Teacher Panel meeting minutes and papers: September 2022
- Education Reform Directorate
- Part of
Minutes and papers from meeting on 7 September 2022.
Items and actions
- paper one - education reform update
- paper two - Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) - support for teachers
- paper three - National Improvement Framework (NIF) – statutory review
- welcome and agreement of minutes from the last meeting
- education reform update
- Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) - support for teachers
- National Improvement Framework (NIF) – statutory review
- any other business and close
Teacher Panel (TP) members were welcomed to the meeting and apologies given on behalf of those unable to attend.
Education reform update
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Cab Sec) introduced the first agenda item and asked the Director for Education Reform (DER) to present the accompanying paper.
DER confirmed that the paper gives the panel members a good sense of the wide range of activity going on under the umbrella of education reform. She highlighted an interest in knowing the panel’s views on the key aspects of the new national bodies and the things that should not be missed. Scottish Government (SG) is keen to ramp up its communications and engagement during this autumn term and is eager to know the panel members’ views as to how that can be done. The Teacher Panel was asked if in-service time could be used, and whether the members would be interested in doing anything in particular to support the national discussion.
A number of comments were made by panel members, including:
- a school department or faculty could be broken up into smaller groups, with each then receiving a paper laying things out and posing particular questions. The results could then be fed up to the faculty or wider school, and then up to the Teacher Panel or local authority. This ‘pyramid effect’ would work well although some colleagues may need convincing
- a recent online workshop for the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment, despite involving 160 participants, was engaging and worked well. It would be helpful if that approach for the discussion could be replicated. There is a need to push opportunities for people to contribute to the education reform discussion – if head teachers can be involved they are more likely to involve their staff
DER confirmed that SG is working on a toolkit to act as a stimulus for discussions. This will include a set of questions and videos. SG, together with COSLA and ADES, is also considering whether in-service time can be used for staff to participate in the conversation.
Panel members made a number of further comments:
- this provides a good opportunity for primary and secondary schools to work together. Work in joint primary/secondary clusters could perhaps be led by secondary head teachers. There is some concern that parents of primary pupils might think that education reform is simply about exams and therefore nothing to do with them – parents need to be made aware that it does involve them. Parents of primary pupils may not have had recent experience of the exam system so might not realise what we currently have. Furthermore, parents may be so concerned about the current cost of living crisis that they may not appreciate the relevance of the education reform discussion to them
- although it is important to give a voice to those colleagues at the chalk-face, the opportunity should also be given to those beyond the frontline e.g. ASN staff
- there is a misconception amongst some primary staff that education reform is secondary focused, so we need to make sure that primaries are engaged too. Joint sessions involving primary and secondary clusters would therefore be very positive
- ware right to carry out as much consultation as possible, but there is a risk that some will feel overwhelmed by it all. We need to signpost people to the particular aspect of reform which is most relevant to them e.g. qualifications reform, the purpose of education, or the formation of the new education bodies
- an open question is the role of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) and their role/remit in the context of the formation of the new education bodies. At times it can be difficult to work out the best avenue to explore improvement
- it should be possible for feedback to be given in digital form as that would make it much easier for teachers to respond quickly
- beyond the Teacher Panel there appears to be some degree of cynicism amongst teachers that things will not change and that we will fail to move away from a ‘top-down’ system. We need to address the view that education reform is simply a rebranding exercise
- many colleagues still do not feel empowered. It is therefore important for the toolkit/discussion prompts to challenge and support them, and foster that empowerment. A lot of people want to be told what to do – how do we support them to feel they are in fact part of a profession, and that they need to articulate their views and practise?
- as part of the discussion we should perhaps look at other countries’ approaches to assessment and qualifications
DER confirmed that the International Council of Education Advisers brings an international perspective and SG has sought input from them. In addition, there has also been engagement with New Zealand counterparts, and the continuing relationship with the OECD brings their knowledge of what is going on around the world. SG will be asking them to give real insight of what other countries are doing.
