Scottish Education Council minutes: September 2018

Minutes and papers from the sixth meeting of the Scottish Education Council, held on 20 September 2018.

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
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland
  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, EIS
  • Janet Brown, Chief Executive, SQA
  • Carrie Lindsay, Regional Improvement Collaborative (RIC) Lead, South East Collaborative
  • Sheena Devlin, RIC Lead, Tayside 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
  • Andrew Griffiths, RIC Lead, The Northern Alliance
  • Ken Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland
  • Joanna Murphy, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland
  • Maureen McKenna, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Rowan Watkins, Young people’s representative
  • Amy Simmons, Young people’s representative
  • Jayne-Anne Gadhia, International Council of Education Advisers
  • Dr Carol Campbell, International Council of Education Advisers
  • Dr Allison Skerrett, International Council of Education Advisers
  • Professor Chris Chapman, International Council of Education Advisers
  • Lindsay Watt, International Council of Education Advisers
  • Professor Graham Donaldson, International Council of Education Advisers
  • Dr Pak Tee Ng, International Council of Education Advisers

In attendance

  • Andy Bruce, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Clare Hicks, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Kit Wyeth, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Judith Tracey, Scottish Government Learning Directorate
  • Maria Harris, Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Elaine Kelley, Scottish Government Learning Directorate (Secretariat)
  • Eddie Follan, COSLA
  • Rachel McKay, Young Scot Representative


  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, Children and Young People Spokesperson, COSLA
  • Fiona Robertson, Director of Learning, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Deputy First Minister (DFM) welcomed everyone to this joint meeting of the Scottish Education Council (SEC) and the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA).  He thanked the staff and young people of Broughton High School for the warm welcome to their school and the excellent musical introduction provided by the pupils of the City of Edinburgh Music School.

DFM reflected on the Social Enterprise World Forum which had taken place in Edinburgh earlier in September.  He spoke of the profound impact the presentation by Broughton High School pupils had on all attendees at the Forum.  Young people from the school, many with disadvantaged backgrounds, gave a powerful presentation and spoke with pride and passion about the positive impact they have made within their community.  

Education reform: joint agreement and ICEA recommendations [paper 06(01)]

DFM introduced this agenda item by reflecting on the collaborative working that had taken place in order to reach the joint agreement between local government and the Scottish Government, which sets out the shared commitment to empower Scotland’s schools.     

Carol Campbell, a member of the ICEA, gave a brief update on the recommendations set out in the first formal report of the ICEA.  She said the ICEA, as a group, supports and endorses the direction of travel in terms of improvement of the Scottish education system, and recognises the progress that has been made in a short space of time.  In particular, the ICEA recognises the development of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) as having the potential to build capacity and to be a source of lasting cultural change within the system.  The ICEA report makes nineteen specific recommendations to help make Scotland’s education system even stronger, and of a world-class standard.

Following the presentation the DFM invited comments and suggestions.  He agreed that there was a clear and shared agenda around the need to create a culture of empowerment.  Points made during the discussion included:

  • it is encouraging that colleagues internationally believe in Scotland and in what we are trying to achieve  
  • the recommendations from the ICEA and the Scottish Government’s response to them was welcomed.  If the definition of empowerment is agreed and understood the results could be compelling.  The decision not to legislate has taken away a lot of the fear around the reform programme
  • empowerment is a force for good.  We need to empower all levels of the system, not just one tier, to model behaviours expected throughout the system  
  • it is too easy to become complacent about whether a change in culture is necessary.   Not relying on legislation to drive cultural change demonstrates that there is a real desire to learn and collaborate within the education system without being forced to do so.  There needs to be ambition and a recognition that the easy things are not always the best things
  • to enable the culture to change, we need to empower the teaching profession to take forward a new shared purpose, as only by empowering and listening to the profession, and actively recognising successes at each level of the system can we ensure that people take ownership of the cultural change, rather than feeling that it has been imposed upon them
  • a concern around the empowerment agenda is that we are not successfully engaging the whole of the teaching profession.  There is a focus on the Headteachers’ Charter, which is good, but it can feel exclusive to classroom teachers.  The message needs to be put across more effectively to classroom teachers in schools that this is a whole system change
  • we need to ensure that all teachers are aware of the work being done by the RICs to drive improvement and collaboration 
  • we need to recognise the importance of how we communicate about CfE and emphasise that we will continue to ensure that the aspiration that every child and young person fulfils their potential is central to the delivery of education policy
  • there needs to be more communication with parents about the reform programme and what it means for their children.  Parents are told what happens in classrooms, but are not always asked how they can contribute to change
  • it was welcomed that many of the ICEA’s recommendations, particularly those around capacity building and professional empowerment, fit well with the existing work of the Columba 1400 Headteachers’ leadership academies.  This was cited as an excellent example designed to empower headteachers and school leadership teams to set the standards for teachers, students and their communities.  We should be building on that example and encouraging school leaders to be leaders and to “proceed until apprehended”.  Everyone has a responsibility to help develop school leaders of the future.  The introduction of the RICs is a key point as is working with Education Scotland, headteachers and schools
  • in considering a new structure, teachers need to be empowered to improve learning and teaching. Teachers need to be given a clear message that they can take the opportunity to learn and work with a wider group of support.  We need to listen to the teacher voice
  • in discussion with Education Scotland we need to confirm we are adding value through the RICs and keep building on that.  We need to involve teachers and parents, but also the wider community, including e.g. the NHS and social services

