner Scotland
  • Coalition of Care & Support Providers in Scotland and Educating Through Care Scotland (EtCS)
  • Education Scotland
  • Scottish Government


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions, apologies

The Chair welcomed members to the meeting, the first since 21 November 2019. Apologies were noted from the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.

The Chair updated the group on changes to representative members since the last meeting. The Chair thanked David Barr, representing the Coalition of Care & Support Providers in Scotland and Educating Through Care Scotland on behalf of the group for his valued contributions to the group’s work. The group’s thanks were also offered to Laura Watkins, from Donaldson’s School, representing grant-aided special schools (GASS).  A change in the representative from Education Scotland and in one of the members of the Scottish Government’s supporting learners policy team were also noted.

The Scottish Government is currently seeking a new representative member from Social Work Scotland. The Scottish Government will update group members once a representative has been agreed.

Progress update

The Scottish Government updated the group on progress with strategic commissioning since the last meeting.

COVID-19 impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted upon the ability of the Scottish Government and group members to progress the planned first phase of strategic commissioning in 2020-21. Notably:

  • the ability of a contractor to undertake the research project planned for the autumn 2020 term during a critical period of school recovery and reopening;
  • the increased financial pressures incurred by the GASS due to COVID-19 in 2020-21 has affected their ability to progress transitional business plans and release budget for strategic commissioning; and
  • Group members’ focus on responding to the pandemic.

In light of the impact of COVID-19 on this work, in November 2020 and February 2021, Scottish Ministers approved, in principle, the planned research project to commence in the autumn 2021 term and the development of a leadership pathways proposal for the group’s consideration. While the Project Board was unable to meet during this period, Scottish Ministers approved an emergency one year extension to the transition period for the delivery of strategically commissioned services in order to mitigate the impacts of 2020-21 progress on the overall project timeframe.  

Revised timeframe for strategic commissioning

As outlined in annex A of the 10 year strategy for implementing the Doran Review’s recommendations (The right help at the right time in the right place: strategy for the learning provision for children and young people with complex additional support needs 2017-2026) the original transition period covered 9 financial years:

  • 2019-20
  • 2020-21
  • 2021-22
  • 2022-23
  • 2023-24
  • 2024-25
  • 2025-26
  • 2026-27
  • 2027-28

April 2021 is the beginning of the third year of the transition period. Following Scottish Ministers’ agreement to extend the transition period by one year, the transition period is now due to end in:

  • 2028-29

This revised timeframe has been communicated to the GASS managers and is being communicated to the National Centres. 

Scottish government officials will continue to engage with the GASS and the National Centres over the development of their long-term transition plans and will keep group members informed of this work as it progresses this year.

Project Board

Scottish Government officials plan to convene the next meeting of the project board in June to reconnect members with this work and allow the board to consider progress updates on the work of its project groups. The project board will also review the implications of the emergency decision by Scottish Ministers to extend the timeframe for the transition period to the strategic commissioning of services.

Alison Taylor started as the Deputy Director of the Improvement, Attainment and Wellbeing division in March 2021 and will Chair meetings of the project board.

National Strategic Commissioning 2021-22

The group considered two papers for progressing phase one of strategic commissioning: a draft invitation to tender for a contractor to undertake a research project in the autumn 2021 and a leadership pathways proposal from the Chair.  

Research procurement

In response to the COVID-19 related challenges of undertaking research in 2020-21, group members agreed by correspondence in July 2020 to postpone the commencement of the planned research project until the autumn 2021 term. At this point, group members also agreed to update the research aims to capture learning from good practice in supporting children and young people with complex additional support needs (CASNs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A draft invitation to tender (ITT) was presented to the group (NSCG-0121), which reflected the updated timeframe and research aims agreed by the group in July 2020.

Scottish Government officials advised the group that the ability of a contractor to conduct remote interviews and engagement sessions, should in-person research not be possible, has reduced the anticipated budget requirement. This has enabled a shorter procurement route to be pursued. The following timeframe was included in the draft ITT.




Advert goes live

Deadline for tender application

28th May 2021

29th June 2021 – by noon

Contract award

13th July 2021

First Research Advisory Group meeting (followed by brief inception report)

w/b 19th July 2021

Second Research Advisory Group meeting (followed by agreement of topic/question guides)

w/b 23rd August 2021

Third Research Advisory Group meeting with a presentation of draft findings and submission of draft final report

w/b 15th November 2021

National Strategic Commissioning Group acceptance of a final, publishable report

w/b 13th December 2021

Research Advisory Group (RAG)

Scottish Government officials advised that it would be beneficial for a research advisory group to be formed, comprising of a small number of group members, members of the Scottish Government’s Education Analytical Services division and policy representation. The research advisory group would be the lead point of contact with the appointed contractor and would work with them to develop their research questions and final report. Representatives from the following organisations volunteered to join the research advisory group:

  • The National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists
  • Coalition of Care & Support Providers in Scotland and Educating Through Care Scotland

The Scottish Government will update the draft ITT to reflect the role of the RAG in engaging with the research contractor on behalf of the National Strategic Commissioning Group.

