Scottish Education Council minutes: October 2022

Minutes from the Scottish Education Council meeting on 26 October 2022

Attendees and apologies


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

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

  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government

  • Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, Scottish Government

  • Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director, Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government

  • Cllr Tony Buchanan, COSLA Children and Young People Spokesperson

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

  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE lead for Children & Young People

  • Fiona Robertson, Chief Executive, Scottish Qualifications Authority

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

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

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

  • Kay Sillars, Regional Manager, UNISON Scotland

  • Professor Margery McMahon, Chair of the Scottish Council of Deans of Education

  • Tony McDaid, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, West Partnership

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

  • Professor Mark Priestley, University of Stirling

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

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

  • Shona Struthers, Chief Executive, Colleges Scotland

  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland

  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland

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

  • Cheryl Burnett, Chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland

  • Greg Dempster, General Secretary, Association of Headteachers and Deputes Scotland  



  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive of Education Scotland and HM Chief Inspector of Education

  • Audrey May, Regional Improvement Collaborative Lead, Tayside Collaborative

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

  • Sophie Reid MSYP, Chair of Scottish Youth Parliament

  • Beinn Grant MSYP, Convenor of Education and Lifelong Learning Committee, Scottish Youth Parliament

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

In attendance


  • Professor Alma Harris

  • Aimee McInnes, Project Officer, Scottish Youth Parliament

  • Matthew Sweeney, Policy Officer, Children and Young People, COSLA

  • Andy Witty, Director of Sector Policy, Colleges Scotland

  • Tom Hall, Senior Policy Officer, Colleges Scotland

SG Officials


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

  • Patricia Watson, Strategic Director, Education Scotland

  • Jess Dolan, Head of Colleges and Economic Impact

  • Kit Wyeth, Head of the National Improvement Framework Unit

  • Gary Sutton, Senior Statistician (Information Management, Improvement and Evidence)

  • Elisabeth Boyling, Head of Learning Analysis

  • Clair Henderson, Head of Education Strategy

  • Stacey-Ann Lindsay, Senior Policy Manager – Parental Engagement and Inclusion

  • Debbie Carter, Learner Pathways Team Leader

  • Judith Tracey, Team Leader, National Improvement Framework Unit

  • Katie Brydon, SEC Secretariat

  • Eilidh McCreath, SEC Secretariat

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions – Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills


The Cabinet Secretary welcomed members to the meeting and introduced Greg Dempster, General Secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes as a new member of the Council. The Chair also welcomed Professor Alma Harris, who joined the Council to provide a progress update on the National Discussion on Scottish Education as an Independent Facilitator to the project.


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


The Chair invited Kit Wyeth, Head of the National Improvement Framework Unit, to provide members with an update on progress with actions recorded in the SEC action log (paper 1). A number of items recorded in the log had been included as agenda items for discussion at this meeting. An action around developing a narrative on wider achievement was signposted to be brought to a future SEC meeting. All other actions were marked as closed. Members were content with the minutes of the previous meeting on the 2nd of September 2022 (paper 2).


Paper 3 – Update on the Education Reform Programme


The Chair invited Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, to present paper 3, which provided the Council with an update on the Education Reform programme. The National Discussion is well underway, and the levels of engagement reported in paper 3 have already been exceeded in terms of the number of interactions with stakeholders. Sequencing of the reform programme is key and timings of the National Discussion have been altered to ensure that its outcomes inform the Hayward Review. The design of the new national education bodies will reflect the outputs and recommendations from these two critical pieces of work, along with wider contexts such as the development of Purpose and Principles of post-school education, research and skills, and the review of the skills development system.