Responding to this discussion, Gayle Gorman who Chairs the Joint Agreement Working Group, confirmed that work was ongoing to co-construct a definition of empowerment and agree a communications strategy.  A monthly newsletter will be distributed and young people will be proactively more involved.  Work is happening at a fast pace and Gayle will update this group going forward.

Action: SEC 06 – (01) – Gayle Gorman to provide updates on the work of the Joint Agreement Working Group to both members of the SEC and ICEA.

National Improvement Framework review and consultation [paper 06(02)]

Gayle stepped in to Chair the remainder of the meeting as the DFM gave his apologies due to other commitments.  She invited Andy Bruce to introduce this agenda item.   Andy reaffirmed the purpose of the NIF to improve the quality and consistency of data and to extend understanding of what works to drive improvements across all parts of the Scottish education system.

He said that the starting point for the review was that the structure of the 2019 NIF and Improvement Plan should remain broadly the same as that agreed in 2018, but that whether there should be any changes to the NIF priorities and drivers should be considered alongside the importance of retaining continuity to support improvement planning at all levels of the system.  The joint meeting was invited to provide feedback on the priorities and drivers as well as whether there should be any changes to the NIF priorities and/or the drivers of improvement; what further improvement activities for 2019 are needed and how they can be measured; whether there are there gaps in the evidence to help us to understand what is working;  whether there should there be more information on early learning and childcare and health and wellbeing in the NIF; what more can be done to ensure CfE, and the importance of the 4 capacities, is encapsulated in the NIF; and the benefits and drawbacks of a more interactive online NIF Evidence Dashboard.

Andy also said that the NIF Evidence Report (published in previous years alongside the NIF and Improvement Plan) would be replaced with a new online NIF Evidence Dashboard, starting in December 2018.  The Dashboard will still present the same information but with the advantage that it could be updated as and when evidence became available and would allow stakeholders to drill further down into the evidence in more detail.

Following the presentation, SEC and ICEA members moved into group discussions to consider and feedback on the questions provided.  

Key feedback and points for consideration from the group discussions are set out below and will be considered in the development of the 2019 NIF and Improvement Plan:

  • there was consensus that the priorities and drivers of the NIF should remain for 2019
  • in subsequent years, we should consider whether the priorities and drivers could be broadened to take in wider partners and not focus solely on schools
  • it would be helpful to consider whether and how cultural changes can be measured and tracked
  • the frequency of reporting should be looked at, as should the timing of plans (including regional, local, and school improvement plans) to ensure consistency around the timing of key messages
  • a young persons’ version of the NIF should be considered, as many young people are not aware of its existence
  • there is a need for the NIF to maintain consistency and to ensure that the performance information that is being measured is what is needed to improve children’s progress. Consider whether the NIF does currently capture this and whether there should be a greater emphasis on the four capacities of CfE within it
  • the NIF concentrates on measuring attainment, but should it also consider what is important to young people, such as extra-curricular activities, leadership opportunities and relationships with peers? 
  • is there a need to consider the “opportunity” gap as well as the attainment gap.  Young people don’t have access to all the same opportunities in all schools  e.g. not all schools have the same opportunity for young people to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, or to choose certain subjects
  • health and wellbeing is an important and fundamental part of the NIF, that is welcomed but more needs to be done – there is not enough emphasis placed on it through the NIF at the moment
  • there does need to be more of a focus on early learning and childcare throughout the NIF
  • is enough being done to capture the views of parents?  How do we understand what parents feel about their schools, and how do we gather that information?

Any other business

In closing the meeting Gayle gave a special thank you to the ICEA members for taking the opportunity to be involved in discussions and for giving their views and comments.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting of the Scottish Education Council will be held on 21 November 2018, at Musselburgh Grammar School, Musselburgh.  In recognition of the Year of the Young People, this meeting will be “taken over” by the young people from Musselburgh Grammar.


National Improvement Framework Unit
October 2018


SEC-06 - Paper 1 - Education reform
SEC-06 - Paper 2 - National improvement framework


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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