Scottish Education Council minutes: March 2018

Minutes from the meeting held on 21 March 2018, 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)
  • Fiona Robertson - Scottish Government, Director for Learning
  • Gayle Gorman - Chief Executive of Education Scotland and Chief Inspector of Education
  • 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 - RIC Lead, The Northern Alliance
  • 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

In attendance

  • Sam Waite - Perth Academy
  • Karen Law - Perth Academy
  • Holly Davidson - Perth Academy
  • Graeme Logan - Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Clare Hicks - Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Kit Wyeth - Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Maria Harris - Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Eddie Follan - COSLA


  • Councillor Stephen McCabe - Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA
  • Morag Redford - Chair, Scottish Council of Deans of Education
  • Janet Brown - Chief Executive SQA

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

1. DFM welcomed Council members to the third meeting of the Scottish Education Council (SEC). He thanked the young musicians who had played to welcome the Council members to the school and introduced the young people from Perth Academy who were in attendance at the meeting and would speak about pupil participation.

Findings of the Consultation on the Provisions of the Education (Scotland) Bill – a presentation by Why Research

2. DFM invited Sue Granville, Director of Why Research, to give a presentation on the findings of the consultation on the Education Bill. In doing so he stressed that this is an early analysis of the findings and that once the full analysis is complete a report will be published. Why Research are an independent consultancy organisation who were commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake a formal analysis of the consultation responses.

3. In giving the presentation Sue described the methodology used in the analysis and clarified that the views presented do not represent views of the general population and only the views of those who submitted a response. Any figures quoted could not be extrapolated to a wider population outwith the respondent sample. Sue said that, in preparing the final analysis, additional weight would be given to responses received on behalf of organisations, such as local authorities and professional organisations as opposed to those from individuals.

4. In general, early analysis showed that there was support for the principles behind the Bill, although there was less support for legislation to enshrine the principles. Some respondents noted that various elements of the proposed Bill already took place and queried the need for legislation.

5. There was a wide range of differing opinions cited throughout responses, with no clear consensus on many of the proposals. There were some concerns over the potential for tension between Regional Improvement Collaboratives and local authorities.

6. The DFM thanked Sue for her presentation. He welcomed the support for the principals in the Bill and noted the concerns about the effective use of legislation and said it was an interesting observation to reflect on. DFM acknowledged that much of what the Bill sought to achieve was already good practice in some schools and said that legislation was one way to develop that practice in all schools. He highlighted the ICEA’s support of the principles underpinning the reform agenda and their recommendation to tackle culture, capacity and structure.

7. DFM welcomed open discussion and comments from the Council members on the presentation and the Bill proposals in general. In discussion, the following comments were made:

  • it was important to remember all parts of the system – there were not enough questions in the consultation on empowering teachers in general, it focused too much on headteachers. More needed to be done to address/support the professional autonomy of all teachers and ensure there was consistency of empowerment
  • there was a need to look at the system holistically and a need to empower the whole system and make clear what it means for all to develop a deeper understanding and underpin culture change. Perhaps consider a system charter rather than a headteachers charter
  • there needs to be a stronger message around collegial approaches and practices. CfE has taken a long time to embed because arguably there has not been enough of a focus on what is means for people at the sharp end, those who will be delivering. There is a need to learn lessons and explain to teachers what this means in practice
  • it was suggested that this change in culture was needed to make the difference and that just introducing new rules and bureaucracy would not. Everybody in Scottish education needed to be included in the development of an empowering culture
  • this could best be achieved through a distributive model working from the bottom up. RICs and Education Scotland have a key role in doing this successfully - HM Inspectors could also play a role in helping drive improvement by operating in a participatory and collaborative way
  • in bringing forward change, the key was to focus on what will raise standards and help close the poverty-related attainment gap. The right balance needs to be struck between legislative change and cultural change. CfE had been launched without legislation, it was about buy in. The RICs were also being introduced without legislation and they would work best if there was buy in from all involved
  • it was suggested that although there are statutory and legislative points to consider following the consultation, it would be more important that the key themes were looked at and greater clarity given over roles and responsibilities and expectations around collegiality within and across schools.It was important not to lose sight of Curriculum for Excellence in considering next steps. Curriculum for Excellence cannot be delivered without empowerment. There was an opportunity to refresh and remember the principles of CfE in developing a new narrative around CfE that made clear the link between CfE and the professional empowerment and ongoing culture change needed to deliver it effectively
  • the NIF was now well understood by schools and teachers and beginning to do the job it was intended to do. We need to continue to embed this and review the overall cycle of improvement planning and reporting
  • there was a need to ensure that parents are kept informed about next steps. They need clear information on why the changes are happening, what is being done and how this will benefit their child
  • local authority chief executives need the opportunity to discuss expectations and accountability and recognise the importance of their responsibilities under the proposed new arrangements. It was important that they were willing to collaborate and to share challenges and recognise them in order to solve problems and move forward
  • the aim behind proposals for an Education Workforce Council for Scotland (EWCS) was in keeping with wider work around professional standards and workforce regulation. There was some concern however about the scale of what was being proposed. It was suggested that there would be merit in reconsidering the EWCS proposal and moving towards professional standards for everyone but not necessarily all under the same body

8. DFM thanked Council members for their comments and said that he had found it to be a very helpful discussion which had given him much to consider in thinking about next steps.

