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.

2. Summary of recommendations

A renewed vision

1. The Scottish Government should initiate a national discussion on establishing a compelling and consensual vision for the future of Scottish education that takes account of the points made in this report, in particular the importance of placing the learner at the centre of all decisions. The vision for Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) should be considered as part of this discussion as should consideration of how the education system seeks to address the purposes described in Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)[5].

2. Invitations to shape this vision should be made to all partners and stakeholders, including all learners[6], teachers, practitioners, parents and carers. It will be important to ensure that 'narrative privilege' is accorded to all who have an interest and not just key educational bodies, with opportunities for all to debate and challenge emerging suggestions.

A qualifications and assessment body

3. A new body, Qualifications Scotland, should be established. This new body should be an executive Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB). It should take on board SQA's current awarding functions, chiefly the responsibility for the design and delivering of qualifications, the operation and certification of examinations, and the awarding of certificates.

4. Income-generating contract services currently provided by SQA for organisations, governments and businesses, should be included in the remit of the new NDPB. SQA's current international work should also be part of the NDPB's remit.

5. The governance structure of the proposed Qualifications Scotland body should be revised to include more representation from, and accountability to all learners, teachers, practitioners and the stakeholders with whom it engages.

A national agency for Scottish education

6. There should be a national agency for Scottish education. This should be an executive agency of the Scottish Government comprising the current support and improvement functions of Education Scotland, SQA's Accreditation/Regulation Directorate, the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Partnership and elements of Scottish Government's Curriculum, Qualifications and Gaelic Division.

7. The proposed agency for Scottish education should take on board SQA's current accrediting and regulating functions. It will be important that robust safeguards are put in place to ensure that regulation of qualifications remains at arm's length from Scottish Ministers and the integrity of the regulatory role within the proposed agency is secure.

8. The main focus of the proposed national agency for Scottish education should be to provide responsive, bespoke support and professional learning at regional and local levels. In addition the agency should advise the Scottish Government on curriculum and assessment policy. While the proposed agency should also provide a national offer in respect of leadership and in areas to support policy implementation, this should be done through ensuring significant resource is made available to respond to the varied needs of all learners, teachers and practitioners at local and regional levels.

9. In line with best practice in the governance of public bodies, the agency should adopt a participative approach to governance in all of its work. The board and its chair should reflect the range of stakeholders, including parents/carers and young people. In order to secure wide ownership of its strategic advice it should also utilise digital connectivity to achieve open and transparent engagement with all stakeholders, most notably all learners, teachers and practitioners and local government.

10. Given the Community Learning and Development (CLD) Standards Council[7] has become successfully embedded within Education Scotland in its current form and feedback from CLD practitioners has been positive about its work, the Council should remain part of the proposed national agency for Scottish education.

11. With the increased focus of the proposed agency on providing support for improvement at local and regional levels, the Registrar of Independent Schools[8], with their national remit, should return to the Learning Directorate of the Scottish Government. With this change the Registrar of Independent Schools will be better placed to work more closely with the national professional body, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), with the requirement now in place that all teachers in independent schools are registered and regulated by them.

12. The proposed national agency for Scottish education should create and sustain a forum for ongoing and proactive discussion about curriculum, assessment, learning and teaching, professional learning and leadership in Scotland. It should gather views from national bodies, existing think tanks, research and practices, including in other jurisdictions, in order to develop and enhance key policies.


13. A new Inspectorate body should be established with its independence enshrined in legislation. Its governance should reflect this independence, with the body funded by the Scottish Parliament, staffed by civil servants and inspectors, the latter of which are appointed with the approval of Her Majesty via the Privy Council.

14. Building on recent work undertaken by Education Scotland on re-imagining inspection, the new independent Inspectorate should undertake the functions set out in section 10 of this report. Critical roles of the independent Inspectorate will be to support improvement, evaluate major changes in the education system and report annually and over longer periods, on the performance of Scottish education.

15. As a matter of urgency the new independent Inspectorate should re-engage with the Care Inspectorate to agree a shared inspection framework designed to reduce the burden on early learning and childcare (ELC) practitioners and centres.

16. The new independent Inspectorate should undertake an inspection on the effectiveness of the new, proposed arrangements designed to support change and improvement at local and regional levels. This should be completed within two years of the new Inspectorate coming into operation.

Wider implications

17. The SCQF Partnership should be brought into the proposed national agency for Scottish education in order that its framework and staff can play an enhanced role in planning learner journeys and providing greater parity of esteem.

18. The Scottish Government online tool Insight should be further developed in order that it can help drive change in Scottish education, and in particular, support the learner journey and enhance parity of esteem across academic and non-academic qualifications and awards. Consideration should be given as to whether the Insight tool and the Insight professional advisors should be placed within the proposed national agency for Scottish education.

19. Scottish Government and other national bodies should collaborate more effectively to ensure that policies align well with each other and with any revised vision for Scottish education. Arrangements should be put in place that allow for the active monitoring of the volume of policy expectations on local authorities, schools and senior leaders to ensure that these are realistic, manageable and well understood.


20. Scottish Government should establish a transitions 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.

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[9].


Email: EducationReform@gov.scot

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