Scottish Education Council minutes: February 2022

Minutes from the Scottish Education Council meeting on 2 February 2022

Attendees and apologies


  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills – Chair
  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, COSLA children and young people spokesperson
  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government
  • Joe Griffin, Director General Education and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive Education Scotland
  • Douglas Hutchison, President of Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES)
  • 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
  • Tony McDaid, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, West Partnership
  • Professor Mark Priestley, University of Stirling
  • Liam Fowley, Vice 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
  • Professor David Smith, Chair of the Scottish Council of Deans for Education
  • Alison Cumming, Director of Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government

In attendance

  • Patricia Watson, Senior Regional Adviser, Education Scotland


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

  • Kay Sillars, Regional Manager, UNISON Scotland

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

Scottish Government

  • Alison Taylor, Deputy Director Improvement, Attainment and Wellbeing
  • Kit Wyeth, Head of National Improvement Framework Unit
  • David Leng, Head of Scottish Attainment Challenge Unit
  • David Begley, Team Leader, Scottish Attainment Challenge Unit
  • Craig Flunkert, Team Leader, Curriculum, Parents and Pupils


  • Eilidh McCreath, NIF Unit



Items and actions

Welcome and introductions from the Chair


The Chair welcomed members to the meeting. It was noted that a final version of the SEC’s role and remit paper and workplan was distributed to members on the 26th of January. The Chair reminded members that the workplan was subject to change depending on emerging priorities and that members should continue to notify the SEC secretariat of any agenda items they wish to bring to a future meeting.


Paper 1 – Minutes from the previous meeting


The Chair invited Kit Wyeth, Head of the National Improvement Framework Unit to summarise progress on the actions noted in the minutes. The majority of actions are now completed, with two ongoing actions regarding data issues and a new narrative for Scottish education which Scottish Government colleagues are taking forward. SEC members confirmed that they were content with the minutes recorded from the meeting on 08 December.


Paper 2 – The refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge framework


David Leng, Head of the Scottish Attainment Challenge Unit and David Begley, Team Leader presented Paper 2 on the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge framework. The refreshed framework aims to build on the progress made towards closing the attainment gap before the COVID-19 pandemic and to continue the focus on accelerating progress. Paper 2 outlined the main areas of the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge and its refreshed mission, including the introduction of a Framework for Recovery and Accelerating Progress and an  updated logic model. Focusing in particular on the Framework, David Begley summarised engagement with stakeholders to date in its development and sought to gather views on some of the key considerations in the paper. SEC members were invited specifically to comment on:


  • the ambition of the Framework
  • the proposed approach to achieving that ambition
  • how the Council and the organisations represented within it can support the development of a Framework that will support recovery and accelerate progress in tackling the poverty related attainment gap


In discussion, the following points were made:


  • members welcomed the explicit statement within the paper to place the child at the centre, and commented that the framework needs to be expressed more through a children’s rights lens
  • members noted the scale of the reduction in funding for challenge authorities and the impacts that this will have on resources and staffing levels; and questioned whether, whilst the investment is significant, it is sufficient to meet the ambition of the programme. Other members added that it was reasonable to question the impact of spending, and this again leads back to the question of variation in outcomes across the country. There was acknowledgement that developing a better national and local understanding of the impact of the investment is important
  • there were some comments on the understandings and definitions reflected in the paper. Some of the terminology used may be confusing for practitioners e.g. stretch aims – it will be important to be clear what these terms mean. There were also comments around the collective understanding of the term attainment and its scope, noting that too narrow a focus only on academic attainment would overlook the range of wider skills and achievements of children in young people as part of a varied curriculum, in line with CfE
  • members noted the importance of a whole-system approach to achieve the aims of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, noting in particular the need for greater recognition of the role of, for example, Community Learning and Development and the contribution of colleges and others The Framework should include clear recognition that other partners outside of the school setting have a key role in closing the attainment gap
  • despite the references to empowerment in the paper, some members felt that the refreshed framework risks still appearing to be a top-down approach.. Striving for an empowered system risks creating a contradiction with work towards tackling variation in performance, and it will be important to continue to recognise that trust in the professionals in schools is important to achiever the ambitions of the Scottish Attainment Challenge


Action: Scottish Government colleagues will take into account this feedback as the Framework is finalised.



Paper 3 – Consultation of the NIF Measures 2022


Kit Wyeth presented paper 3 which provided an update on plans to carry out a consultation of the 11 key measures used in the National Improvement Framework. The original intention was that this consultation would focus on attainment measures, but it was now suggested that it should have a wider focus in response to the OECD and Audit Scotland reports.  The Council was invited to comment specifically on:


  • whether the consultation should be wider than just the key measures and should cover e.g. the SAC framework and the planned sample survey on the four capacities of CfE


  • whether the current 11 key measures should be retained to ensure we continue to have longitudinal data


  • what other measures might be added to the basket of key measures


  • the suggested changes in paper 3 to the underlying principles


  • anything else which may require consideration as part of the consultation process


The following points were made in discussion:


  • members generally agreed that the NIF measures need to be broader than they are currently, but also that there should be a move towards recognising the NIF as the Scottish Government’s main source of data. The review of the NIF measures doesn’t necessarily need to result in pulling every strand of existing data into one place. For example, the SQA already produces information on additional qualifications which teaching professionals can use
  • more consideration is required of specifically what data is collected and what it is used for. The educational rationale in the NIF needs to be more clearly pronounced, as it seems performative and more of an auditing exercise to some professionals. It is necessary to have the NIF, but it should have consideration of what principles it should be guided by i.e. if the purpose of education goes beyond the 4 capacities
  • members agreed with the recommendation to retain the 11 key measures to ensure continuity with existing data. There needs to be a clear line of sight from the classroom to the national data and a clear understanding of how that contributes to improvement. More needs to be done to get an indication of what data we are collecting already e.g. what are the circumstances which allow for or influence levels of confidence among young people
  • a wider consultation beyond the 11 key measures would be preferable to ensure a full engagement with the system. The Ken Muir review demonstrated that there is a lot of appetite from stakeholders to have their views heard
  • members noted that the 4 CfE capacities are not necessarily exclusive to each other – for example, being a successful learner should also incorporate the other capacities


Action: Scottish Government colleagues to take forward comments to inform a proposal for consultation in March 2022.


Paper 4 – update on the Curriculum and Assessment Board


Craig Flunkert, Team Leader of Curriculum, Parents and Pupils, presented paper 4 which provided a high level summary of the CAB’s remit, its recent work and the areas that the CAB is likely to focus on in the next 12 months.


Members had nothing to add in discussion.



Any other business


Colin Morrison from Children’s Parliament provided an update on progress with the alternative proposal to the Children and Young People’s Education Council which was submitted in December 2021. Scottish Government colleagues at the meeting confirmed that progress was being made with discussion while being mindful that forums such as the SEC and other boards have the opportunity to ensure that young people are involved in decision-making in the interim.


Action: A more detailed update on progress with the alternative proposal to children and young people’s participation will be provided at the next SEC meeting in April.


The Chair announced that the meeting would be Liam Fowley MSYP’s last SEC meeting as he will be stepping down from his position as Vice Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament. Liam’s replacement on the Council will be confirmed in due course.

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