Skills: Shared Outcomes Assurance Group minutes: 05 March 2024

Minutes from the meeting held on 05 March 2024.

Welcome and review of actions

The Chair welcomed everyone the 12th meeting of the Shared Outcomes Assurance Group and noted the apologies received.

One action remained outstanding on the Action Tracker: Collaborative Working Group (CWG) to report back to SOAG on any future joint analytical work agreed. Kirstie Corbett advised that partners from SDS and SFC were working collaboratively within the constraints of the current reform programme and had agreed to pause any further analytical work through the CWG until a clearer picture of shared priorities emerges from the post-school reform. It was agreed that any future collaborative analytical work would need to be aligned to our shared interests on NSET delivery and measurement.

Item 2: Progress reporting: updated by exception

The meeting heard updates on the following projects, with reference to the Project Status Reports (PSR) which had been submitted prior to the meeting.

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

Both Foundation Apprenticeship (FA) and Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) continued to be rated as amber (potential risk). This was because sign-off remained to be achieved on the reform work of FAs and GAs. It was noted that work was underway to consider changes to FAs while a review of GAs considers current provision and where gaps exist. It was also noted that the FA/GA annual reports had been delayed until summer at the earliest.

It was recognised that the work on the FA and GA projects was expected to transition from project status to “business as usual” reflecting the ongoing nature of the remaining areas scoped within the original project.

Pathfinders: CESAP – Net Zero (SOAG/22/06) and Commercial and Domestic Heat in Buildings (SOAG/22/07)

It was noted that CESAP WP2 (Heat in Buildings) was now in the final stages of completion, with the co-design workshops in Glasgow and Shetland now complete. Work was underway to conclude the Final Project Report paper by April 2024. A supplementary monitoring and evaluation paper drawing out lessons learned is also being produced.

The outputs from WP2 are being used in both Glasgow and Shetland as part of the wider work which has been shaped by partners in these regions. The starting point for this work was the evidence base compiled as part of WP 1 (Net Zero).

Members thanked Andrea and the team for their work on this project and considered how lessons could be picked up and taken forward.

Item 3: Substantive item: regional tertiary pathfinders

Liz Shevlin, Seamus Spencer and Linda McLeod delivered a presentation on the regional pathfinders. The presentation established the context for the work and a reminder that all pilot projects underway were designed in line with the 3 main objectives: Simpler pathways and improved outcomes for learners; Alignment of provision against societal and employer need and enhanced coherence and sustainability across provision. The Regional Delivery Board (RDB) in each region comprised of key regional stakeholders, provided the authorising role for the seven pilot projects: three in the South of Scotland and four in the North East and a short summary of progress and outcomes of each of the 7 pilots was given. The pilots are already delivering specific outputs for learners which offer guidance on pathways to skills and qualifications in priority areas, and examples of this include the NESA Energy Transition Skills Interactive Pathway Tool, as well as the project developing a Joint Prospectus for Learning and Innovation in the land-based sector – Rural Skills Pathways.

SFC then turned to the work underway to better understand how curriculum planning and design in colleges and universities is responsive to emerging skills needs, highlighting the crucial role of regional data, intelligence and insights. Emphasis was placed on the need to access and share data and intelligence effectively across institutions and stakeholders as well as the interpretation of intelligence. Finally, consideration was given to the emerging themes and learning from the pathfinder work and how this is shared more widely.  A key point made was the need to clearly define the different roles and responsibilities within the system. A key enabler in driving this work forward was the value placed on building strong partnership working and relationships, capitalising on previous connections and partnerships, to enhance regional planning, drive knowledge, curriculum and skill development, and optimise resources to secure coherent provision and a sustainable future.

