Scottish Education Council minutes: January 2018

Minutes from the meeting held on 30 January, chaired by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney.

Attendees and apologies


John Swinney, MSP - Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Chair)
Councillor Stephen McCabe - Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA
Fiona Robertson - Scottish Government, Director for Learning
Gayle Gorman - Chief Executive of Education Scotland and Chief Inspector of Education
Cahal Menzies - Young people’s representative
Janet Brown - Chief Executive, SQA
Jim Thewliss - General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland
Larry Flanagan - General Secretary, EIS
Bernadette Malone - Chief Executive, Perth and Kinross Council
Carrie Lindsay - Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC) Lead, South East Collaborative
Douglas Hutchison - RIC Lead, South West Collaborative
Mhairi Shaw - RIC Lead, The West Partnership
Robert Naylor - RIC Lead, Forth Valley and West Lothian Collaborative
Sheena Devlin - RIC Lead, Tayside Collaborative
Laurence Findlay - Interim RIC, The Northern Alliance
Maureen McKenna - President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
Ken Muir - Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland

In attendance

Kevin Hanlon - Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
Maria Harris - Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
Donna Bell - Scottish Government Learning Directorate
Clare Hicks - Scottish Government Learning Directorate
Jane O’Donnell - COSLA
Eddie Follan - COSLA
Esmee Johnston - Young Person accompanying COSLA representatives
Paul Gault - Young Scot representative
Clair Halliday - National Parent Forum of Scotland


Joanna Murphy - Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland
Morag Redford - Chair, Scottish Council of Deans of Education

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

1. DFM welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the Scottish Education Council (SEC). In doing so he re-iterated that the role of the Council is to support collaboration and effective action at all levels and to bring further cohesion to system wide leadership across Scottish education. He confirmed that revised versions of the Role & Remit and Governance of Education Policy and Improvement papers had been issued along with the minute of the first meeting, and asked that any outstanding points of detail requiring clarification within either of these papers are raised through correspondence with his officials.

Regional Improvement Collaborative Leads – updates on progress and emerging improvement activities

2. DFM invited the six Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC) leads to give an update on the progress they have made towards establishing their Regional Improvement Collaborative and the emerging improvement priorities that have been identified.

Laurence Findlay – Northern Alliance

The Northern Alliance has had its governance structure in place for over a year and has been developing its improvement plan since 2016. This focuses on the 4 NIF priorities and reflects 16 workstreams, including community learning and development, in order to focus on supporting parents and children. Efforts on closing the poverty related attainment gap will be taken forward through collaboration across the PEF clusters to ensure good practise is shared; and work to reduce the impact of adverse childhood experiences is being led by a variety of professionals within the region. A focus on the Developing Young Workforce agenda and curriculum design will form the basis of work to positively impact on employability skills and sustained leaver destinations. Workforce planning is an essential priority which runs through all workstreams and will be critical to the overall success of the plan. A sponsor and lead for each area of focus have also been identified and work on the resource allocations required for each workstream is well advanced. Ongoing consultation with wider partners and stakeholders will continue and their views will be used to inform the next iteration of the plan.

Carrie Lindsay – South East Collaborative

The South East Collaborative has been focusing on building relationships and the local authority NIF improvement plans have been reviewed to identify school level priorities and key issues around the six drivers of improvement. Conscious of the need to engage with schools, a survey monkey was issued prior to Christmas and over 1300 responses were received containing a wealth of information. This identified a clear distinction between primary and secondary school needs and has been used to inform workstreams. These include health and wellbeing, additional support needs, early learning and childcare, numeracy and mathematics, leadership development and improved outcomes for children living in poverty. Action to be taken has been considered relative to classroom, school, cluster, local authority and regional level requirements and work is being progressed to ensure relevant governance structures are in place to oversee this work.

Douglas Hutchison – South West Collaborative

The four local authorities within the South West collaborative are working well together. The approach that has been taken is to focus on building collaborative capacity and to build on existing structures and practices where these exist across the 3 Ayrshire authorities and to extend these to Dumfries & Galloway. An event is planned for 2 March at which all secondary headteachers within the Collaborative will be brought together for the first time. Area leads and task groups have been set up and initial priorities are to focus on teacher professionalism (consistency in application of teacher professional judgements, BGE standards and sharing of good practice to close the perceived poverty related attainment gap) and school leadership (with a focus on secondary level to improve the learner journey). Workforce planning arrangements are also being reviewed and consideration is being given to opening up vacancies to all four local authorities within the RIC. Very positive and meaningful discussions have taken place. The local authority Chief Executives have agreed to meet monthly and political sign off on the interim improvement plan by three of the four authorities is already secured. Detail of the plan will continue to be informed by ongoing consultation and engagement.

Mhairi Shaw – West Partnership

The themes of the West Partnership improvement plan are improvement, early learning and childcare, and the learner journey. These themes have been agreed by all eight local authorities. The plan is currently presented as a high level driver diagram focusing on areas for collaboration and sharing of good practice. Targets and baselines are still to be agreed and there is a very clear emphasis placed on not replicating actions that are already in place in each local authority’s improvement plan. There is a designated leader for each theme. A data group has been set up to establish baselines and the plan has been shared with all headteachers for comment. A communications strategy is being developed to ensure that all understand the approach being taken is about putting more collaboration into the system. An offer from Education Scotland to make clear the distinction between what the local authority and RIC will offer to support improvement is to be welcomed. The West Partnership plan requires further development in terms of workforce planning and action is being taken forward to better capture this detail. The first iteration of the plan was endorsed on 15 January by the Regional Education Committee and a second iteration of the plan is currently under development.  

