My remit has required me to focus on the replacement of the SQA, the creation of an independent Inspectorate and the consequent reform of Education Scotland. This I have done, but as is clear from my report, some of my recommendations also touch on issues and organisations that also relate to curriculum, assessment, learning and teaching and the support provided to teachers and practitioners. It is clear that action can be taken in the short-term in respect of a number of recommendations while others will require a longer period to come to fruition. The totality of the recommendations in my report amount to significant structural change and development with some requiring change to statutory functions that can only be taken over the medium and longer-term. Also, it is well recognised that the necessary cultural and mindset change may take even longer.
In my engagements and discussions the question of timescale over which any changes could be implemented featured regularly. Many involved in such discussions offered the cautionary note that any changes needed to be carefully considered within the context of existing and ongoing challenges and system capacity while also being contingent on resources being available to support change.
A key priority was seen as taking sufficient time to engage with all relevant stakeholders ahead of any significant change.
"Better to take time to get it right than hurriedly rush through changes for political expediency."
(Teacher/Practitioner, Secondary School)
There was general support for a phased approach to any change with the strong message that adequate time and support for staff was made available for them to understand the changes and begin to implement them.
"Practitioners will need time to plan, access professional learning and collaborate meaningfully."
(Local Authority/Local Government)
Also, any timescales for change must importantly be mindful of minimising disruption to learners. Recognition also needs to be given to the demands and expectations, particularly on SQA and Education Scotland, but also in respect of other organisations impacted by my recommendations, to engage with the proposed changes while continuing to deliver their crucial services.
In order to progress my proposals, I recommend that a transition programme team is established to further plan the detail and coordinate next steps. I envisage this as a shared approach that will ultimately lead to the establishment of Qualifications Scotland, the independent Inspectorate and the proposed national agency for Scottish education. A key theme in my report has been the need to increase coherence across the system and a partnership model that oversees these changes would also help realise this goal. In my view this team should be led by an experienced individual recruited from outwith the impacted bodies but with the close involvement of at least one senior individual from within those bodies most affected.
Given the scale, complexity and importance of what is proposed it will also be crucial that high‑quality lines of communication are maintained with the wider education system. This will help to ensure mutual knowledge and understanding of my proposed changes and how they relate to other developments across the wider education system.
Staff currently within the existing bodies, SQA and Education Scotland, have endured a period of stress and anxiety since the announcement about there replacement and reform were made. In spite of my best efforts to ensure ongoing engagement with senior leaders, staff unions and staff in both organisations, it is understandable that those anxieties and concerns continue to exist. It will be critically important that those staff that are affected by my recommendations are kept proactively informed of progress during the period of change and transition envisaged in this report. I am in no doubt that the professionals in SQA, Education Scotland and other affected bodies have the best intentions of all learners at the heart of what they do and I am confident they will continue to engage positively and constructively with the process of change. I would like to wish them all well with the inevitable changes that will now follow should my recommendations be accepted.
Recommendation 20: Scottish Government should establish a transition programme team to oversee the changes and reforms envisaged in this report. The transition programme should be taken forward in partnership with the bodies subject to reform and all those that are impacted by its outcomes.
Recommendation 21: Those staff that are affected by my recommendations must be kept effectively engaged and informed of progress during the transitional period over which my recommendations are progressed. In my view all staff should also be treated in accordance with the Scottish Government's Fair Work Policy.
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