Items and actions
- paper one - refresh of Scottish Attainment Challenge: mission, delivery model and accountability
- welcome and agreement of minutes from the last meeting 14.00-14.05
- refresh of Scottish Attainment Challenge: Mission, Delivery Model and Accountability 14.05-15.00
- implementing 'Scotland's Curriculum: Into the Future' (The OECD’s review of Curriculum for Excellence) 15.00-15.55
- AOB and close 15.55-16.00
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Cab Sec), welcomed Teacher Panel members to the meeting and apologies were given on behalf of those unable to attend.
The minutes from the Teacher Panel meeting held on 22 September 2021 were approved.
Refresh of Scottish Attainment Challenge: Mission, delivery model and accountability
The Cab Sec introduced the first agenda item and referenced her November announcement on plans for the next phase of the £1 billion Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC). Ms Somerville was keen to hear from panel members as to what can be done to enable schools and local authorities to provide further support and best outcomes to pupils.
A number of points were raised by the panel:
- they broadly welcomed the announced changes to the Scottish Attainment Challenge and confirmed their appreciation of the work undertaken by the Scottish Government’s SAC team over the past 5 years
- there was a general consensus that the change to the distribution model will lead to a welcome equity of provision for pupils. Panel members were keen to point out that although the work being undertaken now will take some time to come to fruition, schools are beginning to see “trickles of success”
- one panel member stated that although the work on attainment is important, there is also a need to recognise what is happening in schools and the effect that Covid is having on this – although support exists it is not always available due to staff being stretched
- another panel member voiced concern for the new generation of teachers who have yet to teach in normal circumstances
- some panel members suggested that they are feeling more optimistic now that they can see pupils moving towards their potential, due to the high level of recovery work being undertaken
Gayle Gorman, Chief Inspector of Education for Scotland, outlined the joint partnership work that Education Scotland is undertaking with key organisations such as Barnardo’s, providing peer coaching and support sessions to staff. She also confirmed that Education Scotland is looking into developing training and modules around multi-agency work.
Implementing 'Scotland's Curriculum: Into the Future' (The OECD’s review of Curriculum for Excellence)
Cab Sec introduced the second paper which outlined the OECD’s recommendations. Panel members were invited to comment on how teacher engagement can be increased in actions stemming from those recommendations.
The panel members raised a number of points:
- with regard to the Scottish Government’s framework for addressing the OECD report’s recommendations, panel members suggested that a pyramid/bottom-up approach be employed in order to allow the voices of teachers, pupils and parents to be heard
- it was suggested by one panel member that involving the entire teaching profession would be logistically challenging. There was also some concern that in some forums it is difficult for teachers to openly share their views, for example when they are representing their local authorities rather than themselves
- one panel member stressed the importance of ensuring that Scottish Government talks to the right people and engage with people from different places – factors such as deprivation and rurality mean that things work differently in different areas of the country
- there was some support for broadening the Teacher Panel’s membership and making it more fluid, and also suggestions that the Teacher Panel increase its visibility within the profession
Cab Sec confirmed that on this latter point officials would consider what can be done to make the panel feel it is being as useful and productive as it can be.
Cab Sec invited panel members to raise any other topics they wished to discuss.
One panel member commented on the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing teachers’ class contact time by 90-minutes per week, giving them more time to plan lessons and ease their workload. Given that some schools work in 50-minute blocks this may present issues with curriculum planning.
Cab Sec confirmed that the policy is well intended, but there must be capacity within the system to make sure that it can be achieved successfully. She therefore confirmed that officials on the call would look into the matter.
Cab Sec thanked the Teacher Panel members for another useful discussion and wished them a restful and relaxing Christmas and New Year break.
On 23 November, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills set out changes to the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC), re-affirming the importance to the Scottish Government of tackling the poverty-related attainment gap. The impact of Covid-19 and the need to accelerate our progress in this mission require us to think differently about how the SAC is delivered, supported by the Government’s commitment to invest £1 billion during this Parliamentary term. This next phase of the Challenge also builds on the evidence set out in the Scottish Government and Education Scotland 5-year report on progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap, the Equity Audit, the Audit Scotland report on educational outcomes, and the OECD review.
The focus on tackling the poverty-related attainment gap must remain paramount in the SAC going forward. However, this work must link better with the Government’s mission to tackle child poverty and encourage more collaborative work across the many services that will contribute to the narrowing of the gap.
The Cabinet Secretary announced a more specific mission statement:
“…to use education to improve outcomes for children and young people impacted by poverty with a focus on tackling the poverty-related attainment gap to deliver on the Government’s vision of equity and excellence in education”.
