Scottish Education Council minutes: April 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Education Council on 28 April 2022

Attendees and apologies


  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills – Chair

  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government

  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive Education Scotland

  • Douglas Hutchison, President of Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES)

  • Laura Caven, Chief Officer – Children and Young People, COSLA

  • Fiona Robertson, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Chief Executive

  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, The Educational Institute of Scotland

  • Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland

  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE lead for Children & Young People

  • Audrey May, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, Tayside Collaborative

  • Laurence Findlay, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, The Northern Alliance

  • Dr Gillian Brydson, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, South West Collaborative

  • Lorraine Sanda, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, Forth Valley and West Lothian Collaborative

  • Fiona Robertson, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, South East Alliance

  • Kay Sillars, Regional Manager, UNISON Scotland

  • Tony McDaid, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, West Partnership

  • Sophie Reid, Chair of Scottish Youth Parliament

  • Dr Colin Morrison, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament

  • Juliet Harris, Director of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights)

  • Shona Struthers, CEO Colleges Scotland

  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland

  • Alan Sherry, OBE, Chair of CLD Standards Council Scotland

  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive of Early Years Scotland

  • Margaret Wilson, Chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland

  • Clare Hicks, Director of Education Reform, Scottish Government

  • Alison Cumming, Director of Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government

In attendance


  • Professor Graham Donaldson, International Council of Education Advisers

  • Professor Carol Campbell, International Council of Education Advisers

  • Professor Chris Chapman, International Council of Education Advisers

  • Professor Alma Harris, International Council of Education Advisers

  • Dr Pak Tee Ng, International Council of Education Advisers

  • Professor Andy Hargreaves, International Council of Education Advisers

  • Professor Pasi Sahlberg, International Council of Education Advisers

  • Chelsey Clay, Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Scottish Youth Parliament


  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA children and young people spokesperson

  • Professor David Smith, Chair of the Scottish Council of Deans for Education

  • Professor Mark Priestley, University of Stirling

  • Joe Griffin, Director General Education and Justice, Scottish Government

SG Officials


  • Alison Taylor, Deputy Director of Improvement, Attainment and Wellbeing

  • Patricia Watson, Senior Regional Adviser, Education Scotland

  • Kit Wyeth, Head of National Improvement Framework Unit

  • Judith Tracey, Team Leader, National Improvement Framework Unit

  • Helen Mclellan, Senior Policy Manager, Curriculum, Parents and Pupils

  • Eilidh McCreath, SEC Secretariat

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions


The Chair welcomed Council members to the meeting and thanked members of the International Council of Education Advisers for attending the Scottish Education Council to advise from an international perspective.


Papers 1 and 2 – Action log and minutes from previous meeting


The Chair invited Kit Wyeth, Head of the National Improvement Framework Unit to summarise progress on the actions noted in paper 1. The majority of actions in the log are now marked as complete, with one action marked as ongoing. This outstanding action, which concerns a further paper on data issues for discussion at a subsequent Council meeting, will be dependent on the outcomes of the upcoming National Discussion on Scottish Education.


SEC members confirmed that they were content with the minutes of the previous meeting on the 2nd of February 2022.


Paper 3 – The National Discussion on Scottish Education – building on Professor Muir’s Children and Young People Consultation



The Chair invited Dr Colin Morrison, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament, to introduce this item by providing an overview of the consultation with children and young people carried out by Children’s Parliament and Together, on behalf of Professor Ken Muir to inform his 2022 report. There were clear suggestions from consultation responses of how learning can be improved, and that any reform work has to start from Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Dr Morrison highlighted in particular the neutral stance which the majority of respondents demonstrated with regards to how they felt about their education.


The Chair invited Clare Hicks, Director of Education Reform, to present paper 3. The paper outlined contextual factors for Professor Muir’s report recommendations and next steps for developing a National Discussion on Scottish Education. The OECD’s recent endorsement of the Curriculum for Excellence’s approach means that the conversation would have boundaries – we are not in a position where a National Discussion will lead to an entirely new curriculum.


The following points were made in discussion:


  • members commented on the current context of education recovery and the fatigue of teachers as a result of existing pressures on the system. Other workstreams such as the Hayward Review will present challenges, and there will need to be a balance between creating a framework which pulls different strands of reform together without overwhelming the system
  • ICEA members highlighted the contrast between the circumstances around the upcoming National Discussion and the National Debate on Education in 2002. The impact of the pandemic and issues around sustainability and technology will require the system to take a long-term view in the role education can play to enable children to thrive. The use of citizen’s assemblies was suggested in order to avoid the discussion becoming overly focused on immediate priorities. The example of Estonia was raised, which is now the ‘poster child’ of PISA due to its long-term investment in technology
  • although the profession is exhausted and under pressure, they are keen to get back to core business. There needs to be balance between keeping pace and seizing the moment, and meaningfully engaging with stakeholders and communities to get buy-in
  • it is positive to see that children demonstrated a neutral stance on their education system in Professor Muir’s consultation, as is shows that they are considering the question. It is important to understand what children are saying because their responses in the consultation indicate that we need to be looking beyond the world of education. Learners have felt excluded from discussions on education in the past, and the National Discussion should recognise that young people want the best for their education.
  • members questioned what the role of colleges and CLD would be in a National Discussion, noting strong partnerships between schools and the colleges/CLD sectors