Cab Sec commented that the key questions for the discussion are currently being explored with the facilitators and she is happy for these to be shared in draft form with the Teacher Panel for their views. Cab Sec acknowledged the important point regarding cynicism amongst some in the sector, and confirmed that she is keen to show that the reform will be genuine.
Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) - support for teachers
Cab Sec introduced the second agenda item, confirming that we need to think about where the RICs will fit into the new bodies. An SG official then outlined the accompanying paper and asked the Teacher Panel for their views.
A number of points were raised by panel members:
- long-term courses of learning are more beneficial than one-off opportunities – RICs are able to facilitate some of these longer-term experiences. However even one-day courses are rare now, with most CLPL offers being ‘twilights’ for just a couple of hours at the end of the day. The nature of some RICs means that a lot of travel can be involved, inhibiting RICs for some teaching staff and head teachers
- what we do not tend to do is build opportunities for teachers to be in one another’s classrooms. Inspectors and head teachers spend time in classrooms but not fellow teachers. It would be useful for RICs to enable that type of opportunity
- one potential area of improvement would be the ability to flag particular areas of interest in order for opportunities on those themes to be relayed to people, rather than them having to actively look for them which can be time-consuming
- we had the opportunity to contribute to our RIC’s new plan, and the RIC made an effort to connect with teachers and pupils. However, the offer of support and the opportunities for networking have been shared too late for us to engage. There is a degree of flexibility with the opportunity to put people onto areas of interest to them, but there is a gap in terms of ‘whole school’ improvement
- there can be a lot of material and support available given that it can be provided by both RICs and local authorities. This can lead to duplication and lost opportunities where there is no clear communication between the RIC and individual local authority leads
- RICs, when they work well, can distil and organise resources, making them more accessible to school staff
- there is a degree of ‘RIC envy’ where there are great things going on in other RICs but which you are unable to access. Some RICs are more forthcoming about opening up opportunities to those outside the RIC, but others are less forthcoming
- it would be good to have greater focus around how we are supporting those pupils with additional support needs. Many challenges have been magnified due to the pandemic, yet we are developing more awareness of the range of need but not always what supports are effective
- are RICs realising their potential or is there ‘churn’ and a failure to meet the needs of teachers and young people? Our school links in with our RIC alongside 14 other schools, focusing on positive destinations – a positive example of RIC improvement support. However, this does not stop partnership working beyond the RIC infrastructure and this flexibility to engage in additional improvement activity is welcome
DER confirmed that the ongoing work around roles and responsibilities will include the RICs.
National Improvement Framework (NIF) – statutory review
Cab Sec introduced the third agenda item adding that she is keen for the NIF to be as useful as possible. An SG official then outlined the content of the accompanying paper and highlighted its discussion points.
Comments from the Teacher Panel members included the following:
- the improvement plan is excellent and should give schools a good idea of what to focus on. It will improve the lot of each pupil and give structure to both local authority and school plans
- changes to the NIF priorities are welcome, and their early publication allows us to ensure that improvements align with SG priorities. However, there can be a challenge where RIC improvement plans and those of local authorities do not always ‘talk to each other’ – as such there should be interconnection. With regard to ASN pupils, the way in which the recording of achievement is limited to Literacy and Numeracy does a number of children a disservice
- in a busy classroom it is easy to become caught up in functional things, so the plan enables staff to come together to remember what they should be doing and why. It allows them to reflect on the differences that are being made. When reviewing the NIF an explicit focus on poverty and deprivation would be good given that these can have a huge influence on schools
- some schools, rather than structuring their improvement plans around the NIF priorities, are structuring improvement plans around How good is our school? Furthermore, some plans are effectively locked away in cupboards and are not alive and being talked about
- The threads of improvement and professionalism clearly run through the NIF. However, unless the profession feels empowered we may soon encounter difficulties
Cab Sec thanked attendees for their valuable input and confirmed that the next Teacher Panel is due to take place on 14 December.