There followed a brief discussion on the regional pathfinders and the following points were noted:

  • It was important to recognise the work that had taken place and the work still underway, and to consider the additionality brought by the pathfinder projects. The pathfinder pilot projects had been able build on some of the relationships that existed to progress their work. The convening role of SFC in the regional space had helped to unlock progress. It was suggested that the evaluation phase of this work will draw out more of the additionality and learning as to how this could be applied in future situations and contexts  
  • A number of evaluation events with partners had taken place and outputs from these sessions will be shared with SOAG members in due course and will also draw out ways to support scaling up, spreading or embedding of regional initiatives
  • It was noted that the Regional Delivery Board (RDB) in each region endorsed the priority pilot projects to take forward as part of the pathfinder work based on their clear understanding of emerging or existing regional priorities  
  • It was recognised that a lack of clarity at a regional level on roles and responsibilities of both people and organisations existed. Clearer systems coordination and partnership would help those working on regional collaborative projects in future
  • There were lessons to draw from the partnership complexities that exist between CPPs (and their skills partnerships) and REPs which could be built upon as partners take forward the new approach to skills planning and other aspects of the reform work
  • The pathfinder projects have explored collaborative approaches where institutions are better placed to understand, identify and respond to current and emerging regional skills need This was what had been intended when the work had been commissioned following the SFC Review and constituted important learning to inform the new approach to skills planning

Item 4: Reflections on Shared Outcomes Framework (SOF) and SOAG

Elspeth Hough introduced a short presentation, reflecting on the progress made in the implementation of SOF, the final deliverable elements of which were due to conclude in the coming weeks. It was suggested that as work to deliver the Framework concluded, it would be important to transition work that would become business as usual, to reflect on lessons learned, and to report back to Parliament.  In discussion the following points were noted:

  • Initial feedback was positive: good progress had been made in progressing important collaborative work and going forward it will be important for the group to consider the outputs of all the projects fully and how the learning is then taken forward into the reform of the system
  • Some of the projects, including the Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) had already shared the lessons learned with SOAG members while others, including CESAP WP1, had already embedded the learning. It was suggested that a wider discussion should take place to share thoughts on how to feed this work more widely into the reform of the skills system
  • It will be important to draw on the work that has been done already, including the learning from the processes and the outcomes, when thinking about how to update Parliament.  The update should cover the substantive learning and the features that had led to successful and consistent collaboration between the partners.  It should also set out whether there was a future role for SOAG or whether its remit would conclude with the ending of SOF 

Item 5: aob

No items were notified under AOB; the Chair thanked the group members for attending, for a productive meeting and excellent progress.


action: (050324-1) SG (ALSA) will report back to SOAG on a proposal on how to ensure analytical collaboration will continue with a focus on skills

action: (050324 – 2) SG, SDS and SFC to work collectively to ensure that final projects reports will be circulated, finalised and published

action: (050324 - 3) SG to contact project SROs to consider the learning and the impact on longer term work and to draw together a draft report to summarise the collective learning and impact of the SOF

action: (050324 - 4) SG to liaise with SFC and SDS to agree next steps including whether a further meeting of SOAG should take place or whether it would be more helpful to disseminate learning via alternative structures

action: (050324 - 5) : SG to work with SFC and SDS to agree an agreed collective communication to Parliament, summarising progress and the conclusion of SOF

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government (SG)

  • Adam Reid, Deputy Director, Skills Division (LLS) (Chair)
  • Kirstie Corbett, Unit Head and Senior Principal Researcher, (ALSA)
  • Pete Whitehouse, Deputy Director, Education Analytical Services (ALSA)
  • Jane Duffy, Unit Head, Post School Qualifications (LLS)
  • Elspeth Hough, Unit Head, Skills Strategy, Careers and DYW (LLS)

Skills Development Scotland

  • Chris Brodie, Director of Regional Skills Planning and Sector Development
  • Andrea Glass, Head of Regions and Enabling Sectors
  • Lynne Robson, Head of Evidence and Impact
  • Jacqueline Kerr, Contracts and Performance Manager

Scottish Funding Council

  • Liz Shevlin, Deputy Director, Coherent Learning Provision
  • Seamus Spencer, Assistant Director
  • Linda McLeod, Assistant Director

Scottish Government Secretariat

  • Tanya Friel, Programmes Unit (LLS)


  • Diane Greenlees, Director, Critical Skills and Occupations, SDS
  • Kamran Durrani, Head of National Skills Planning Unit, SG
  • Naureen Ahmad, Deputy Director, Lifelong Learning and Skills (LLS)
  • Sharon Drysdale, Assistant Director, Skills (SFC)
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