Actions and decisions


SG reform colleagues to take forward the recommendations of the Council to ensure the National Discussion involves all key stakeholders. (Action: Clare Hicks)



Update on the Children and Young People’s Collaborative Project (verbal update)


The Chair invited Helen McLellan, Senior Policy Manager (Curriculum, Parents and Pupils), to provide a verbal update on progress with the Children and Young People’s Collaborative Project. A grant funding arrangement with Young Scot was established in March, with the new approach seeking to meet the needs of all children and young people. The implementation has been broken down into 4 key phases: inception; system mapping; direct engagement; and co-design process with children and young people to determine the format for future engagement with young people. This process will also incorporate previous recommendations on a rights based approach, as well as examining what impact engagement has had to date.


The planned approach is still for the new participation model to have parity of esteem with the SEC – any future model will ensure that learner voices are prioritised and placed at the centre.


The following points were made in discussion:


  • being mindful of planning around the National Discussion, it will be important to ensure that we build a participation model as effectively as possible to avoid asking young people the same questions
  • members also asked if the model would involve all young people in all education establishments. That discussion is still ongoing with CYP organisations, but the intention is to spread the net as far and wide as possible



Paper 4 – Update on progress with the Audit Scotland Report recommendations


The Chair invited Alison Taylor, Deputy Director Improvement, Attainment and Wellbeing, to present paper 4, which was jointly prepared with input from Education Scotland, COSLA and ADES colleagues. It has now been a year since Audit Scotland released its report: Improving outcomes for young people through school education. Alison invited ES, COSLA and ADES colleagues to offer any further comments and invited other members to indicate whether the balance of activity reflected in the paper was in the right place, and if we are making the best possible use of data and evidence.


Patricia Watson, (Education Scotland) said that during the National Discussion item, a point was raised around the will of the system to return to a focus on improvement. The ability to demonstrate activity in paper 4 underpins that.


Laura Caven (COSLA) commented that the collaborative model between SG and local authorities in response to the report is moving at pace.


Douglas Hutchison (ADES) raised concerns around the statistical analysis and interpretation of variation in the Audit Scotland report. It is important to have agreement on how we reach a shared understanding of what is meant by variation.


The following points were raised in discussion:


  • members agreed the need to find out why variation is taking place, and to be clear in the distinction between variability and variance
  • members of the ICEA advised the Council to not lose sight on the importance of interaction between teachers and pupils. It goes back to a focus on ensuring that every child has access to a high standard of teaching and learning. Internal variance can either be a natural order, or a consequence of an insufficiently well-developed approach to the child’s wellbeing





Further work will be undertaken on variation and evidence in partnership with local authority colleagues, building on discussion at today’s meeting. (Action: Scottish Government, Education Scotland, Convention Of Scottish Local Authorities and Association of Directors of Education in Scotland).



Papers 5 & 6 – update on the consultation on the NIF measures


The Chair invited Judith Tracey, Team Leader (National Improvement Framework), to provide an update on the upcoming consultation on enhanced data collection for improvement. The consultation will be published on the 9th of May and will close on the 18th of July. Council members were invited to note the update provided in paper 5 and provide any comments on the draft consultation paper (paper 6).


The following points were made in discussion:


  • members commented that understanding the context for this consultation is important to ensure that improvement work across the system is joined up
  • the transition between ELC and primary school is a critical period, therefore it may be beneficial to have a specific focus on how early years professionals can share meaningful data in transition periods
  • the National Improvement Framework is important in order to signal what counts – there is broad support for the direction of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), but there is much less consensus on the specifics. We need to be clear about how we use additional date to improve the experience of young people
  • some members suggested that the broader CfE is delivering more effectively than we can testify to through data. There is effective social dialogue in Scotland, and the example of the TALIS survey was used as a suggestion of strengthening this, as well as providing further international comparison
  • insight into the centre of an issue is also important when interpreting data, to ensure that there is still an in-depth understanding of issues in the system when, for example, variation in performance decreases
  • members questioned the comparability between National Qualifications and other SQA qualifications as laid out in the option for a new ‘all SQA qualifications’ measure. SG colleagues agreed to take this forward in a separate discussion with SQA




SG colleagues to arrange a follow-up discussion on the proposed ‘all SQA qualifications’ measure with SQA. (Action: NIF Unit, Scottish Government)




No further business was raised. The next meeting of the Scottish Education Council will convene in the new term.

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