Paper one - education reform update
The purpose of this paper is to:
- provide members of the Teacher Panel with an update on the Education Reform Programme
- set out how the commitment to wide engagement with practitioners and learners regarding the new bodies will be put into practice
- seek the views and insights of panel members on the most effective and efficient ways to undertake this engagement, to avoid duplication and gaps
This paper includes:
- an overview of programme governance arrangements, including external representation, for the establishment of three new national education bodies
- an update on the National Discussion on the future of Scottish Education
- an update on the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment
- an update on Education Reform Communications and Engagement
New national education bodies
We have put in place programme governance structures to establish the three new national education bodies and develop the underpinning policy and legislation needed. Stakeholder engagement has been built into these governance arrangements.
The membership of the Strategic Programme Board includes Scottish Government, SQA, Education Scotland, COSLA, ADES, SOLACE and Professors Ken Muir and Louise Hayward.
Programme Delivery Boards will lead the design and delivery of the three new national education bodies and related policy and legislation. A core part of the terms of reference for these Boards is to review all the existing stakeholder evidence in relation to recent reviews from OECD and Professor Muir, identify related gaps and then undertake appropriate external stakeholder engagement, including with teachers. This engagement will begin later this year to inform our strategic thinking around the ‘why’ and ‘what ‘questions for the various target operating models. In 2023, this engagement activity will expand considerably to help us address the ‘how’ questions.
As well as staff from Scottish Government and the existing bodies, each Delivery Board includes external stakeholders. This is integral to providing the internal and external scrutiny and challenge that we recognise will be central to a successful education reform programme.
Additionally, a formal Stakeholder Reference Group will meet for the first time at the end of September, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
The Scottish Government Digital Directorate is supporting the development of this work, ensuring that a service-led, user-centric approach is being taken to the design process.
By the end of 2022, we expect to present a strategic operating model for each of the new bodies that will articulate their functions and role in the system, and high-level structures based on a new service-led approach to delivery.
Additionally, members of the Education Reform Division have carried out some initial engagements with ADES members and other areas of Government to understand better how policy change and improvement planning is experienced throughout the system.
Programme delivery boards
Programme Delivery Boards for each of the new bodies are now established and in a regular and ongoing cycle of activity and meetings, reporting into the Education Reform Programme Strategic Board.
External members have been appointed to each of the respective boards and are actively providing input and critical challenge to their work. We recognise that achieving significant change in the Scottish education system is not something that government can or should do alone.
The respective Programme Delivery Boards for each of the new bodies are supported and supplemented by a Policy and Legislation Delivery Board whose membership also includes external colleagues.
National discussion on the future of Scottish education
The National Discussion will be launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills at the Scottish Learning Festival on 21 September and will run until 5 December.
The National Discussion is intended to be a high-profile public engagement activity seeking input from as wide and inclusive a range of participants as feasible. This will involve a range of stakeholders, primarily (but not exclusively) children and young people, in a conversation about a future vision of education in Scotland and will require outreach to those groups and communities who are less often engaged in education reviews. The views of those adults who are involved in children and young people’s lives and people who work in the early learning and education sectors are also critical. Therefore, whilst we will start with a focus on children and young people, the views of teachers, parents/carers and other practitioners are also very important.
The National Discussion will be co-convened by the Scottish Government and local government partners COSLA. Professor Carol Campbell and Professor Alma Harris will co-facilitate the National Discussion and are committed to demonstrating and actively modelling that the discussion is authentically engaging learners, their parents/carers, teachers, a range of front-line early years, and other education practitioners, such as community learning and development.
Independent review of qualifications and assessment
Professor Louise Hayward is leading the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment. The aim is to ensure that all senior phase learners have an enhanced and equal opportunity to demonstrate the width, depth and relevance of their learning.
The Review is adopting an inclusive approach that draws on the thinking of individuals and communities. It is committed to the development of final recommendations that are principled, practical and broadly supported. The views of learners, teachers and practitioners are vital to achieving this.
