Teacher Panel meeting minutes and papers: December 2022

Minutes and papers from the Teacher Panel meeting on 14 December 2022.

Items and actions


  • welcome and agreement of minutes from the last meeting
  • developing a systematic approach to review of the curriculum
  • Professor Hayward – update on the independent review of qualifications and assessment
  • any other business and close



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 Wednesday 7 September 2022 were approved.

Developing a systematic approach to review of the curriculum

The Cab Sec passed over to an SG official to introduce the first agenda item and outlined the accompanying paper, asking the Teacher Panel for its views. An Education Scotland (EdS) official provided a summary of the engagement thus far with a wide range of colleagues from across various education sectors.

 A number of comments were made by panel members, including:

  • from a secondary perspective, there is frustration that the curriculum in school can be rigid. It is 15 years since the last review (early 2000s), which is too long. The concept of review needs to be an ongoing process, with a major reform after every school generation, i.e. every six years. In response, another panel member disagreed with a six-year cycle and considered that any review process should be on a longer cycle to allow reforms to have an effect and to minimise disruption to teachers
  • there is a need to assess the job market and skills requirements as part of any review process whilst being open and flexible
  • classroom teachers (not just senior school leaders) need to be fully involved in any review process
  • there needs to be involvement from every level in the system. Local authorities will need to be reassured that all parties are involved
  • there is a need to improve joint working between secondaries and primaries, and this should be considered as part of the regular review process
  • any review of the curriculum should be refreshed for every pupil generation and should seek to move away from the traditional model
  • though it is right to review the national framework, we should continue the current scope that schools have to design the individual curriculum for them and their school’s own context
  • the idea of looking at an individual child’s totality of experience from 3-18 and looking across the different learning sectors (ELC, primary and secondary) is a very positive one
  • an issue that needs to be addressed is the failure to achieve the four capacities where some schools may have failed to achieve them by always making it something that is achieved rather than something that is realised when having left school. The four capacities need to be examined and strengthened to avoid a tick-box process
  • any review process should ensure that all cultures are included, including those with additional support needs and those from a range of cultures and backgrounds. The 'lenses' that are used as part of any review process are very important
  • curriculum needs to drive what happens in the Senior Phase (rather than qualifications), and this should be a theme within any review process
  • measurement and targets are an issue; for example, the 'stretch aims' in the Scottish Attainment Challenge are frustrating. There is a risk that they are driving a move back to National 5 when there was already an attempt to move away from this approach. There is an understanding of measurement, but any measurement approach needs to be constructed carefully

The SG official asked members for further views on how often the curriculum should be reviewed, and what evidence should help to inform curricular reviews.

Panel members made a number of further comments:

  • the curriculum is the driver, and if it is right it should meet the needs of all young people
  • teachers will buy into the change if they believe it will work and will make a difference for the young people
  • at secondary school, the Senior Phase is indeed the driver. Perhaps it needs to be recognised that the Senior Phase will always be about qualifications in some form or other? The aim should be to ensure parity and a wide range of qualifications
  • currently, the curriculum at primary level is too full. The pressure needs to be taken off teachers, therefore, looking towards how to thin down the curriculum
  • there is evidence within the school system on the successful learners capacity of CfE and in relation to core attainment data, but there is a lot of wider community evidence about what happens to young people after they leave school which can help to measure the other three capacities. This is important because those other three capacities are very important to the success of young people
  • the school-level curriculum is reviewed annually, but a national curriculum review should be on a longer timescale considering how long it takes to bed something in properly as that time and space needs to be provided

The Chief Inspector of Education for Scotland added that it is important to consider the distinction between a systemic review of the curriculum and reactive reviews, which is what is in place currently. It was noted that one proposal may be to have an ongoing systemic review process which is planned and ongoing, taking particular subject areas and/or particular phases of education in turn as part of a rolling programme.

Professor Hayward – update on the independent review of qualifications and assessment

Cab Sec introduced the second agenda item. Professor Hayward outlined the accompanying paper and highlighted its discussion points. In particular, Professor Hayward asked the Teacher Panel members for their views on gathering evidence across all four Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) capacities.