The following points were made in discussion:


  • members asked for further information on a reference in paper 3 to the establishment of specific user experience panels for the purposes of engagement as part of the National Discussion. Scottish Government officials clarified that these user experience panels would build on the strong foundation of children and young people’s engagement as part of Ken Muir’s review. Officials will engage further with SEC members as part of this process, recognising their great level of expertise in this area
  • it was suggested that the Education Reform Programme should extend membership to the colleges sector, given its key role in school-college partnerships
  • there was some discussion around the resourcing required in order to achieve the aims of the new agencies


Progress update on the National Discussion on Scottish Education


The Chair invited Professor Alma Harris to present paper 4, which provided a progress update on the National Discussion on Scottish Education. It was acknowledged from the outset that children and young people have been at the heart of this process. It is important to note that this project is not just about change, but also about consolidating what is good in Scottish education. The team are currently exploring the question of coherence of data and how the views of stakeholders will be presented in the conclusion report of the National Discussion. This report will act not just as a summary of the National Discussion, but also as a call to action, and it is important to seize on the energy in the system as demonstrated through this project.


The following points were made in discussion:


  • members welcomed the positive engagement they have received from the National Discussion for their respective areas of expertise such as Community Learning and Development. Some further suggestions for engagement were provided by members, such as young people in their first year of undergraduate courses
  • there was some discussion around measures to enable teachers and practitioners to engage with the reform process within the normal working week. Representatives from COSLA provided the Council with an update on their engagement with local authorities on this matter. It was agreed that officials from the National Discussion team would link up with the General Secretary of EIS to discuss this matter further
  • as well as engaging with children and young people, it is important to ensure that those who care for and support young people are included meaningfully in the National Discussion
  • members acknowledged the importance of engaging with children and young people who do not usually engage with consultations of this nature. The contact email for the National Discussion team was shared so that members could provide suggestions for areas of further engagement




  • andrea Bradley and Lorraine Davidson to discuss further the approaches for teachers to engage with the National Discussion
  • council members to contact the National Discussion team with any further suggestions for groups and organisations to engage with



Paper 5 – School-College partnerships


The Chair invited Shona Struthers, Chief Executive and Tom Hall, Senior Policy Officer, Colleges Scotland, to present paper 5, which set out proposals to deliver seamless transitions between schools and their partnerships. For the purposes of discussion these partnerships were defined as any learning delivered by a college, working in collaboration with schools with the wider aim of gaining skills for life. The paper sought to remove duplication in the system and improve data sharing and performance monitoring to improve learner pathways. The paper recommended the agreement in principle of establishing a short-life sub-group to examine work around improving links between schools and colleges and the role of these partnerships in addressing child poverty.


The following points were made in discussion:


  • members agreed that the establishment of a short-life sub-group would be helpful, particularly in the context of reform work taking place across the education system
  • members acknowledged the valuable role of school/college partnerships in developing the workforce and its ties with the question of capturing wider achievement and an enhanced curriculum offer
  • the consistency of partnership offers varies across Scotland. This has been explored at a previous meeting of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, and the James Withers review around the tertiary sector will be an important part of the reform and review landscape which might be worth further discussion at a future meeting of the Council
  • the wide range of opportunities explored within paper 5 demonstrates the wide range of pathways available with Curriculum for Excellence. Members were keen for the short-life group to work towards a system of partnerships which can help to represent the totality of achievement among learners




  • colleges Scotland colleagues to facilitate the creation of a short-life sub-group. Members interested in joining the group should contact the SEC secretariat who will then liaise with Colleges Scotland with a membership list
  • colleges Scotland colleagues will return to the Council following the conclusion of the sub-group to summarise their work and next steps