Pupil Participation – a presentation by Perth Academy students on what pupil participation means to them and views on how this can be more systemic

9. DFM invited the young people from Perth Academy to give their presentation on pupil participation within their school, what it means to them, how well it works and what could be improved.

10. All three young people represent the senior pupil leadership team at Perth Academy, two being members of the pupil council and one a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. They provided an excellent insight into the ways in which they contribute to and influence life at Perth Academy, how they encourage engagement and their future plans to improve pupil participation throughout the school.

11. The points made by the young people in their presentation and the subsequent discussion with the Council included:

  • the pupil council has been in place since 2014 with approximately 40 members across all year groups
  • the school has an effective structure in place to capture the views of all pupils
  • a strong pupil voice helps promote the vision, values and purpose of the school
  • the pupil council has a strong focus on health and wellbeing because this was considered crucial to allowing young people to fulfil their potential while at school
  • improvements to the school toilets would be welcomed by all young people in the school
  • they are aware that younger pupils may find senior pupils hard to approach and are addressing this by being available at the breakfast club and creating other focus groups to encourage discussion on specific issues
  • a pupil newsletter is produced regularly as a source of information for pupils and highlighting planned events that pupils have requested
  • they push for school improvements and seeing that their views are being valued and listened to by the headteacher and other staff encourages pupils to participate and to respect the school and others
  • national and local Government could encourage engagement with children and young people by using simpler language and the use of jargon should be limited
  • they feel they are able to influence learning and teaching – the school has provided various study clubs at pupils request and they feel they are in a safe and welcoming environment
  • the senior pupil leadership team hold weekly meetings to discuss priorities and concerns. The headteacher or depute headteacher attend these meetings and the pupils feel they get the opportunity to give their views and that they are being listened to. They feel there is a good support network in place

Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RIC) – summary of progress and next steps with RIC plans and discussion

12. Gayle Gorman gave an update on the development of regional improvement plans. Draft plans have now been submitted and reviewed by Education Scotland. Feedback has been provided to Regional Improvement Collaborative leads and Chief Executives of local authorities identifying strengths and areas for development. Consultation events are planned with headteachers, teachers and pupils with work ongoing to strengthen the governance arrangements across the collaboratives. The level of engagement and collaborative approaches across the RICs have been impressive and plans for follow up meetings are in place.

13. Plans are in place for engagement with parents and parent groups. What parents actually want from that engagement needs to be considered. There is a need to ensure that it will be meaningful and realistic for parents, they primarily want to know what it will mean for them, their children and school.

NIF and Improvement Plan update report

14. In introducing this item DFM said he wants to keep the NIF and Improvement Plan consistent and meaningful for practitioners. At the same time, it needed to contain relevant and specific improvement activity which will make the most difference to improving outcomes for children and young people. As obliged by statute, an updated plan will be published in December. He invited the Council members to consider how they can feed into the next plan whilst maintaining consistency but ensuring it remains the central point of reference for driving forward improvement activity.

15. A highlight report of the NIF actions will be brought to future Council meetings giving the opportunity for Council members to help co-develop the plan going forward. The NIF can be regarded as the Scottish approach to improvement and should be well established within the proposed new narrative around CfE.

Action: SEC 03 – (01) – Scottish Government to prepare a NIF highlight report to be tabled at future SEC meetings.

Curriculum and Assessment Board update [paper 03(01)]

16. The CAB update paper was circulated for information following the latest Curriculum and Assessment Board meeting of 8 March 2018. Concern was raised around some of the wording in the paper. Gayle Gorman said that the full minute of the meeting addressed the more detailed discussion that took place.

Action: SEC 03 – (02) – SEC secretariat to ensure papers provided for update accurately reflect the minute of the meeting and to circulate the minute of the 8 March CAB meeting to Council members.

Strategic Board for Teacher Education update [paper 03(02)]

17. The SBTE update paper was circulated for information following the latest Strategic Board for Teacher Education meeting of 21 February 2018. Concern was raised around some of the wording in the paper. Again, it was discussed that the full minute of the meeting would address the more detailed discussion that took place. The next meeting of the SBTE is 31 May therefore no update will be provided for 2 May SEC meeting.

Action: SEC 03 – (03) – SEC secretariat to ensure papers provided for update accurately reflect the minute of the meeting and to circulate the minute of the 21 February meeting to Council members.

Any other business

18. Fiona Robertson said that as part of the Year of the Young People celebrations, the intention was to ask young people to “takeover” a Scottish Education Council meeting later in the year. In doing this they will be asked to devise the agenda for the day and co-chair the meeting with the DFM. The new Learner Panel being created will also have the opportunity to be involved in the meeting. The Council welcomed this suggestion.

Action: SEC 03 – (04) – SEC secretariat to confirm date and venue of the “takeover” meeting once details have been finalised.

Date of next meeting

19. The next meeting of the Council will be held on 2 May 2018, 10:00-12:30 in Glasgow, venue tbc.


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

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