Comments from the Teacher Panel members included the following:

  • several panel members noted that they had mixed views on this proposal. On the one hand, there was a recognition that the gathering of evidence against all four capacities would add to the burden of information gathering for schools and individual teachers. However, on the other hand it was noted that it is important that our children are prepared for the world and that we take a more rounded approach
  • a concern in relation to the current system is that children with some extensive skills in primary school can proceed into secondary school but that those skills are not captured, celebrated and developed
  • for a new approach to work, classroom training would be required, especially around ethics, as teachers need to learn how to measure the remaining capacities in the first instance
  • achievement is central to the individual. If we can get this right within our profiling approach and our learning conversations, we then capture that breadth of achievement
  • as a school, we have tried many ways to gather that wider achievement and encountered issues when we have then missed certain examples of wider achievement. We then shift back to “in school achievement” but this can be too narrow
  • there is an opportunity to pursue the work around meta skills and how to measure those, but to also avoid developing an industry around gathering evidence against the other three capacities
  • there would be risks in relation to equity if a broader set of achievements were captured in the formal Senior Phase evidence. There will be pupils who will have wider connections and opportunities which will help them achieve the other three capacities. These risks would need to be mitigated if this proposal were to work in practice. It would need to be carefully managed so that it is equitable to check the experiences and skills that young people have beyond the narrower focus within school and the curriculum. One panel member commented that they could see a way forward with this new vision but that they are concerned about how to ensure equity in taking this new approach
  • there are limitations with our current IT systems which have caused online portfolios of children building their evidence to not always work. There are a wider set of skills, attributes and characteristics that our pupils have which are not being recognised and captured at present

Professor Hayward asked the Teacher Panel for its views on the potential roles for pupils themselves in gathering evidence about their achievement. A number of points were made by panel members, including:

  • the four capacities as they are currently constructed are quite limiting as they  suggest there is one way of operating. The challenge is how to find plural ways of gathering the evidence across the other three capacities
  • the cultural responsive practice needs to be looked at. For example, pupils who attend mosque where they are experiencing and developing skills. This is not always recognised in the current system. Children can identify and describe their own achievements before it comes to measuring them. Can we develop a clearer idea of what is an achievement?
  • the current system is very far from equitable. An example of current inequity in the system is study leave. Not all children can access a quiet space/time to study, therefore making these pupils more vulnerable
  • the system/society discriminates in terms of things which are valued as success, i.e. university is valued as success and this drives our secondary school curriculum
  • achievements and skills are good, but equally important are identity and self-worth. If we push children so far with gaining their attainment and achievement, their wellbeing can then be harmed. It would be helpful to have mandatory training on culturally responsive practice
  • there is fatigue amongst some young people because it is perceived by parents that lots of wider achievement will result in positive destinations, which then leads to huge pressure on young people
  • there is a way forward with this new vision, but the challenge is how to ensure equity in taking this new approach

Professor Hayward asked the Teacher Panel members for their views on a new digital profile, and what should qualifications look like in future. Panel members made a number of further comments:

  • digital is one way that barriers can be removed, but it needs to be supplemented with other approaches
  • pupils already gather and share evidence via social media and it is right that this approach is embraced in education
  • in our school pupils have devices from P6 onwards. A digital profile would work well but the right infrastructure will be important to make a digital profile work
  • it would be positive to see a shift in assessment to reflect the learning in the course that the young person has been doing. We have huge issues with practical subjects where there is an excessive focus on written assessment

Professor Hayward thanked all members for their detailed input on the agenda item and expressed a hope that they will continue their discussions in their areas.


Cab Sec thanked attendees for their valuable input and confirmed that the next Teacher Panel is due to take place on 7 March 2023.

Paper one - developing a systematic approach to review of the curriculum


A project led by Scottish Government (supported by Education Scotland) seeks to deliver OECD Recommendation 3.4 (Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future | en | OECD):

  • “Develop a systematic approach to curriculum review. Scotland could consider establishing a curriculum review cycle with a planned timeframe and specific review agenda, led by the specialist stand-alone agency”

The project will recommend an evidence-based process for a cycle of systematic review of the curriculum, including curricular area reviews. This will be informed by all those who have a stake in the education system in Scotland. This workstream reports into the Policy and Legislation Delivery Board of the Education Reform Programme in Scottish Government.

Project objectives

The project objectives are:

  • we have an effective process to future orientate and systematically review the curriculum to proactively consider issues, innovations and emerging trends so that it continues to be rich and relevant and inclusive and accessible for all users
  • in developing a review process, we set out a clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and delineation of functions which is well-communicated to improve efficiency, effectiveness and impact
  • to ensure that a systematic review process is well-communicated and understood by partners and stakeholders

Why a systematic review process is needed

There is currently an absence of an identified cycle of review for Scotland’s curriculum. The OECD found that the system presently operates in a reactive mode which has led to an over-reliance on external independent reviews rather than creating internal capacity within the system. A more systematic approach to curriculum development and monitoring has the potential to deliver greater stability overall and reduce the need for ongoing guidance and clarifications.