Paper 6 – National Improvement Framework – new key measures


The Chair invited Judith Tracey, Team Leader, National Improvement Framework Unit, to present paper 6, which set out proposals for new key measures to be included in the National Improvement Framework in response to the recent consultation on enhanced data collection for improvement, and on the key measures to assess progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap. One key area of consideration is the inclusion of attendance and exclusion as a key measure.  Overall, the majority of respondents agreed that attendance could/should be a key measure, however, many of the respondents raised concerns about adding exclusion to the basket of key measures because of a perceived risk of creating perverse incentives. Most consultation respondents were keen that we have more information around health and wellbeing – confidence, resilience and engagement in particular. The final proposal is around the inclusion of positive destinations as a key measure. Responses to the consultation have also linked in with existing discussions around the use of different data sets - namely Scottish Statistics on Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations (SSAILD) and Insight.  Although the source data doesn’t change, schools and local authorities tend to use Insight for improvement and benchmarking purposes, whereas progress against the key measures in the NIF currently uses data from SSAILD. Work is underway to consider how we can move towards a ‘single source of truth’; a core data set that we use across Scottish Education for improvement purposes.


The following points were made in discussion:


  • members suggested engaging with SDS on the discussion around including positive destinations as a key measure. There were different views on whether to capture positive destinations 3 months or 9 months after leaving school – 3 months may  be too short a timescale to achieve an accurate picture of learner pathways, but it provides a closer link between schools and their school leaver destinations
  • there was a discussion about the measurement of outputs vs inputs, and some members suggested that placing a bigger emphasis on measuring inputs such as curriculum development can help to balance the risk around perverse incentives as a result of diverting focus towards meeting performance indicators
  • some members were supportive of the inclusion of attendance as a key measure but noted that it would be helpful to gather attendance data in order to  identify particular patterns in terms of the attendance of specific groups
  • members agreed that the NIF should capture both SQA qualifications and vocational qualifications, no matter which data set is used




  • SG colleagues will return to the SEC at a future meeting with an update on aligning the SSAILD report and the Insight tool


Verbal update - work to reduce variation in performance and next steps for stretch aims


The Chair invited Alison Taylor, Deputy Director, Improvement, Attainment and Wellbeing, to provide the Council with a verbal update on progress with work to reduce variation in performance between local authorities and next steps for local authority stretch aims. Much of what was discussed during the previous item links to this work, particularly around the question of measuring what we need to without driving perverse incentives, and how we can move towards a single source of truth with the data we use in Scottish education. Scottish Government colleagues met with colleagues in COSLA and ADES on the 13th of September to discuss the use of a robust evidence base as a tool in our education system for comparing local performance appropriately and in  context, and supporting improvement. SG colleagues will examine further how we can work towards this.


The development of stretch aims for the refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge Framework has been a joint effort between SG, ES, COSLA and local government colleagues. The approach of working from the ground up allows local authorities to identify measures which are most useful to them in their local contexts. Work will be taken forward to identify opportunities for further stretch and challenge, and to identify consistencies in the data to give us a rich source of intelligence for what is working locally.



Paper 7 – Curriculum and Assessment Board update


The Chair invited Clare Hicks, Director for Education Reform, to present paper 7, which provided the Council with an update on the work of the Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB). The group met for the first time in the 2022/23 session in September, which was also the first meeting to take place since the CAB was repurposed as a Stakeholder Reference Group for the purposes of the Reform Programme. The group discussed the SQA results for 2022 and progress with the annual statutory review of the NIF. The group also discussed the Purposes and Principles work underway in the Directorate for Advanced Learning and Science. The next meeting of the CAB will take place in January.


Paper 8 – Strategic Board for Teacher Education update


The Chair invited Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland, to present paper 8, which provided the Council with an update on the work of the Strategic Board for Teacher Education (SBTE). The SBTE has recently resumed meetings for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In its most recent meeting the Board discussed its key purpose and how best to maintain a line of sight between early/initial teaching education and lifelong learning. The Board also discussed the legacy of Graham Donaldson’s report Teaching in Scotland’s Future and to best ensure that the Board’s work remains relevant to the report’s recommendations. The final point discussed was around ensuring that the work of the Board would be carried out in best practice of diversity and inclusion.


Any other business and future meeting arrangements


No further business was raised at the meeting. The Chair thanked members for joining the 6th meeting of the SEC, and confirmed that the next meeting would take place on the 15th of December.

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