Setting out the mission in this way will enable a shift in the language used around the programme to focus on achievement, i.e. wider than Nationals/Highers and inclusive of other nationally recognised awards/certificates including through the Scottish Certification and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). There is recognition of the need to reflect the breadth of achievements that contribute to improved outcomes for children and young people including through improved post-school participation in positive destinations. This approach presents better alignment with Curriculum for Excellence and the findings of the most recent OECD and Audit Scotland reports which both indicate the need for stronger national and local data on the wider benefits of Scottish education alongside attainment in national qualifications and awards.
To deliver on this, there are clear messages from the evidence of what has worked well for children and families during the first 5 years of the Challenge and agreement from stakeholders that local authorities and schools must continue to strengthen how they draw on more than just the expertise in education services and schools, by engaging a range of partners, services and sectors to contribute to this mission. It reflects the importance of family support, and the effect of the home environment on the capacity of children to take advantage of learning opportunities. It also emphasises the schools’ roles in the context of the full learner journey, making links both up and down that journey.
This is not a dilution of focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap and the need to focus on attainment in literacy and numeracy. Rather it is recognition that in order for children to be ready to learn, there needs to be support for children and young people beyond the classroom or school. It further acknowledges the need for strengthened support for children and young people’s wellbeing, particularly as a result of Covid-19 which the Scottish Government has already started to address. The refreshed mission therefore encourages schools and local authorities to collaborate with other services, such as community learning and development, youth work, social work or family support to work to overcome barriers to learning – and recognises the consequences of that collaboration for closing the poverty-related attainment gap and improving outcomes for children and young people affected by poverty.
Pace of progress
In refreshing the stated mission of the SAC, we have not only a fresh opportunity to inject ambition and urgency into the work, but also to restate and re-inforce the specific roles and accountabilities of the range of actors who are responsible for improvement, including Education Scotland, schools, local authorities and RICs, as well as early learning and tertiary education; and ensure a national line of sight on local ambitions and practices at both planning, monitoring and reporting stages. All of which will be designed to support education recovery, accelerate progress and tackle variation and would form elements of a framework for recovery and accelerating progress.
To support this, a small working group which included COSLA, ADES, AHDS and SLS was convened by officials to discuss outline principles and (very) high level next steps for an “accountability framework” for the refreshed SAC programme. Following two meetings of that group the below outline principles were agreed.
With all 32 local authorities included in the Scottish Attainment Challenge, we will work together to:
- support system-wide delivery of the refreshed mission for the Scottish Attainment Challenge, whilst recognising the specific contribution of education to reduce the impact of poverty
- ensure a system-wide focus on improving outcomes for children and young people affected by poverty, in light of the cross-cutting impact poverty has and the need to collaborate across services to improve outcomes for children and young people
- ensure that governance and reporting arrangements, including stretch aims agreed and measured both nationally and locally, enable the system to recognise, respond to and tell the story of progress being made, locally and nationally, to improve outcomes for children and young people affected by poverty
- demonstrate that people are as important as processes: our joint work on governance and reporting should clarify the respective roles of key actors in the system, including Scottish Government, Education Scotland and local authorities
These will inform continued engagement with the system in the coming months to develop this framework ready for the roll-out of the refreshed SAC programme from April 2022/23.
Alongside this will be a national consultation on the 11 measures of the poverty-related attainment gap set out in the National Improvement Framework, to be held in spring 2022. This will be an opportunity for stakeholders across the system to feed into consideration on what we measure to understand progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
The provision of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) will continue from 2022/23, continuing to distribute funding to schools (via local authorities, as is currently the case) and empowering head teachers to take local decisions on approaches to tackling the poverty-related attainment gap in their local contexts. These decisions will be taken within the above-mentioned framework for recovery and accelerating progress.
Recognising that poverty exists in every local authority area in Scotland – and that this has been exacerbated by the pandemic – the significant change we intend to carry out in the refresh of SAC is to stop the Challenge Authorities (£43m) and Schools’ Programmes (£7m) and redistribute that funding across all 32 local authorities (£43m) and to meet the rising cost of PEF.