There are three phases to the Review and three points at which comments and views from stakeholders will be sought:
- phase 1: Closed 2nd September 2022 – draft vision statement and principles. This will inform the design and development of future qualifications and assessment in Scotland. Feedback received will inform phase two
- phase 2: October 2022 – December 2022 – exploring different options for the future of qualifications and assessment. This phase will consider views on different ways that the vision and principles might be put into practice. It will include the opportunity to suggest other approaches
- phase 3: January 2023 – an interim report setting out the direction of travel. The interim report will include an updated vision statement and set of principles, while indicating preferred options for the future of qualifications and assessment in Scotland
There are four strands to the engagement plan.
- Independent Review Group and Collaborative Community Groups (Engagement – all phases): individuals from a range of backgrounds and experiences, including teachers and learners, have been invited to join the Independent Review Group (IRG). Members do not represent any group or organisation, but act as a ‘link’ to their respective community and each IRG member is leading a ‘Collaborative Community Group’ (CCG). There are currently 14 CCGs, three of these are being led by a teacher, a head teacher and a teachers’ representative
- engagement via schools and colleges (Engagement – all phases): materials will be issued to all secondary schools and colleges, reflecting the three phases of the Review. Schools and colleges will be invited to lead discussions within their own communities. The first set of materials were issued to schools via Directors of Education in early August. Phase 2 materials will be issued on 14 October and will be available for eight weeks (the timing of this will match the public consultation). Phase 3 materials will be issued in January
- public consultation (Phase 2 only): this will also open on 14 October for eight weeks
- other engagement (Primarily during Phase 2): there will be a range of other engagement opportunities including regional public meetings, convener-led meetings primarily with a small number of stakeholders who are not in CCGs, and school and college visits. These will take place in the autumn
Engagement is going well and the Review has received a substantial level of commentary on its Phase 1 work. It is too early for key themes to emerge but it is expected that these will come through strongly as the Review moves from vision and principles into the detail of how a new approach might be developed. Professor Hayward will submit a final report and advice to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills before the end of March 2023. Teacher Panel members should feel free to contact the Review at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wider areas of education reform
Activity is also ongoing across wider areas of Education Reform including Early Learning and Childcare activity, including the current consultation on the inspection of early learning and childcare and school age childcare services and the forthcoming Strategic Childcare Plan, Curriculum Improvement, and Purposes and Principles for the post-school research, education and skills system. We would encourage teachers to engage with these activities.
Communications and engagement
An active programme of communications and engagement activity to support work to design and deliver the new national education bodies has been established. We know that more can be done and are looking for your views on the best ways to do this.
We recognise that alignment of communications and stakeholder engagement activity across all areas of Education Reform is important and necessary to provide clarity and consistency of messaging for stakeholders. In particular, we recognise that teachers are key stakeholders for engagement.
To ensure the programme meets the commitments set out in the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skill’s June 14 Parliamentary Update on Education Reform around stakeholder engagement, work is ongoing to develop engagement specific to the work to establish new national education bodies which aligns with, supports, and does not replicate or overlap with activity being undertaken by other areas of Education Reform policy.
As described earlier, it is anticipated that User Engagement will commence later this year and then significantly increase in 2023. Existing channels could include, but not be limited to, existing Scottish Government user or learner panels, for example the Teacher Panel and those in place within Gaelic language and education policy, or partner forums, such as the SQA Learner Panel. It is emphasised that the programme is actively planning to deliver specific and stand-alone user experience and/or engagement panels for the new bodies. Panel members are invited to suggest other channels and opportunities for engagement.
Points for discussion
The Teacher Panel is invited to discuss the following.
The Education Reform programme is actively planning to deliver specific and stand-alone user experience and/or engagement panels to help shape the new bodies:
- what suggestions would panel members have for additional engagement(s)?
- what role would you like the Teacher Panel to have in the design of the new education bodies, including in relation to its future remit and responsibilities?
- where, and how, do you see teachers who are not members of the Teacher Panel inputting into the design, remit and responsibilities of the new education bodies?
