Shared Outcomes Assurance Group minutes: 13 June 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 13 June 2022.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government (SG)

  • Stephen Pathirana (Chair) Director, Advanced Learning and Science (ALS)
  • Helena Gray, Director, Fair Work, Employability and Skills (FWES)
  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director, FWES
  • Helen Webster, Deputy Director, ALS
  • Richard Murray, Deputy Director, Directorate of the Chief Economist
  • Elaine Herd, Apprenticeship Policy Team Leader, FWES
  • Richard Dryburgh, Fair Work and Employability, FWES
  • Stuart King, Senior Principal Research Officer, FWES
  • Laura McKenna, SDS Sponsorship team, FWES
  • Stephanie Sinclair, Economic Input and Digital Inclusion, ALS
  • Helen McGillivray, SDS Sponsorship and Skills Strategy, FWES

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

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

Scottish Funding Council (SFC)

  • Claire McPherson, Deputy Director for Policy
  • Sharon Drysdale, Assistant Director Access, Learning and Outcomes
  • Seamus Spencer, Assistant Director/Outcome Agreement Manager

Scottish Government Secretariat

  • Elspeth Hough, Head of Programmes Unit, ALS
  • Linda McCourt, Programmes Unit, ALS
  • Callam Fowler, Programmes Unit, ALS
  • Mary Maxwell, Programmes Unit, ALS


  • Lynne Raeside, SFC
  • Lynne Robson, SDS
  • Martin Boyle, SFC

Items and actions


Chair: Stephen Pathirana, Director of Advanced Learning and Science

  • 15:00 to 15:05 welcome and review of actions by exception (paper 1) - Chair
  • 15:05 to 15:25 progress updates by exception (paper 2) – SROs
  • 15:25 to 15:55 deep dive: apprenticeships (paper 3) – Chair
  • 15:55 to 16:10 preparations for Ministerial meeting – Chair
  • 16:10 to 16:20 update on NSET Connections (paper 4) – Chair
  • 16:20 to 16:30 AOB – Chair


Welcome and review of actions

The Chair welcomed the attendees and completed introductions for new members of the group.

The Chair outlined the collective responsibility of the group to ensure that reporting procedures were carried out timeously and in line with the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group (SOAG) Terms of Reference.

The Chair indicated that the procedure set out in the Terms of Reference to clear the minutes of the SOAG should be updated to allow the minutes to be cleared and published on the Scottish Government website ahead of the following SOAG. This was in line with the commitment given to the Public Audit Committee on transparent publication of SOAG papers.

The SOAG Action Tracker was discussed and the group were made aware of the recent edits to the formatting. The group agreed that actions recorded as amber from the 4 May meeting were correctly reflected.

It was noted that the Education and Skills Economic and Social Impact Framework (ESIF) action 0405022-11 should be updated to reflect that the anticipated date for publication is August 2022.

Progress reporting: updates by exception

The meeting heard updates on the following projects, with reference to the Project Status Reports which had been submitted prior to the meeting for all projects except project 8 (by prior agreement).

Foundation Apprenticeships (SOAG/22/01) and Graduate Apprenticeships (SOAG/22/02)

These projects were discussed under agenda item 3.

Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) – (SOAG/22/03)

ESIF leads noted that good progress had been made in agreeing the approach to the development of contextual reports which would form part of the proposed publication of the ESIF phase 1 results. It was hoped that this publication could be finalised by the end of the summer. It was noted that the Project Status Report (PSR) had been submitted with a green rating; it was agreed that SDS, SFC and SG leads should discuss to confirm that all remained content with this as proposals were finalised.

Regional Pathfinders: North East (SOAG/22/04) and South of Scotland (SOAG/22/05)

SFC confirmed that it was expected that the contribution of SDS was expected to be predominantly within Work Package 1 and that a commitment had been made to provide the full workplans for the Regional Pathfinders no later than 24 June 2022 (see action tracker risk id 040522-7). This would provide necessary clarity to inform resourcing plans. It was agreed that the SFC SRO would continue to develop the Project Status Reports to include the relevant dates for all milestones and additional detail where required. 

