Scottish Education Council minutes: June 2019

Minutes from the eleventh meeting of the Scottish Education Council, held on 25 June 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Chair)
  • Sheena Devlin, RIC Lead, Tayside Collaborative
  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, EIS
  • Douglas Hutchison, RIC Lead, South West Collaborative
  • Carrie Lindsay, Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC) Lead, South East Collaborative
  • Stephen McCabe, Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA
  • Maureen McKenna, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Ken Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • Joanna Murphy, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Fiona Robertson, Director of Learning, Scottish Government
  • Jim Thewliss,    General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland

In attendance

  • Sally Ketchin, Headteacher, Abbeyhill Primary School
  • Alan Armstrong, Education Scotland
  • Clare Hicks, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • David Leng, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Graeme Logan, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Malcolm Pentland, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • David Roy, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Glen Deakin, Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Aliza Hamid, Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Chris Roberts, Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)


  • Janet Brown, Chief Executive, SQA
  • Elaine Cook, RIC Lead, Forth Valley and West Lothian Collaborative
  • Andrew Griffiths, RIC Lead, The Northern Alliance
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive of Education Scotland and Chief Inspector of Education 
  • Ian Rivers, Chair, Scottish Council of Deans of Education

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

1. The Deputy First Minister (DFM) thanked the headteacher and young people of Abbeyhill Primary School for the warm welcome to their school, and then welcomed everyone to the eleventh meeting of the Scottish Education Council (SEC). He noted that this was the last meeting for Janet Brown and Fiona Robertson in their current roles, and he thanked them both for their respective contributions to the SEC.

SBTE Early Phase Career sub-group [paper 11(01)]

2. David Roy and Carrie Lindsay opened discussion on this agenda item by providing an overview of the SBTE Early Phase Career sub-group. At its February 2019 meeting, the SBTE recognised the limitations on content that can be covered during Initial Teacher Education (particularly PGDE); the variability of experience by probationers whilst on the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS); and the need to consider how newly registered teachers are supported to develop their skills further to completion of Initial Teacher Education (ITE). As a result, a sub-group has been formed to consider how effectively the TIS and Flexible Route are developing newly registered primary and secondary teachers in both urban and rural settings, and whether additional measures are needed to help post-probation teachers access high quality professional learning designed to meet their personal development needs. The group plan two phases of work; initial information gathering, followed by a detailed consideration of how the findings will be addressed. Discussion included the following:

  • ongoing professional learning needs to be bespoke, and tailored to the specific contexts of the schools in which teachers are working
  • the Flexible Route is becoming more prevalent and more local authorities are bringing the Flexible Route ‘in-house’
  • suggested incorporating a module into ITE, however the feeling is that the PGDE curriculum is already crammed full. Changes to ITE leave students overwhelmed and under-prepared
  • the professional associations’ view is that teachers have a duty to contribute to the development of student teachers. However, there is less engagement with mentoring – particularly in secondary schools – at the moment. Peer support, therefore, needs to be facilitated and time for this protected
  • there should be better representation of NQTs on the sub-group, and local authority representatives rather than RIC representatives

Scotland’s curriculum: a refreshed narrative for practitioners [paper 11(02)]

3. Ken Muir presented the refreshed narrative on Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). The OECD made the case for a ‘strong fresh narrative’ to be developed on CfE. The Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB) then tasked a group of its members and other nominated individuals (including Ken) to develop a refreshed narrative. Over the last 12 months the group has developed and tested a refreshed narrative, aimed at practitioners as the principal audience, that restates the longstanding aims of CfE while reflecting today’s context. The narrative serves as a practical tool to support the process of engaging with the core principles of CfE and the development of practices that are fit for purpose. Discussion included the following:

  • the refresh was widely welcomed, and members welcomed its simple and logical presentation
  • it was felt it would be helpful for practitioners in engaging with CfE and in ‘getting back’ to the original philosophy of CfE
  • there could be a slightly greater emphasis on equity and empowerment
  • there is still some jargon within it, so not all plain English
  • it will be critical to ensure that the refreshed narrative is deployed with endorsement from across the system’s leadership

Improving assessment in the BGE

4. David Leng introduced the subject of assessment in the BGE, referring to the Independent Review of P1 SNSA, that was published on the 11 June, alongside a number of other key documents on the SNSA. The announcement by DFM in Parliament accepted the recommendations of the Independent review including that SNSA can play a significant role in informing and enhancing teachers’ professional judgement and that there is scant evidence of children becoming upset when taking part. There was acknowledgement that the review had not delivered an unqualified green light to the Scottish Government in terms of P1 assessments, and important recommendations about improvement should be acted upon quickly. An improvement plan has been drafted and will be consulted on over the summer and completed in time for the new academic session. Discussion included the following:

  • the Reedy report is a useful guide to move forward. Efforts should now be put into improving the consistency of teachers’ professional judgement
  • there is growing confidence in this among directors of education
  • an assessment summit is being planned for September 2019

Reduction in workload

5. Claire Hicks opened discussion on this item, noting that we have a shared desire to reduce the workload of teachers, and that the teachers’ pay deal sets a shared agenda on addressing workload and empowering schools for the next two years. Discussion included the following:

  • the professional associations consider that terms of the pay settlement provide an opportunity for a joint approach to tackling workload
  • the empowerment agenda should help focus on this issue
  • quality assurance systems generate workload – eg: inspection generates the need for evidence
  • care should be taken over how much change is introduced. There should be analysis of what’s making a difference and what’s hindering (eg: the AHDS survey)

AHDS workload survey [paper 11(03)]

6. This paper was provided for information.  

Strategic Board for Teacher Education update [paper 11(04)]

7. This paper was provided for information.

Curriculum and Assessment Board update [paper 11(05)]

8. This paper was provided for information.

Any other business

9. No other business

Date of next meeting

10. The twelfth meeting of the Scottish Education Council will be held after the summer recess, at a date and location to be confirmed.

National Improvement Framework Unit
July 2019 

Back to top