- do you have suggestions for Scottish Government to ensure that the voices of all teachers are heard and listened to?
The National Discussion will be a wide conversation about a future vision for Scottish education:
- what do you see as your role as representatives of the teacher workforce in this?
- how do you think we can listen to you as teachers, without creating something unmanageable?
- are there other ways you would you like to contribute and be part of the discussion? For example, would you like to lead sessions in your school or locality? Meet together as a panel?
Paper two - Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) - support for teachers
This short paper is intended to assist the Teacher Panel with its discussion in relation to the support for teachers provided by Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) and thoughts for the future.
RICs were established following the Scottish Government's consultation on education governance and reform, during 2016 and 2017. In June 2017, the Scottish Government published 'Education Governance - Next Steps' setting out its vision of an education system centred around children and young people, with decisions taken as close to them as possible. As part of this, ‘Next Steps’ sets out the aim of establishing RICs to strengthen educational improvement support for head teachers, teachers and practitioners through regional improvement plans supported by dedicated teams of professionals.
In October 2017, the Scottish Government and COSLA entered into a partnership agreement to establish these new RICs for education. Regional improvement leads were appointed and initial regional improvement plans were submitted by each RIC to the Chief Inspector of Education by the end of January 2018. This is the date from which RICs can be considered to be operational. RICs have continued to review and refresh their regional plans annually.
In June 2018, Scottish Government and COSLA entered into a further joint agreement to continue to support school empowerment and collaboration - as well as parental involvement and pupil participation. At the same time a package of funding support was announced, to enhance regional capacity to support schools –through the RICs and Education Scotland working together. Further information on Scottish Government funding to the RICs is provided below.
An Interim Review of RICs, jointly commissioned by the Scottish Government and COSLA and published in February 2019, found that so far, regional stakeholders believed that the RICs had encouraged joint working between officers in different local authority areas. RICs had also tested approaches to engaging with and supporting schools, often through small scale tests of change and targeted work with schools across different work-streams. All stakeholders indicated that it would take time to see an impact. However, some school staff gave very positive early examples of sharing best practice, skills development and influencing practice around areas of leadership, self-evaluation, moderation of assessment, improvement methodologies, parental engagement, maths, early literacy and equality. Overall, school staff were very positive about the idea of learning from one another across the region, and welcomed opportunities for networking, building skills and developing their practice.
A second Review, published in December 2021, found the RICs had supported school staff to develop their skills. Two thirds of the school staff involved in the review felt that they had developed skills and learned new things. Through this, staff became more empowered, inquiring and reflective in their practice. It also found that many school staff felt that through the RICs they had improved their delivery of lessons in the classroom due to:
- introducing new approaches to learning based on research and evidence
- being more consistent in their pedagogical approach across the region
- being more aware of issues such as the attainment gap and poverty proofing, and
- having access to a wider range of tools and resources
Education Scotland regional improvement teams co-produce, lead and are involved in a wide range of RIC activities, including supporting networks, delivering learning, quality assurance, peer review and direct support to schools. Education Scotland provides support to each RIC in a bespoke manner.
The purpose of RICs is to support collaborative working, to secure excellence and equity in education. As RICs are now felt to be fully established, this is an opportunity to input into conversations at national level and open the discussions further about the current and future support they provide for teachers.
Following the publication of the report by Professor Muir, ‘Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a future vision for Scottish Education’, Scottish Government broadly accepted Professor Muir’s recommendations for the creation of three new national education bodies to replace the SQA and Education Scotland. This included the recommendation that the “main focus of the proposed national agency for Scottish education should be to provide responsive, bespoke support and professional learning at regional and local levels.” (Recommendation 8.)
The new national improvement agenda will build on the expertise in Education Scotland and continue to provide excellent leadership and support for the curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment.
The new national education agency will have a clear focus on responsive delivery that consistently meets the needs of teachers and practitioners locally and regionally. The new national agency will be teacher facing, visible and valued by the profession it serves. Scottish Government wants teachers to feel this is their agency, one that meets and anticipates their needs and those of the learners they support every day.