Pathfinders: CESAP – net zero (SOAG/22/06) and commercial and domestic heat in buildings (SOAG/22/07)

It was noted that Work Package 1 (SOAG/22/06) was progressing well with positive stakeholder engagement. 

It was noted that Work Package 2 (SOAG/22/07) was due to commence at the beginning of July 2022 and that partners have held positive meetings to prepare for this work. The group agreed that the RAG Rating for SOAG/22/07 would remain as undefined until full completion of the PSR, with the RAG Rating expected to reflect green (on track) once the PSR has been completed. 

Lifelong skilling and reskilling (SOAG/22/08)

It was noted that there had been prior agreement that a PSR would not be tabled for this project until the project scoping by the Scottish Government, engaging with SDS and SFC, had concluded.

The SG SRO for the project confirmed that it remained the case that the focus of this project would be on the Flexible Workforce Development Fund and that new work on Life Long Learning and Upskilling would report via the NSET Skilled Workforce Programme. He highlighted that there had been a positive upturn in demand for the FDFW and for ILA accounts in the last six months. 

Dashboard format, risk and reporting

The group discussed the proposed format for the Dashboard (paper 2) with the consensus that it represented a useful distillation of the information which could be refined further as required in future. It was agreed that the Dashboard would continue to be reviewed on a regular basis with SG/SDS/SFC to ensure that it provided the level of detail required.

The meeting discussed briefly the need to ensure consistent application of risk ratings and agreed that projects which had not yet commenced would be marked as black. This was the case for CESAP work package 2 for example which would go live in July and for project 8 on Lifelong learning and Reskilling which was still being scoped. It was noted that the group would use the amber marking where this was appropriate for projects in progress.

The Chair thanked SROs for their contributions and underlined the importance of submissions for SOAG meetings adhering timeously to deadlines set: this was to ensure that due scrutiny, analysis and challenge could take place in advance of the meetings, improving the focus on outcomes. It was further suggested that PSRs could be shared between partners in advance of the formal submission.

Apprenticeships deep dive

The Deputy Director of FWES introduced the deep dive (paper 3) on Foundation Apprenticeships (FA) and Graduate Apprenticeships (GA) (paper 3), noting progress made and wider work that was happening on roles and responsibilities. He noted that the focus for FAs was on building a clear improvement plan; for GAs an independent evaluation was planned to sit on top of recent learning.

The group noted the importance of joint working on FA and GA to progress both projects and to optimise outcomes.

The two SRO’s from SDS and SFC provided an insight into the FA and GA projects, speaking to the paper and to the PSRs that had been submitted. This covered a range of topics including: an update on interoperations, insight to the evidence based approach and on-going developments with Advisory Boards.

Key points to note included:

  • these were complex projects comprising 46 work activities across 10 teams
  • regular and frequent joint working continued between the agencies including at the Joint Executive Group, both partners considered that this was going well
  • it had been a priority for the agencies to agree a joint reporting approach; the decision had been made to separate out some milestones for Academic Years 2022 to 2023 and 2023 to 2024 for both projects. This increased the overall number of milestones but allowed for more detailed management of the plans for each of the two discrete years 

As FA’s and GA’s are demand led, an evidence based approach was used to inform allocations which supports the delivery of apprenticeships to ensure the right mix of provision is provided across Scotland. This had now been adapted to reflect the alteration in the balance of responsibilities between the agencies. The joint interoperations model was based on using the relevant information including access to dynamic data. 

FA and GA allocations for 2022 to 2023 have been published; and the methodology discussed with stakeholders. In response to a question about what would happen if actual demand did not follow the anticipated pattern, it was noted that this would be tracked and if required, options would be discussed between the partners and the SG. 

The agencies were working together on communications and messaging about FAs and GAs for Academic Year 2023 to 2024. Key communications were to be agreed by the Joint Executive Group:

  • apprenticeship data would be reviewed later in the year and would inform a lessons learned process; work was now underway to consider how to build SFC input into the evidence process managed by SDS for next year to drive further improvement
  • this year ECOS had been commissioned to do a full demand-led and evidence-based assessment on GAs
  • as set out in the paper, further work on the future development of FAs and GAs would take account of the broader context including the Muir and Hayward reviews and the views of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board

The group recognised the positive work to take the FA amd GA programmes forward and noted the future plans to continue reviewing data and to carry out a lessons learned exercise.