There exists some consensus internationally that long-term vision and related practices can be aided by the establishment of a periodic curriculum review cycle. However, scheduled curriculum reviews of consistent cycles are less common than those undertaken on a more ad hoc basis. Among the countries that do have a systematic curriculum process, many are top-performers in PISA e.g. Japan (10-year cycles), Singapore (six-year cycles with a mid-review at the three-year mark) and Finland (10-year cycles). Evidence does not point towards an ideal length for the curriculum cycle, but the establishment of a scheduled review cycle is a useful tool for planned and sustained improvement.

Co-design process

The project team will work with partners and stakeholders to co-design a process to systematically review the curriculum. Work is also being undertaken to carry out a rapid evidence review of international best practice. A series of engagement events with stakeholder groups are scheduled to take place in December 2022 and January 2023 to explore and co-design what a good process of curriculum review could look like in Scotland.

Points for discussion

Teacher Panel members are invited to discuss the following:

  • what do you think we are being invited to do in the OECD recommendation?
  • for your current role, what benefits and opportunities could a “systematic approach to curriculum review” realise?
  • how can people who do the job you currently do be involved in a curriculum review process? Who would be key players in curriculum review?
  • thinking about a future review process for example:
    • how often should the purposes of Scotland’s Curriculum – the Four Capacities – be reviewed?
    • how often should a curricular area be reviewed?
    • what evidence would be needed to support a curriculum review cycle?

Paper two - Professor Hayward – update on the independent review of qualifications and assessment


The aim of this paper is to:

  • provide a brief update on the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment, and
  • gather views from the Teacher Panel on some of the key decisions which need to be taken to move towards a ‘preferred model’ for the future of qualifications and assessment in Scotland

Three phases

The Independent Review has three phases and three points at which comments and views are being sought from stakeholders. We are now in Phase Two which involves consideration of different ‘options’ or ‘models’ for change and includes a public consultation.

During Phase One we invited feedback on a draft Vision Statement and Principles. This draft Vision Statement and Principles were first developed with colleagues from the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Children’s Parliament. Phase One received 260 responses from schools and colleges, 106 responses to a parents/carers survey alongside detailed comments from 12 of the 13 Collaborative Community Groups.

Key findings from Phase One include:

  • broad support for the Vision and Principles
  • changes suggested were primarily in respect of the language used
  • key points raised by many
    • writing style ambiguous, ‘academic’ and hard to follow 
    • too many principles. Suggestion to reduce number and consolidate
    • requests for specific mention of equity, Gaelic, sustainability, ASN in the Vision and Principles

The feedback received during Phase One has been analysed independently and will be published before the end of the year. A further iteration of the Vision and Principles will be available shortly thereafter.

We are now in Phase Two of the review process. This phase seeks to consult on proposals for potential ‘models’/’options’ for change. In Phase Two views are being sought on:

  • the balance between exams and other forms of assessment
  • how a wider range of learners’ achievements can be recognised
  • potential uses of technology in assessment and qualifications
  • how to ensure that qualifications enable all learners, regardless of their circumstances, to demonstrate their strengths and achievements

In addition to the engagement via the Collaborative Community Groups and schools and colleges, there is also a public consultation which is live until 13 January. The evidence gathered through this phase will be independently analysed and used to identify a ‘preferred model’. The preferred model will then be tested during Phase Three. In the third phase, the focus will be on the practical implications of the preferred model. Materials will once again be shared with all schools and colleges inviting views. Views will continue to be sought through the Review’s Collaborative Community Groups.

Following completion of all three phases, Professor Hayward will submit a report and recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

Phase two – discussion

The Teacher Panel is now invited to discuss, and provide views on, the questions contained within the public consultation:

  • should information be gathered across all four CfE capacities? Yes/No/Unsure
    • please consider each of the capacities in turn. What kinds of information should be gathered on learners’ progress and achievements in each capacity?
  • what, if any, information on learners’ achievements obtained outside school and college should be gathered? Please explain your response
  • should information be gathered on learners’ skills and competencies as part of their senior phase? Yes/No/Unsure
    • if you have views on how this might best be done, please provide them
  • please share your thoughts on what a ‘better balanced’ assessment system would look like. As well as considering the balance between external examination and internal assessment, you may also wish to comment on the frequency of examinations
  • please share your thoughts (advantages/disadvantages) on the idea of introducing an achievement, award or qualification at the end of the BGE
  • please share your thoughts (advantages/disadvantages) on the idea of introducing a type of leaving certificate in the Senior Phase
  • how should Scotland’s qualifications and assessment system make best use of digital technologies?
  • how can we make sure that proposals for a future qualification system will uphold the rights of all learners to demonstrate their achievements?
  • is there anything else in relation to the reform of qualifications and assessment which is not covered in this consultation which you would like to raise?


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