Scottish Government is committed to hearing the voices and views of teachers.
Financial and other support from the Scottish Government
As outlined above, since June 2018, the Scottish Government has provided funding to each RIC to support regional capacity building and delivery. Up to and including the current financial year, the Scottish Government has committed a total of over £26 million to support RIC activity.
In addition to this direct funding support, Education Scotland provides bespoke support to each RIC through its regional delivery teams, as summarised above. The Scottish Government, Education Scotland, COSLA, ADES and RICs also meet collectively to discuss ongoing RIC development and related issues.
Points for discussion
The Teacher Panel is invited to discuss the following:
- what type of support works well? Please share examples of the type(s) of support that you have experienced that have made an impact on you or your fellow teachers
- what sort of support have the RICs already provided to teachers in your RIC?
- what would make it easier for you to identify and access the support you need?
- what sort of support would you like? For example:
- signposting to resources
- professional learning in class/in school/in local authority
- access to latest educational research and best practice
- support with the analysis of research, data and evidence
- professional networks
- assistance to make links with other schools/practitioners
- how do you know what you need and want?
Paper three - National Improvement Framework (NIF) – statutory review
To ask for views on the proposals for the 2023 National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan.
The annual NIF and Improvement Plan is intended to provide a single, definitive document, that explains how we will secure educational improvement. It sets out the vision and priorities for Scottish education, as well as the improvement activity that needs to be undertaken to deliver those key priorities.
The NIF was first published in January 2016, and a revised and updated version has been published each December since then. Last year, as part of the annual statutory review of the NIF, we asked whether the NIF vision, priorities and drivers of improvement remained appropriate in the light of the impact of the pandemic, taking into account the recommendations and next steps from our ‘Education Recovery: Key Actions and Next Steps’ as well as a number of different reports which had been published including:
- OECD Review of CfE
- OECD paper on qualifications and assessments (NB no recommendations within this)
- Audit Scotland report on Education Outcomes
- ICEA second report 2018-2020
- SG Equity Audit and SG 5-year progress report on SAC
- the Review of Implementation of Additional Support for Learning (the ASL Review)
As a result, we made a number of changes to the 2022 NIF, in particular to ensure that the centrality and rights of children and young people were more clearly articulated in the NIF vision, priorities, and throughout the document. The revised vision, priorities, and drivers are set out below.
- excellence through raising attainment and improving outcomes: ensuring that every child and young person achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, as well as the knowledge and skills necessary to shape their future as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors
- achieving equity: ensuring every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed, no matter their background or shared protected characteristics, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap
- placing the human rights and needs of every child and young person at the centre of education (added in 2022)
- improvement in children and young people’s health and wellbeing
- closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people
- improvement in skills and sustained, positive school-leaver destinations for all young people
- improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
NIF drivers of improvement:
- The majority of the drivers of improvement were updated for the 2022 NIF following the 2021 review process
The Scottish Government has a statutory duty under the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 to review the NIF and publish a plan on an annual basis. An important part of the review is providing education authorities, teachers, pupils, and parents/carers with the opportunity to express their views.
The key actions in response to the disparate reports set out in para 3, and the key actions on education recovery, were pulled together under the 2022 NIF, in order to provide a single, congruent message on forward planning. This year, the 2023 NIF will also need to incorporate work being undertaken to implement the recommendations from the Muir report and other national level activity that has been put in place during 2022. We are also considering how best to capture key improvement activity coming out of the forthcoming National Discussion and the Hayward review of assessment in the senior phase, both of which will be reporting in early 2023. We are considering publishing an interim update to the 2023 NIF to include these activities. We want to ensure that the NIF pulls together all the key activity and priorities for 2023, so that there is a single source for the wide range of improvement activity planned/under way in the education system.
The 2023 NIF will also be informed by the improvement activities that are taking place in local authorities and schools, and which have been captured in local and regional improvement plans. Local authority plans are analysed by Education Scotland, and key themes and areas for local improvement and activity will be reflected in the national plan as a result.
