Scottish Education Council minutes: January 2019

Minutes and supporting papers from the eighth meeting of the Scottish Education Council, held on 23 January 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • John Swinney, MSP Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Chair)
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive of Education Scotland and Chief Inspector of Education
  • Fiona Robertson, Director of Learning, Scottish Government
  • Maureen McKenna, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland
  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, EIS
  • Carrie Lindsay, Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC) Lead, South East Collaborative
  • Sheena Devlin, RIC Lead, Tayside Collaborative
  • Mhairi Shaw, RIC Lead, The West Partnership
  • Robert Naylor, RIC Lead, Forth Valley and West Lothian Collaborative
  • Andrew Griffiths, RIC Lead, The Northern Alliance
  • Douglas Hutchison, RIC Lead, South West Collaborative
  • Joanna Murphy, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Ken Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland

In attendance

  • Andy Bruce, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Clare Hicks, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Glen Deakin, Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Maria Harris, Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Nicola Dickie, COSLA


  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA
  • Ian Rivers, Chair, Scottish Council of Deans of Education
  • Janet Brown, Chief Executive, SQA
  • Karen Reid, Chief Executive, Perth and Kinross Council

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

1. The Deputy First Minister (DFM) welcomed everyone to the eighth meeting of the Scottish Education Council (SEC).  He thanked the headteacher and young people of Queen Anne High School for the warm welcome to their school and the excellent musical display on the Chinese drums provided by the pupils.

Improvement priorities 2019: working together across the system [papers 1a – 1d]

2. This discussion item was introduced by a joint presentation from Fiona Robertson, Maureen McKenna and Gayle Gorman. They spoke of how Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs), Education Scotland, local authorities and schools are working together on shared priorities in the improvement agenda. They also provided an update on the progress of the School Empowerment Steering Group and detail of the agreed draft of the Headteachers’ Charter.

3. Fiona reminded Council members of key developments in Scottish Education, highlighting how far we had come since the introduction of new national qualifications in 2014 with the introduction of the National Improvement Framework  in response to the OECD review of 2015, the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC), Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) and the development of RIC improvement plans.

4. All SAC and PEF inspection reports have now been completed and Audit Scotland will carry out a performance audit of improvements in educational outcomes in the next few months.

5. Detailed regional improvement plans are being implemented and additional resource has been provided to both RICs and Education Scotland.  Joint working between local authorities has been strongly encouraged.  Work has started with partners to consider future evaluation and funding methodology. RICs are providing excellent support and supporting collaborative networks.

6. Gayle spoke of the positive collaboration from a school level through to local and regional authorities. There is work across RICs and between RICs, partners and Scottish Government. There are examples of joint good practices emerging.

7. The principles of the Education Reform Joint Agreement have now been agreed which will build a strengthened and empowered system.

8. The Headteachers’ Charter covers only one part of the system.  Parents and pupils have a significant role to play. Education Scotland will be launching guidance which will contain a “wheel” providing details of all partners in an empowered system.  This will include a school leaders section. Supporting the system, collaboration and engagement for improvement happens at all levels of the system.

9. By the end of January there will be agreement on wording, structure, tools and messages. A letter is currently being drafted to be issued to all headteachers with regard to the empowered school-led system.

10. Maureen reminded Council members that Scotland’s education system is a small system, although complex and multi-layered. There is a clear vision – to reduce the impact of poverty. More work needs to be done in understanding the role of all players in the system, increasing trust and deepening our understanding of empowerment.

Peer support is one of the ways in which the system can be supported. We must consider how we work together as a system, involving schools, clusters and local authorities. There has been insufficient attention on developing leadership. ES and ADES are now starting to bridge the gap in this area and will share this with Directors of Education at the end of March to see how we can all work collectively with CEOs / Directors leading the support. 

11. After the presentation open discussion followed. Council members were asked to consider:

  • how can whole system/agency communications help prepare the system for change/empowerment
  • how can the whole system support the dissemination of the materials
  • what do you think may be the challenges of working in a new paradigm
  • what do you think will be opportunities
  • how can the Scottish Education Council work collectively to promote and support this work

12. DFM spoke of the amount of ongoing activity and recognised it is a very busy agenda. He also highlighted that a lot of progress had been made in a short space of time. As a small complex system, consideration needs to be given to how we can advance this and what are the further issues we need to be mindful of.