During the discussion on the draft ITT, the following points were raised:

  • References to the 2020 additional support for learning review action plan and the UNCRC incorporation bill that was passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2021 should be added to the policy context section.
  • Consideration should be given to the impact of any future COVID-19 restrictions on the planned field work. This is reflected in the draft ITT and will be included as a clause within the contract.
  • Direct participation of children and young people with complex additional support needs in the research is essential. The skills required of a researcher to effectively do so should be emphasised.
  • A focus on transitions should be included as well as positive outcomes. 

Subject to these comments being reflected in an updated draft, the ITT was agreed by the group.

[Post meeting note: following an unsuccessful tender due to the shortage of available research contractors, the research tender was reissued in June 2022.]


  • All group members to consider, and confirm to the Scottish Government, whether they wish to join the research advisory group.
  • The Scottish Government will update the draft ITT to reflect the groups comments and will proceed with the procurement process as outlined in the ITT.

Leadership pathways proposal

During 2020-21, the Chair undertook a series of informal leadership discussions with the complex additional support needs sector and has developed a leadership pathways proposal (NSCG-0221) for the group’s consideration and agreement. 

The Chair advised the group that the proposal reflected a fresh imperative to focus on leadership in relation to complex additional support needs and that the informal discussions with the sector highlighted a clear appetite for this. The proposal suggests adopting a pilot pathfinder approach aimed at enhancing current leadership programmes, rather than competing with them. Costs will be determined by the scope of the pilot and it is anticipated that they will be met through the budget for national strategic commissioning. While £250,000 was the anticipated budget for the first stage of strategic commissioning, the Scottish Government will build a business case for any additional budget requirements to deliver phase one commitments once costs are available.

The proposal suggests the establishment of a writing group to develop the pilot programme. The writing group would reflect membership from:

  • Scottish Universities
  • Education Scotland
  • General Teaching Council of Scotland
  • Local authority (mainstream and special), grant-aided special school and Educating Through Care Scotland senior leaders
  • National Centres

The proposal included an indicative timeline for developing the practitioner pilot programme:


April 2021:

NSCG meet to agree the final approach

May/June 2021

Formal discussions with key agencies (Universities, ADES, Education Scotland, GTCS)

August/September 2021


  • Establishment of writing group
  • Scoping of programme content

October-December 2021



  • Programme write up
  • Identification of LA, GTCS & EtCS hosts/mentors
  • Appointment of additional posts (Universities etc)


February/March 2022

  • Identification of course participants
  • Briefing meeting

August 2022 – June 2023

Pilot delivery

June/July 2023


During the discussion of the leadership pathways proposal, the following points were raised:

  • There is a large gap in relation to complex additional support needs content within current education leadership programmes.
  • The proposal will complement work underway as part of the additional support for learning review action plan to consider additional support needs within initial teacher education courses and continuous lifelong professional learning programmes for education staff.
  • The focus of the pilot is on complex additional support needs, irrespective of whether these are met in specialist or mainstream educational settings.

The leadership pathways proposal was agreed by the group.


  • The Scottish Government will begin the process of formal engagement with the key agencies outlined in the leadership proposal and will establish the pilot programme writing group.

Any other business

Erasmus Conference

ASPEP updated the group on their involvement in Credible, a European Union Erasmus programme conference with an interest in complex additional support needs. ASPEP will keep the group updated on this network and share any relevant contacts.

UNCRC Incorporation

CYPCS offered to hold further discussions with group members about the implications of the passing of the UNCRC incorporation bill and the enactment of its provisions.

Additional Support for Learning Action Plan

Action 4.2 (role of grant-aided special schools) in the plan includes an action that the National Strategic Commissioning Group consider the ASL Review recommendation that: 

‘The Grant Aided Special Schools and three national centres must use the opportunities that arise from the commissioning strand of the Doran Review to consider how their specialist expertise (including in prevention and de-escalation) can be developed to be complementary to statutory mainstream and specialist provision in order to support improvement in the experiences and outcome of children and young people with additional support needs.’

While it was noted that the leadership pathways proposal is directly aligned to this recommendation, the Scottish Government agreed to share a link to the Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group’s (ASLIG) action tracker for the group’s awareness and to table a discussion on this recommendation at the group’s next meeting.


  • Scottish Government will share the ASLIG action tracker.

Webpage and publication of 2019 group meeting notes

The Scottish Government confirmed that it was reviewing the webpages relating to the group and the wider Doran Review. In particular, previously agreed notes of the group’s 2019 meetings will be published and the note of the last meeting (21 November 2019) will be shared with members by correspondence prior to its publication.

Date of next meeting

Following agreement of the ITT and the leadership pathways proposal, Scottish Government officials will contact group members to arrange the next meeting of the group.

Scottish Government

May 2021

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