Skills: Shared Outcomes Assurance Group minutes: 17 January 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 17 January 2022.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government

  • Helena Gray (Co-Chair), Director, Fair Work and Employability (FWES)
  • Stephen Pathirana (Co-Chair), Director, Advanced Learning & Science (ALS)
  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director (FWES)
  • Helen Webster, Deputy Director (ALS)
  • Lesley Ward, Head of Strategy, Reform Division (ALS)
  • Hannah Garrow, Unit Head, Skills Delivery (FWES)
  • Jack Taylor, Policy Lead, Future Skills(FWES)
  • Stephanie Sinclair, Team Leader, Economic Input and Digital Inclusion (ALS)
  • Helen McGillivray, Senior Policy Executive, Sponsorship (FWES)
  • Richard Murray, Interim Deputy Director (FWES)

Skills Development Scotland

  • Neville Prentice, Senior Director, Service Development Delivery
  • John Murray, Director of Change, Assurance and Development
  • Andrea Glass, Head of Regions and Enabling Sectors
  • Chris Brodie, Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development

Scottish Funding Council

  • James Dunphy, Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes
  • Sharon Drysdale, Assistant Director Access, Learning and Outcomes
  • Seamus Spencer, Assistant Director/Outcome Agreement Manager

Items and actions


Welcome and introductions                   

Purpose and TOR for Shared Outcomes Assurance Group        

Discussion to focus on composition of these meetings, ensuring we have the right people around the table and in practice how we ensure that the substance of these discussions flows through to Ministerial meetings and other reporting requirements.         

Shared Outcomes Framework     

Update on discussions to date, presentation of revised format and discussion and agreement of next steps to develop meaningful set of measures and effective reporting dashboard to support this meeting and wider Ministerial and other meetings.            

Forward programme of agenda items for this meeting 

Agree agenda and deep dives for forthcoming meetings to ensure that projects and programmes are brought to the group in time for meaningful discussion.     

Proposed meeting dates

Week commencing 21 February.

Week commencing 11 April.


  • NSET
  • Audit Scotland Report


Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Minutes from the last SAAG were agreed with amends that were sent. Updated minutes to be recirculated (action: complete).

Purpose and terms of reference for Shared Outcomes Assurance Group

The Group discussed the circulated Terms of Reference document. The following points were noted:

  • the scope covers live issues between agencies, this may grow or shrink over time and that for different issues the group may want others to join
  • thre was support for the opportunity this group provides to come together to consider all of these related strands of work in the round and that the group will provide clarity on outcomes and progress across the range of collaborative projects supporting an informed discussion across initiatives
  • it was agreed that there was a need for directors responsible to be around the table but there may be value in bringing experts in on specific items to support deep dives on particular topics
  • this group needs to be take account of the role of, and be capable of linking to, other related governance structures including those around apprenticeships, Flexible Workforce Development Fund, the CESAP Implementation Steering Group (where SDS / SFC and SG are all represented as well as industry partners) as well as the governance and reporting requirements for the forthcoming National Strategy for Economic Transformation. Agreed that the role of this group is to give assurance at a headline level rather than duplicate existing governance structures
  • agreed that it would be useful to set out related governance structures and how these feed into one another
  • agreed that there is a need for the group to hold itself to account for how it does things, including timely circulation of minutes and papers within a week of meetings taking place

The Chair concluded that the consensus is people are broadly comfortable with the draft Terms of Reference (ToR) which would be updated to reflect this most recent discussion, including the addition of a governance map to show the different groups in this space. 

Action: governance diagram that shows the different groups and relationships to be drafted and added as an Annex to the ToR.

Action: comments to be reflected in ToR and revised version to be circulated with minutes of meeting.

Shared Outcomes Framework

The group discussed the framework’s overview. It was noted that at the highest level this needs to link to the NPF but should also set the collaborative work between the agencies in the context of the totality of work they are delivering across the tertiary education and skills system, and show clearly where these overlapping collaborative projects fit within that.

It was noted that questions to consider included: whether the mission statement and high-level outcomes as currently framed are correct, and what data, measures and impacts can usefully be included to monitor progress. The framework needs to develop into something that can usefully be used as a reporting tool to update ministers and agency leaders. It was proposed that a follow up workshop should be convened with all partners to take this forward.

It was additionally noted that the framework is and will have to be dynamic but provided a useful starting point for that meeting’s discussion.

The following points were noted in discussion:

  • it was noted that there is a need to have something that enables tracking of progress and supports conversations on assurance
  • it was noted that this needs to be able to expand or contract over time to reflect the projects and programmes being worked on, including considering how to take account of the ambition and findings of SQA review, senior phase and ambition for work-based learning and what impact this will all have on future direction. This will include the future ambition for FA and GAs
  • it was noted that the National Strategy for Economic Transition (NSET) will set some high-level objectives and there will be metrics published later that should be reflected in this framework
  • it was noted that it was important to progress the development of the framework at pace, but also to take the time to get it right. The alignment of the intent of skills alignment with the activities that sit underneath it needs consideration, with this work needing to provide a means of tracking progress and providing assurance to Ministers
  • it was noted that this will also have to flex in response to the Strategic Intent which will set out what is wanted from the system.
  • it was noted that the material in the Shared Outcomes Framework should also be used to support the work of other groups like SAAB and the ESSB
  • it was noted that the framework needs to look at outputs and outcomes and see how well the overall approach is working
  • it was noted that there was a need for the Group to hold further strategic conversations, but that these conversations are also happening elsewhere, and that the Group needs to set out where these are happening
  • it was noted that the Group’s focus should be on delivery, monitoring and evaluation

The Chair concluded that everyone was in agreement that there is a need to develop the framework and having a collective means of tracking progress across these projects. The Chair highlighted that the Group needs to ensure the basics are right first, which can be built upon.

Forward programme of agenda items for this meeting

The focus for the next meeting in February was outlined: the focus would be on pathfinders, then ESIF work at the following meeting in April.

The following points were noted in discussion:

  • it was noted that it was important for the Group to be aware of FA/GA work and reporting on high level activities and outcomes. It was noted that mature plans and processes are in place for collaborative working through the Joint Executive Group (JEG)
  • it was noted as positive to cover apprenticeships in next meeting and ensure a shared understanding, and to reflect how impact of budget on commissioning modelling for 2022/2023 would relate to his
  • it was noted that the response from sectors on pathfinders had been very positive – institutions were keen to be involved
  • the group discussed whether conversations on funding would be within the group’s scope. It was noted that there is a clear steer that the focus of the group is on assurance for projects and programmes that have already been agreed and are underway and that there are different meetings where the specifics of funding for programmes can be discussed and agreed

Action: add apprenticeships to agenda for next meeting.


It was noted that the Audit Scotland Planning for Skills Report was due to be published that Thursday. Agencies should receive advance copies and Comms colleagues would be in touch. It was also noted that the  Public Audit Committee is likely to consider the report in early February and that follow up sessions may take place in March. It was also noted that the Economy and Fair Work and Education, Children and Young People Committees may also wish to consider.

An update was provided concerning NSET. It was noted that there have been a number of discussions concerning this topic already and a previous draft had been circulated. It was noted that it would go to cabinet for approval next week with a view to publishing early February.

Action: all SROs to provide updates to plans in Shared Outcomes Framework in advance of Feb meeting.


Shared Outcomes Framework for Skills Alignment


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