Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education

Report provided to Scottish Ministers by Professor Ken Muir on the replacement of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, reform of Education Scotland and removal of its inspection function.

12. Risks and mitigations

There are inevitably a number of major risks in taking forward my proposals for change and reform to the key bodies that play an important role in the highly integrated Scottish education system.

However, I am confident that, with appropriate mitigations in place, those risks are significantly outweighed by the advantages which the changes and reforms can bring for learners and those teachers and practitioners that support their learning.


The most significant risks are set out below.

  • The risk that what might be seen as superficial structural and organisational change ('rearranging the deckchairs') takes place without the corresponding cultural and mindset shifts that many feel are also needed.
  • The ongoing need to manage the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic reduces the ability of staff, who are already tired, to participate fully with what is proposed.
  • Simultaneously asking staff to take forward organisational change and reform alongside the need for them to ensure continued delivery of existing functions and planned developments. While a risk for both SQA and Education Scotland, it is particularly significant in the context of changes proposed for SQA at the same time as the Scottish Government's planned review of NQs and their need to continue to deliver safe and secure certification of awarding in 2022 and for the foreseeable future.
  • Allied to the above is the risk that large-scale change and reform could impact negatively on things that are already working well, with consequent detrimental impact on learners.
  • Reduction in staff morale, wellbeing and commitment with the implementation of changes and reforms which add to their workload and/or which they do not support.
  • The feeling among those affected that change and reform involves much uncertainty; is being "done to them" and too quickly with insufficient opportunities for them to actively engage in the planning and implementation processes.
  • Failure to include all relevant stakeholders in the planning and implementation of change and reform.
  • Lack of staff capacity to implement change and reform and/or a loss of staff expertise as a result of recruitment and/or retention issues that could arise during the period of transition to the new bodies.
  • The loss of reputation and credibility in the Scottish education system, and potential associated losses in customers and income, with changes to the internationally-recognised SQA brand, particularly if there is a significant time lag in transitioning from the current bodies to those recommended.
  • The finance and resource needed to successfully embed the proposed changes and reforms are not available or not sufficient.


The risks set out above can be mitigated through the following actions.

  • As discussed in the following section creating a transition programme team that collaborates closely with senior staff particularly in the two main bodies affected can help to reduce some of the pressures and demands that will likely materialise. It can also be the main conduit for engagement with other parts of the education system impacted by the recommendations.
  • Setting realistic and manageable timescales for change and reform that acknowledge the recent and current context and the capacity to take on further changes.
  • Ensuring open, transparent, timely and effective communication on all aspects of the creation of the new bodies with the staff concerned and with wider stakeholders.
  • Providing meaningful opportunities for staff and stakeholders to be part of the discussions on how change and reform is progressed.
  • Establishing a clear governance structure for proposed bodies with transparency on their roles and functions.
  • Ensuring that there is sufficient resource, including finance, and capacity to make the necessary changes being proposed while continuing to deliver on existing remits.



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