At its most recent meeting, the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) said that the two things that will have the greatest impact on the quality of learning outcomes within a school are teacher quality and leadership. In order to ensure that the improvement activity being undertaken is having the required impact on learning outcomes, and on the progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap, we are looking to have a greater focus on the expected impact or outcome of each improvement action at a national and a local level going forward. This could take the form of asking:
- for ongoing actions – can you evidence that this action has had a positive ieffect on the quality of learning, teaching, and assessment in the classroom?
- for new actions – what is the predicted effect or outcome in terms of the quality of learning, teaching, and assessment in the classroom?
This will form part of the strengthened accountability, support and challenge in the implementation of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. As such, there will be a role for Education Scotland in providing the required support and challenge to local authorities through its programme of universal, targeted and intensive support.
Data for improvement
The primary purpose of the NIF is to improve the quality and consistency of data and to extend understanding of what works to drive improvements for children and young people across all parts of the Scottish education system. However, one of the findings from the recent consultation on enhanced data collection for improvement, and on the key measures to assess progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap, is that more needs to be done (at both national and local levels) to ensure that improvement activity is informed by the relevant data, and to support education professionals in their capacity to interpret and use data for the purpose of improvement.
Levels of input into the education system in Scotland are very strong, with the highest spending, and more teachers per pupil, than any other UK nation. Given this level of investment, we need to be looking more closely at the data to help us identify what is working, but also to identify the support required where progress is not being achieved.
Data is available to the system for use in driving local improvement, including Insight data, used by schools for improvement in the senior phase, and the BGE benchmarking tool for early secondary and primary school. These tools provide school level data and schools and local authorities, therefore, have the data to enable them to identify and take forward improvement activity tailored to their own context and individual needs.
Single data point
In response to the consultation on the NIF measures, one suggestion was that there should be a single data set used for improvement purposes going forward. Concerns have been raised about the fact that schools and local authorities tend to use Insight for improvement and benchmarking purposes, whereas progress against the key measures in the NIF uses data from the Scottish Statistics on Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations (SSAILD). This is something that has also been raised as part of the joint SG and local government work on reducing variability in performance outcomes, which is being taken forward in response to a recommendation from Audit Scotland.
The differences between Insight and SSAILD reflect the different ways in which they have been developed to satisfy their different purposes. SSAILD provides National Statistics on school leaver attainment in Scotland (using solely SQA data) whereas Insight has been designed as a senior phase benchmarking tool so includes attainment achieved through a range of qualifications and wider award providers reflecting the wider context of the school.
Scottish Government statisticians are considering the feasibility of expanding the scope of the National Statistics report to align with Insight i.e. to include the wider range of providers and courses, in addition to National Qualifications. This will require a programme of comprehensive user engagement and development work, as well as technical aspects which will need to be worked through to ensure the methodology is sufficiently robust for a National Statistics publication.
As part of the statutory review, it would be helpful to consider whether there should be a single data set for improvement purposes so that there is a consistent approach from school to national government.
Issues for consideration
Some of the issues that members might like to consider are set out below:
- Sshould we be asking about the impact of proposed actions on the quality of learning, teaching and assessment in the classroom?
- what more can we do to provide challenge where improvement activity is not having the desired impact, and to support meaningful improvement at all levels?
- is there more can we do to secure greater visibility of the NIF drivers in local and regional improvement planning, to help to ensure a national line of sight on local ambitions and practices?
- are any further changes required to the NIF priorities and/or the drivers of improvement, particularly in light of the various reports on Scottish education?
- what additional improvement activity should be included in the 2023 NIF and Improvement Plan?
- should we have an interim update of the NIF in order to incorporate the findings from the National Discussion and the Hayward Review?
This is not an exhaustive list of questions, and if there is anything else you think we need to consider as part of the review, please let us know.
If you would like to provide written comments, please send them to email@example.com by 23 September.
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