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.

Appendix C: Advisor on education reform: Terms of reference

This document sets out the terms we have agreed for Professor Ken Muir CBE (the Advisor) to act as an Advisor to the Scottish Government on the reform of SQA and Education Scotland. This work will be carried out on the equivalent of four days/week alongside his role as Honorary Professor at the University of the West of Scotland. The Principal of the University of the West of Scotland is supportive of this arrangement.


In his role as the Advisor, he will provide advice to the Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills on aspects of education reform. This will include designing the implementation of the OECD's recommendations for structural and functional change of SQA and Education Scotland. It will also include the delivery of the national curriculum, assessment, qualification and inspection functions, recognising the wider functions of both these bodies.

The Advisor will consider the proposal and resultant implications of creating a new, specialist agency responsible for both curriculum and assessment. In addition, he will outline the rationale and purpose for reform as set out by Scottish Ministers and ensure that any reform is designed to achieve this. All aspects of the work will be undertaken with as much openness and transparency as is possible.

The Advisor will establish a small supporting Expert Panel, whose background and expertise will help ensure that full consideration is given to all aspects of the Advisor's remit and the wider themes and recommendations set out in the OECD report. Their expertise will also include international educational change and organisational change. The Advisor will engage directly with the Chief Executives of Education Scotland and SQA as he progresses his reform work and, although not members of the Expert Panel, they will be invited to engage with the Expert Panel as required.

The Advisor will also establish a more extensive Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group, This will comprise organisations, including professional associations, that represent the following diverse range of interests related to the reform – children and young people; employers; local authorities; the tertiary sector; practitioners across different sectors and providers; and parental interests. The expertise of Advisory Group members, and the networks they can access, will ensure that a wide range of perspectives and ideas inform the Expert Panel and the overall reform work. The Advisor will consult on the remit for the Expert Panel and Advisory Group with Scottish Government and stakeholders.

Arrangements will be put in place for the Advisor and members of the Expert Panel to engage directly and regularly with Education Scotland and SQA. Such engagement will be designed to capitalise on the unique expertise of these bodies, maintain ongoing communication on the reform developments and ensure that staff unions and employees in both organisations are closely involved in the process.

The Advisor will engage widely across the education sector with relevant bodies, including those that emerge as work progresses. He will ensure in particular that the views of children, young people, families, practitioners and local authorities are taken into account.

A key objective is to ensure that the needs identified and ideas generated through wide engagement, inform the Advisor's recommendations on the design of supporting national structures and functions that facilitate the development and enhancement of our education system for the future.

The conclusions that the Advisor reaches will be taken independently of the Scottish Government and all other institutions, but he will have access to SG officials and appropriate data and information.


The Advisor and Expert Panel, with advice from the Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group, will design the implementation of the OECD's recommendations for structural and functional change of SQA and Education Scotland. This will include:

  • Leading wide engagement, including formal consultation across all relevant sectors, on the reform of Education Scotland and replacement of SQA, including key national functions in Scottish education. This will include consideration of functions relating to qualifications (including accreditation, credit rating and related commercial services), assessment, curriculum, inspections and professional learning.
  • Engaging directly with SQA, Education Scotland, relevant staff unions and professional associations.
  • Seeking the views of local authorities and stakeholders on the OECD's proposal for the possible creation of a new curriculum and assessment body. Ensure that staff directly impacted by any changes (within Education Scotland and SQA) have the opportunity to give their views. Take account of all available evidence, including analogous models both nationally and internationally.
  • Considering links to other recommendations made by the OECD and plans on their implementation, including following the publication of the OECD report on qualifications.
  • Considering the needs of the different sectors of education which the agencies work with, including ELC, primary and secondary schools, special education, the tertiary sector, Gaelic Medium Education and CLD. In the case of SQA, this includes awarding bodies approved by SQA Accreditation, training providers, employers and higher education.
  • Recognising the important role SQA and Education Scotland currently have within the CLD and tertiary sectors for a range of age groups, the Panel will specifically examine this aspect to ensure any reform benefits learners within these sectors.
  • Seeking and taking account of appropriate specialist legal and human resources advice on the impact of any suggested structural changes. This should include consideration of any legislative changes which may be required in relation to SQA and Ministerial powers in relation to inspection.
  • With the decision taken that the inspection function will move out of Education Scotland, consulting on and advising on the purpose, remit, and governance and situation of the inspection function, taking into account the impact on the wider inspection and scrutiny landscape.
  • Gathering evidence for and inputting to relevant impact assessments, including on equalities and children's rights and wellbeing.
  • Advising on the optimal future configuration, design of functions, and how and when this can best be implemented, with consideration given to delivery timescales and commitments.
  • Taking part and leading events and public engagements as necessary.
  • Publishing findings at the conclusion and at appropriate points during the work in accessible formats, ensuring due consideration has been given to the risks to current, planned and future deliverables. This should include any advice on transitional arrangements, part of which should be how to safeguard learning, assessment and certification during a period of change.
  • Considering impacts on the wider education system in Scotland, and taking the wider context in to account, including DYW, GIRFEC, and the Scottish Government's current ongoing review of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives.
  • Making connections and considering wider policy interests, published and ongoing policy developments, and Scottish Government priorities for children and families in Scotland. This would include key priorities around closing the poverty-related attainment gap, child poverty, reducing youth unemployment and achieving excellence and equity through education. This should also take account of priorities across wider services for children.


The Advisor will begin this work in August 2021 and it will conclude in around six months after this start date. The intention will be to also have Expert Panel membership and that of the Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group confirmed by mid-August.

Secretariat support

Secretariat support required by the Advisor and Panel will be provided through the Learning Directorate in Scottish Government. This secretariat will support the Advisor in his activities, including those set out above.

Sponsor arrangements

The Workforce, Infrastructure and Reform Division in the Learning Directorate will be the Advisor's sponsor Division within the Scottish Government. The named sponsor for this work will be Liza McLean, Deputy Director for Learning Workforce, Infrastructure and Reform.



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