Practitioner and Stakeholder Group (PSAG) - meeting minutes: 14 and 16 September 2021

Minutes from the Practitioner and Stakeholder Group (PSAG) meetings, held on 14 and 16 September 2021.

Attendees and apologies


 Session one - 14 September 2021

  • Professor Ken Muir (Chair), Independent Advisor to Scottish Government
  • Patricia Watson, Education Scotland
  • Chris Payne, Federation of Awarding Bodies
  • Jane Malcolm, NDNA Scotland
  • Margaret Wilson, The National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Elaine Kerridge, Children in Scotland
  • Jim Thewliss, School Leaders Scotland
  • Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA)
  • Kirsty Ayed, Building Our Curriculum Self-Help Group (BOCSH)
  • Helen Budge, Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs)
  • Ken McAra, FDA Union
  • Aileen Ponton, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)
  • Kirsten Urquhart, Young Scot
  • Lorraine Sanda, Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs)
  • Carrie Lindsay, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Grace Vickers, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE)
  • Darren Wapplington, NASUWT
  • John McMorris, SQA
  • Elma Murray, Employers Forum
  • Jane Brumpton, Early Years Scotland (EYS)
  • Tim Frew, YouthLink Scotland
  • Stuart McKenna, Scottish Training Federation
  • Ben McKendrick, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Gina Wilson, CYPCS
  • Pauline Rodger, Unite
  • Matthew Sweene, COSLA
  • Pauline Stephen, General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS)
  • Gill Stewart, SQA
  • John Edward, Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Marion Allison, CLD Standards Council
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Graham Donaldson, Expert Panel member
  • Shirley Anderson, Secretariat
  • Sian Balfour, Secretariat
  • Gabi Gibson, Secretariat
  • Fearghal Kelly, Secretariat
  • David Roy, Secretariat

Session two 16 September 2021

  • Professor Ken Muir (Chair), Independent Advisor to Scottish Government
  • Tara Lillis, NASUWT
  • Diane Greenlees, Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Nicola Beattie, National Union of Students Scotland
  • Liam Fowley, Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP)
  • Farhat Ali,Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators (SAMEE)
  • Fiona Robertson,Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Walter Humes, Expert Panel Member
  • Jim Metcalfe, College Development Network (CDN)
  • Cathy McCulloch, Children’s Parliament
  • Liza Mclean, Scottish Government
  • Tina Harrison, Universities Scotland
  • Andrea Bradley, Educational Institute of Scotland Teaching Union (EIS)
  • Eileen Prior, Connect
  • Jim Whannel, Bòrd na Gàidhlig
  • Tim Wallace, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
  • Graham Donaldson, Expert Panel Member
  • Ross Martin, Fife Council
  • Magnus Hughson,Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
  • Barbara Coupar, Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES)
  • Jacky Gillan, Care Inspectorate
  • Carol Young, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER)
  • James Dunphy, Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • Paula McEwan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Alison Sutherland, Social Work Scotland
  • Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA)
  • Laura Lamb, Scottish Social Service Council 
  • Jim Thewlis, School Leaders Scotland
  • Andy Witty, Colleges Scotland
  • Martin Boyle, Glasgow Colleges
  • Chloe Dobson, Who Cares? Scotland
  • Shirley Anderson, Secretariat
  • Sian Balfour, Secretariat
  • Gabi Gibson, Secretariat
  • Fearghal Kelly, Secretariat
  • David Roy, Secretariat
  • Nina Hyslop, Secretariat

Items and actions

Summary of meetings

The first meeting of the Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group was held as a facilitated discussion session. The session was held twice to assist group members to attend one of the sessions with the same format followed in each. The following provides a summary of the key themes arising from each of the discussions.

Introduction and welcome 

Ken Muir opened the meetings by welcoming group members and thanking them for giving up their time to support this work.

Structure of PSAG session

Ken Muir outlined the structure for the session and explained that this session would be held twice.

Setting the context: presentation on Reform Project

Ken Muir delivered a presentation which addressed the following areas:

  • context of education reform
  • his remit as independent advisor to Scottish Government
  • the timescales for his work
  • engagement opportunities for group members and wider stakeholders
  • the role of group members as experts in particular fields and the rationale behind this group and the Expert Panel
  • the role of the subgroup meetings in November

Ken Muir concluded the presentation by inviting group members to engage with his work through the Education Reform website and mailbox. He encouraged group members to engage with their members and networks following the meeting in order to inform their input to the themed Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group (PSAG) subgroup meetings in November.

Small group discussion: session one

Ken Muir introduced the first small group discussion sessions. He thanked those group members who had volunteered to facilitate these sessions. He asked each group to begin by discussing a different question. Facilitators shared summaries of their discussions by question with the full group.

What three to five things are working well in Scottish education?