13. Points made during open discussion included.

  • there was agreement that there has been good progress across the whole agenda. There is a positive direction of travel and real opportunities for culture change
  • caution must be given around launching the Headteachers’ Charter in isolation. It was suggested to consider waiting, to launch the full package of empowering schools material together. It was suggested teachers will not engage with the Charter. The ES wheel shows teachers and practitioners and there is a need to engage hearts and minds
  • the EIS Value Education, Value Teachers Members Survey results will be published shortly and the Council may wish to focus on the findings of this report  at a future Council meeting
  • the message around empowerment is about decisions being made as close to the child as possible. That is the school teacher
  • there has been a lot of work over the last 18 month – 2 years. Some felt it was important that a statement be made now given the potential uncertainty within the system, if nothing is announced. The empowered system and wheel within the system shows where we are and where we are going.  The guidance and support will be there. Agencies who have contributed are now clear on where they are, there is more than enough strength and demand in the system
  • it was felt that some teachers and parents were not sufficiently engaged in the introduction of Curriculum for Excellent. There is, therefore a need to learn these lessons in progressing the reform agenda
  • recently GTCS had visiting Australian professionals who were struck with the diagram of the NIF which they felt gave great clarity and they picked up on the cultural shift.  They commented that “Scotland is taking over where Ontario left off”
  • there is a multi-agency communications team who will work together to ensure a proactive launch.  This will allow leaders in the system to discuss and consider how best they engage with their staff
  • there was agreement around workload being a shared endeavour.  Teachers need to feel more empowered.  The more control you have of your work environment the more in control of your workload you will feel
  • CfE cannot be delivered without an empowered system.  Teachers must be confident in their classroom. People need to feel they recognise that kind of system and we have to maintain the pace to deliver
  • the communications must not over promise and under deliver
  • all nine inspection reports from Attainment Challenge authorities have now been produced but not all yet published. Evidence shows a much more comprehensive use of data driving practice and decision making within schools. There is now a great deal more evidence from SAC and PEF. Education Scotland is creating a summary report which will highlight common success stories, best practice and lessons learned. It will identify the key lessons from across the nine authorities which can be disseminated across the system
  • some light touch work has been done with the inspection reports, combining evidence of the interim evaluation of the challenge authorities.  Early findings show strong leadership, strong commitment, evidence of good partnership working with third sector and other leaders and improvement in self-evaluation practice. Concerns have been raised around recruitment
  • culture change cannot be rushed.  It is about providing the opportunity for those who have been involved to recognise change. We need to provide the time and place and space for them to take this forward.  This will effectively change the culture.  With clarity of the expectation and purpose culture will shift. It was suggested that as part of the school improvement planning cycle schools need to plan for this
  • it is evident culture and practice is improving across the country.  It may be useful to suggest what could be considered for in-service without stipulating what should be done


  • SEC 08 – (01) – Gayle Gorman – To create an all teacher communication detailing where we have got to, where we are going and what is needed for an empowered system.  Scottish Education Council members to have input and Council members and Professional Associations to endorse
  • SEC 08 – (02) – Gayle Gorman – To bring a summary of the findings from the nine SAC authorities reports to the next meeting of the SEC in March

Improvement priorities 2019: update on RIC’s progress and priorities [papers 2a – 2f]

14. The six RIC leads provided a short verbal update of the progress being made and their priorities going forward in their respective RIC areas in support of their written updates.

15. Carrie Lindsay spoke of a key focus on cultural change and not enforcing collaboration within the South East RIC. There have been new headteacher groups set up across the region with the BGE toolkit being used by the team to help to identify similar schools and to develop partnership groupings to encourage further collaboration. There is a lot of good work going on across local authorities. There are a lot of new networks being identified and developed. A website, Twitter and Facebook pages have been set up and are helping to capture hearts and minds. 