Robert Naylor – Forth Valley and West Lothian Collaborative

Forth Valley and West Lothian Collaborative has used the local authority NIF improvement plans as a basis for identifying the priorities and emerging themes within its regional plan. These are early learning and childcare (workforce development, recruitment and retention); literacy and numeracy (focusing on closing attainment gaps); career long professional learning and performance and improvement (with a focus on data intelligence and analysis). The RIC focus has also led to professional groupings working more closely together and the next iteration of the plan is likely to include more detail on nurturing approaches and improving mental health. A regional summit has been held to communicate the vision for the RIC and the additionality this might offer, with the need to evidence best practice and the mechanisms for delivery already identified as early priorities. The aim is to have integrated service planning to reflect wider GIRFEC elements and further engagement with wider stakeholders is being planned to refine the improvement plan further.

Sheena Devlin – Tayside Collaborative

Tayside has a history of working in collaboration, and the priorities identified following extensive consultation last year to develop its integrated children services plan have been used to inform the RIC plan. These are pre-birth and early years (including early learning and childcare), learning and attainment, health and wellbeing, looked after children (and other vulnerable groups of young people) and child protection; and the interim plan has strong buy in at both political and officer level. Groups have been established to support the delivery of these five priorities, with four sub themes in the learning and attainment group focusing on numeracy (with 12 schools in the initial target group); learning and teaching (with a focus on pedagogy in targeted schools); leadership (including through headteacher improvement groups and participation in the SCEL Systems Leadership Programme) and school improvement (to encourage the self-improving system).

3. DFM welcomed the opportunity to hear at first hand the work that has been taken forward by each of the RIC leads. General discussion followed on the extent to which the current timetable had allowed for consultation and support from all of the key players in the education system. The iterative nature of the planning process was both acknowledged and recognised and it was agreed that ongoing wider engagement should continue to ensure a “bottom up” approach to the planning process. DFM emphasised the importance of maintaining pace going forward and agreed that the issue of resourcing for taking this work forward should be reviewed once interim plans have been formally submitted.

Action: SEC 02 – (01) Scottish Government to ensure the issue of resourcing for the RIC function is considered in light of the detail contained within interim RIC improvement plans.

4. Gayle Gorman also welcomed the rapid journey and progress that had been made by the RIC leads and acknowledged that additional support for mathematics, the quality of early years provision and continuous professional development had been identified as emerging themes. She highlighted the importance of making best use of school inspection data gathered by Education Scotland to share learning and best practice and talked through her vision for the role of ES going forward. She confirmed that ES Regional Advisers would act as brokers for each collaborative, supported by ES regional teams working alongside curriculum leads; and that her aim is to achieve borderless collaboration by defining what offer of support will be made available at classroom, school, cluster, local authority and regional levels.

Action: SEC 02 – (02) Education Scotland – to work with RIC leads and others to define what offer of support will be made available by ES at classroom, school, cluster, local authority and regional levels.

Paper 1 – Teacher and Headteacher supply, recruitment and retention

5. Clare Hicks introduced this paper, which provided details of the current position and planned future activity to tackle the issue of teacher supply, recruitment and retention. She invited SEC members to consider the content, endorse the approach taken thus far and offer views on any additional measures that should be considered.

6. DFM confirmed he was keen to hear if there were additional views on initiatives that might be explored and highlighted that he had also spoken separately to the Council of Deans with the same request. The following points were discussed:

  • in addition to looking into new routes into teaching we should also consider options for attracting career changers and later career changers who wish to spend the end of their working lives in teaching
  • we should consider alternatives to full-time teacher education programmes to both attract and retain teaching staff
  • there is a need to enhance and elevate the status of teachers and consider workload to avoid burnout
  • there is an opportunity to create a package of benefits to draw young people into the profession, including reviewing existing bursary arrangements
  • we need to better understand the attrition rates amongst student teachers and consider how better pastoral support can be made available. We should also secure a greater understanding of why people leave the teaching profession later in their career
  • the quality of student placements in schools is integral to ensuring a positive student experience and that people going into the profession have a full understanding of what the requirements of the role are
  • employers, government, unions and teachers themselves have important roles in pitching teaching as a positive career option to young people when still at school as well as through the university sector
  • while acknowledging that work is underway to bring more people into teaching, the broader picture across Scotland highlights that though numbers have increased in recent years, the pupil teacher ratio remains static
  • there is an opportunity to provide greater support for those teachers striving for leadership roles

It was also noted that the increased pension age may be adding to the pressures around teacher retention, with some in the profession leaving and/or changing career before reaching retirement age. A separate concern was raised about particular issues with pension abatement that is preventing recently retired teachers from taking up opportunities to provide supply cover.

7. It was agreed these additional points will inform the Strategic Board for Teacher Education work plan. The Council endorsed the general approach as set out in the paper and agreed there would be value in exploring attrition rates from entry to university onwards.

Action: SEC 02 – (03) Scottish Government to work with key partners to draw together existing data on attrition rates across Scotland’s eight universities and to explore options for tracking teachers across their careers. To report on progress at the 19 June meeting of the Council.

Any other business

8. Due to time constraints the meeting was drawn to a close. The three papers tabled for information only were not discussed: PEF Funding – Year 2; the Curriculum and Assessment Board update (CAB) and the Strategic Board for Teacher Education papers (SBTE) update. DFM advised that any comments or issues with these papers should be raised through correspondence with his officials.

Date of next meeting

9. The next meeting of the Council will be held on 21 March 2018, 09.00-11.00 am at Perth Academy, Perth.

SEC-02 - Paper 2 - 2018-2019 pupil equity funding.pdf


Scottish Education Council
c/o Learning Directorate
Scottish Government
Victoria Quay

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