This responds to consistent feedback from the system via extensive stakeholder engagement that all 32 local authorities should have a clear and funded role in the Scottish Attainment Challenge, rather than just the nine Challenge Authorities. This role for all 32 local authorities will be designed to enable them all to:
- pro-actively support and enable the empowerment of head teachers in the context of SAC
- include a clearly defined role for local authorities in holding head teachers to account for local progress in tackling the poverty-related attainment gap
- create a mechanism for greater national line of sight of how PEF is used and the difference it is making, enhancing the role of the “middle layer” without creating additional structures or bureaucracy
- link clearly with activity across Regional Improvement Collaboratives
- set a strategic direction to using education to improve outcomes for children and young people affected by poverty across each LA, drawing in other LA services to create conditions for school leaders to better access those
The benefits of this include:
- the simplification of the model, replacing two funding streams with just one
- recognition of the truism that there is poverty in every LA
- removing what has been in some ways essentially a duplication of resource for 73 schools via the Schools’ Programme (those 73 schools receive both Schools’ Programme funding and PEF)
- removing the “them and us” perception between Challenge Authorities and non-Challenge Authorities
- a strengthening of the statutory responsibility every LA has to demonstrate in using education to improve outcomes for children and young people affected by poverty via the Scottish Attainment Challenge, including a key role in leveraging input from across the LA; and a clear role in the strengthening accountability framework outlined above
This redistribution will be based on Children in Low Income Families data, which sees a move away from SIMD as the mechanism for identifying the nine Challenge Authorities and responds to the criticism from the Auditor General on the use of SIMD. Clearly this will result in a reduction in funding for the nine Challenge Authorities and the schools in the Schools Programme will have to make adjustments.
As noted above, the Cabinet Secretary announced this refreshed programme to Parliament on 23 November. As we progress to the next phase of implementation we will continue to engage with partners and practitioners, and we will also take forward a refresh of the SAC Programme logic model. This will involve developing the theory of change, which is how we explain the change we want to see happening through determining the sequence of outcomes that we expect to occur as a result of the programme.
Question for discussion:
- what do members of the Teacher Panel believe are the key areas of support and challenge that will enable significant progress to be made in closing the poverty-related attainment gap?
Paper two - Implementing 'Scotland's curriculum: into the future' (the OECD's review of Curriculum for Excellence)
This paper seeks to note the publication of the implementation framework, and invites comments particularly around the action of increasing teacher engagement.
In response to the OECD’s review of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE): 'Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future', the Scottish Government published 'Scotland’s Curriculum: Into the Future: Implementation framework'. This paper sets out a framework for how the Scottish Government will address the recommendations in the OECD’s report, including the advice set out in Professor Stobart’s working paper 'Upper-secondary education student assessment in Scotland'.
The implementation framework has engagement and co-production at its core. It is clear that for there to be a successful outcome in responding to the OECD’s recommendations, all actions need to be based on meaningful engagement with stakeholders and with these views directly influencing policy decisions.
The OECD itself set out a recommended approach to the implementation of their recommendations, which has been accepted. The OECD says Scotland should: Adopt a structured and long-term approach to implementation. Building on the system’s existing strengths, Scotland should consider how to take on board the recommendations in this report as a coherent package rather than individual policy actions for the next steps.
The implementation framework sets out next steps and actions into five key themes:-
- re-assess the vision of CfE
- agree a measurement and evaluation approach
- align assessment and qualifications
- clarify roles and responsibilities
- increase curriculum development capacity
Across these themes a range of actions are noted, some actions build upon existing work, whilst others reflect new strands of work to be commenced.
The full set of actions can be seen in the implementation framework, but the key actions can be highlighted as below:-
- engagement to review refreshed CfE vision
- agree review cycle
- agree roles and responsibilities with regard to these actions
- consult and refresh communications and stakeholder involvement strategies
- establish the Children and Young People’s Council
- expand the role of the Teacher Panel
- consider additional engagement routes with both groups
- consider options for a sample-survey based approach to assessing progress across the four CfE capacities
- evaluating wider measures and indicators of progress
- develop and support school empowerment alongside pursuing teacher contact time commitment and teacher and classroom assistant recruitment commitment
- consultation on principles to underpin assessment and qualifications reform, followed by Professor Hayward leading a reference group to consider the design of a reformed system
The framework the OECD sets out recognises the complexities of education policy and recommends balancing traditional implementation processes with more bottom-up approaches that leave room for co-construction and local adaptation. It suggests that to accomplish education change in schools and settings, a coherent, actionable and well-communicated implementation strategy that engages stakeholders early on and takes into account the environment as part of the policy design process, is needed.
Implementing the actions
The Scottish Government is developing a programme-based approach to support this work, and more details of this will be shared in due course. Indicative timings for each next step and action are given in the implementation framework, however, engagement will be at the heart of this work and to some degree the work and how it proceeds will be shaped by such engagement with stakeholders.
There is a specific action in the framework regarding the Teacher Panel:-
"We will consult with the Teacher Panel and other stakeholders about how to strengthen and expand the role of the Teacher Panel, and teacher and head teacher voice, in relation to this and the range of other work in this framework, linking with the empowerment agenda".
It would be useful to explore any initial views of the Teacher Panel on:
- how the role of the Teacher Panel may be strengthened and expanded
- how more widely views of teachers and other practitioners may be sought, especially noting any lessons that can be learnt from the successful engagement with Professor Ken Muir’s review
Any comments or feedback on the wider actions set out in the framework would also be welcome for discussion.
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