16. Douglas Hutchison highlighted the fact that there is a lot of good work going on in the South West RIC in addition to what is in the plan. Recruiting posts has been quite challenging. The assessment and moderation workstream and the PEF/Closing the Gap workstream of the plan are both working well with many events been held and well attended. All four authorities are working well together and sharing good practice. Other partner groups within the region are also working collaboratively. The work is making a difference in the classroom. Teachers are making excellent progress, having being given the opportunity and space to work together.

17. Andrew Griffiths spoke of the overall good progress being made by the Northern Alliance RIC. An interim review of the work on literacy in primary years has produced very positive impact and results.  Local authorities are sharing good practice and identifying key areas for collaborative support. A headteachers’ group has been set up to take forward agreed areas of work for curriculum development, raising attainment and professional development. Also setting up a teacher hub which will be both physical and virtual to support teachers’ professional development. Data and evidence are being used to identify areas where structured and systemic support can be targeted to assist improvement.

18. Mhairi Shaw spoke of the joint working across local authorities on system leadership and system improvement within the West Partnership. There is not a shared understanding of what collaboration means and there is a lot of work ongoing in this area. Networks are being formed. There is a strong focus on pedagogy. Priorities for the year ahead continue in line with the RIC plan with an added focus on health and wellbeing. A coaching and mentoring model has been introduced. Career long professional learning opportunities for school leaders and class teachers will continue to be offered. Training has recently taken place and evaluations have been completed for pre/post training data. 

19. In discussion about moderation, considering what enhancements in confidence and performance this provides, Mhairi commented that it helps build confidence in teacher professional judgement which will bring about consistency. Adding in SNSA helps with this. The evaluation of recent pre/post training data showed an increase in evaluation confidence scores from 3.8 to 5. 

Action: SEC 08 – (03) – Mhairi Shaw – To share details of the change in evaluation confidence scores.

20. Robert Naylor spoke of the increased visibility and focus the RIC development officer has brought to the Forth Valley and West Lothian RIC.  For the first time a common in-service day has been introduced across all local authorities within the region which has provided an opportunity for a conference to take place. Working with SCEL, there is a focus on buy-in and engagement with career long professional learning. This is very much a work in progress and now moving at a faster pace. The building of the culture is driving the system.

21. Sheena Devlin spoke of the focus on ensuring there is a general understanding of what working in collaboration is within the Tayside RIC. There is a meeting planned for early March to discuss the understanding, what opportunities there are and what are the barriers. School improvement has developed a Collaborative Directory so that schools across Tayside can share their expertise, good practice and emerging practices. There are five main working groups within the plan but many additional groups have been formed that will not work in isolation but will feed into the other groups. A communications group will work to effectively communicate all aspects of the Tayside RIC work.

22. Education Scotland is working to support regional improvement collaboratives, local authorities and schools with variable demands and capacities. There is a restructure underway within ES with completion due by 4th February. ES will be looking at the progress being made around the wider offer, not just local authorities. 

Action: SEC 08 – (04) – Education Scotland/RIC Leads – To give an update on progress at the next Council meeting and what is emerging in the evidence.

Curriculum and Assessment Board update [paper 3]

23. This paper was provided for information.  No comments or discussion points were raised.

Strategic Board for Teacher Education update [paper 4]

24. This paper was provided for information.  No comments or discussion points were raised.

Any other business

No other business.

Date of next meeting

13. The next meeting of the Scottish Education Council will be held on 6 March 2019, at a venue to be confirmed.


National Improvement Framework Unit
February 2019


SEC-08 - Paper 1a - Empowered system diagram
SEC-08 - Paper 1b - Hub page screenshot
SEC-08 - Paper 1c - DRAFT Empowering school leaders
SEC-08 - Paper 1d - DRAFT Headteacher's charter
SEC-08 - Paper 2a - Forth Valley RIC update
SEC-08 - Paper 2b - Northern Alliance RIC update
SEC-08 - Paper 2c - SEIC - RIC update
SEC-08 - Paper 2d - SWIC - RIC update
SEC-08 - Paper 2e - Tayside RIC update
SEC-08 - Paper 2f - West RIC update
SEC-08 - Paper 3 - CAB update
SEC-08 - Paper 4 - STBE update


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

Tel: 0131 244 4000 or 0300 244 4000 (for local rate throughout UK and for mobile) 

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