Key themes arising included:

  • the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, including the four capacities, and the commitment to achieving equity and excellence as an education system
  • flexibility and collaboration in the system
  • the education workforce and the commitment to career-long professional learning
  • Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and the recognition of a children’s rights-based approach
  • the quality of learning and teaching and learner engagement
  • the integrated approach in the early learning sector
  • the growing breadth of learner journeys and innovative curricular offers
  • the role of youth work
  • the focus on nurture and family learning

What three to five things do you want to keep in Scottish education?

Key themes arising included:

  • access to vocational qualifications
  • the ambition of Curriculum for Excellence, including the four capacities, and the focus on equity and inclusion
  • the gains made in global citizenship
  • a focus on closing the attainment gap
  • certification for all, wide subject choices and different learner pathways
  • the importance of skills development, including digital skills
  • the focus on pedagogy, formative assessment and professional learning
  • education delivered through two languages - English and Gaelic
  • teacher autonomy and professional judgement
  • GIRFEC, wellbeing and children’s rights
  • resourcing, e.g. Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) and empowering those that work with children and young people

What is the purpose of Scottish education? 

Key themes arising included:

  • school being an opportunity for all children and young people to progress through life positively and happily
  • the purpose is not just about attainment
  • instil a love of learning in young people and providing a holistic education
  • importance of developing knowledge, skills and confidence to cope in a changing world
  • be part of a community, particularly post-pandemic
  • passport to the future which takes away the barriers
  • to fulfil a human right to education
  • education has to link with employment and opportunity and there is a relationship with principles of fair work convention
  • education is spoken about as building towards points in life, but it is also a day and daily need. Yes, it is for the future, but it is for the now too

What single change do you think would improve outcomes for learners?

Key themes arising included:

  • the measures of success
  • an entitlements approach to address variation of experience nationally
  • the model of exams needs to change. Continuous assessment and enhanced tertiary options in the Senior Phase
  • parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications
  • improving transitions from early years into primary
  • listening to the views of children and young people
  • human rights-based approach
  • strategic commitment to effective partnership models and greater connectedness across the systems, especially supporting school/college links
  • clearer entry and exit pathways – not just for school students
  • increased creativity in the education system

Small group discussion: session two

Ken Muir introduced the second small group discussion sessions. He asked each group to begin by discussing either question five or six. Facilitators shared summaries of their discussions by question with the full group.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) talks about confusion around roles and responsibilities in Scottish education.

What in your day-to-day work is confusing for you?

Key themes arising included:

  • changing priorities
  • planning and reporting frameworks – there are too many
  • culmination of ‘micro-issues’ which place demands on teachers time
  • accountability and roles of the different agencies and bodies
  • the role of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives
  • businesses are confused. They want to be more involved
  • transparency of decision making
  • competing narratives of empowerment and centralisation
  • differing practices across local authorities
  • Inspection in early learning and childcare – the roles of the Care Inspectorate and HMIE

How should Curriculum for Excellence's (CfE) strategic direction be determined?

Key themes arising included:

  • a rights-based approach which involves everyone, including children and young people
  • clear communication
  • national framework which allows local flexibility
  • not moving at too fast a pace
  • role of research which is independent of government. Qualitative and quantitative data to inform strategy

How should the review of CfE and curricular updates by planned and delivered?

Key themes arising included:

  • participatory approaches which build on a peer-to-peer/validated self-evaluation model
  • done in a way which is manageable for the system and the profession. Take time to test out, embed and evaluate
  • be clear on what we are reviewing and what we're measuring
  • with strategic leadership within a national framework from Scottish Government, but need to be careful to avoid politicisation of the curriculum
  • cyclical, but careful to ensure it doesn't result in constant flux
  • build a strong consensus
  • with a focus on recognising achievement and not acquiring qualifications

How should the response to the needs of institutions for support be met, especially with curriculum and assessment issues?

Key themes arising included:

  • need to be flexible and adaptable
  • menu of support which is open to all
  • transparency and clear signposting, coherence and progression
  • agencies who work with the teaching profession as equals and are accountable to the profession
  • manageability of documentation
  • reinstatement of LA based advisors
  • enhanced effectiveness of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives
  • national vision, local collaboration
  • increased focus on family and community engagement

In your day-to-day experience what is contributing to the misalignment between curriculum, assessment and evaluation policies, especially at the senior phase? What actions do you think should be taken to resolve this?

Key themes arising included:

  • being clear on what we're measuring
  • be innovative in our approach but recognise that this will have a huge impact on teachers in terms of capacity
  • increase use of SCQF levels in order to recognise broader achievement
  • curriculum is local whereas as assessment is national and high stakes
  • misalignment between the curriculum and children and young people
  • need to prepare our children and young people to deal with a range of assessments as they move through the system
  • learner-centred with a rights based approach
  • national priorities unclear and not sure the order in which to tackle them
  • too much guidance leading to confusion on what different parts of the system are responsible for
  • the end point always being examinations in spite of curriculum and pedagogy having changed
  • Education Scotland needs to be more visible
  • more effective communication between agencies/bodies and clarify responsibilities

Next steps

Ken Muir concluded the meetings by thanking the group for such productive conversations and asked for their continued engagement in this work.

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