The Chair acknowledged the efforts involved with the FA and GA programmes and was pleased with the level of collaborative working from all partners and noted the plans to review the FA and GA data at a later date.

Preparation for Ministerial meeting

The meeting briefly discussed preparation for the Ministerial bilateral meeting. Exceptionally, it had proved necessary to reschedule the bilateral that had been scheduled for May. Henceforth it remained the intention for SOAG meetings to take place two weeks prior to the bilateral meeting.

Update on NSET connections

The Joint Programme Leads for Project 11 of the Skilled Workforce Programme of the NSET, introduced the NSET Connections (paper 4) item which set out detail additional to that discussed at the 4 May SOAG meeting of the connections between NSET and SOAG structures.

One of the Programme Leads noted that the first meetings of the NSET Portfolio Board and of the NSET Delivery Board has now taken place and that overarching NSET governance structures were now in place. SDS and SFC would be attending a proto-board meeting for the Skilled Workforce programme on 23 June; this meeting will look at ToR and membership, receive updates on key projects in the SW programme, and take a paper on NSET metrics for consideration. 

The second Programme Lead noted that members of the SOAG will report on the progress of implementing the Shared Outcomes Framework via the governance structures for the NSET. She explained that the Shared Outcomes Framework captured the collaborative activity already underway and provided a route for realising the contribution all of this can make to delivering on the over-arching ambitions for skills as articulated in the Skilled Workforce programme of NSET. She also confirmed that reporting would be simplified as far as possible to reduce the need for duplication.

Members of the group asked about how connections would work in practice. The SG acknowledged that the development of NSET was evolving and confirmed that it would continue to engage with agencies and to work through SOAG and the Skilled Workforce Programme Board to keep structures under review as required. It was noted that common chairing of SOAG and the NSET Skilled Workforce programme board as well as some overlapping membership will enable us to identify and capitalise on connections.

Members of the group suggested that the Joint Executive Group (JEG) could be added to the diagram on slide 2.


The Chair confirmed that the dates for future SOAG meetings would be circulated shortly. Intended dates for associated Ministerial joint agency bilateral meetings were now confirmed in diaries through until January 2023.

The group agreed that Regional Pathfinders (SOAG/22/04 and SOAG/22/05) will be the focus for the next deep dive at the next SOAG meeting.

SFC and SDS offered to host mini mini-workshops with SRO project owners over the summer subject to agreement of suitable dates.

The Chair thanked agencies for contributions to the Executive Summary and to the update of the Shared Outcomes Framework. This would be finalised and shared with the Public Audit Committee in advance of publication. The Chair thanked the group for a productive meeting and reminded the meeting of the procedures to be taken under GDPR were any participants to object to the inclusion of their information in the SOAG papers and minutes which were to be published on SG website.


  • action (130622-1): SG to amend the Terms of Reference for SOAG to reflect the commitment to the Public Audit Committee that minutes and papers for SOAG would be placed on the Scottish Government website
  • action (130622-2): SOAG Action Tracker to be updated to show action 040522-11 agreed publication date of August 2022
  • action (130622-3): SDS, SFC and SG ESIF leads to meet to discuss the ESIF PSR and whether any immediate change was required to the current green risk rating in advance of the submission of the next PSR
  • action (130622-4): dashboard to be amended to revise the RAG Rating for SOAG/22/08 PSR to black (not yet commenced)
  • action (130622-5): SG/SDS/SFC to meet in advance of the next Dashboard commission to agree protocols for sharing and finalising PSR’s (including proposed RAG ratings) ahead of each SOAG meeting
  • action (130622-6): SG/SDS/SFC to review the diagram at slide 2 to consider whether other governance structures should be added
  • action (130622-7): SG to work through SOAG and the Skilled Workforce Programme Board to continue to develop structures and connections as required
  • action (130622-8): deep dive on Regional Pathfinders (SOAG/22/04 and SOAG/22/05) to be held at the next SOAG meeting


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