Teacher Panel meeting: minutes August 2016

Minutes from the first meeting of the Teacher Panel, held on 10 August 2016.

Items and actions

 Attendees were welcomed by the Chair, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

The remit of the Teacher Panel was agreed. It was noted that a key focus of the work of the Panel would be in providing views on de-cluttering, workload and bureaucracy in order to protect, and maximise the effectiveness of, the interaction between pupil and teacher.

Framework statement

A draft of the Curriculum for Excellence Statement was considered alongside a sample of the new Expected Benchmarks. It was explained that the intention of the documents is to streamline and clarify the range of documentation and guidance that has developed over the years, and set out clearly and concisely what is and what is not expected of teachers when planning and assessing children’s progress within the curriculum.  

Overall the documents were welcomed and it was suggested that the guidance should be clearly presented as a definitive resource rather than just another guidance document. It was also suggested that the original design intention of the Curriculum (the key focus on literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and closing the gap) needs to be re-stated. A key principle, that teachers should not be undertaking activity which does not positively contribute to the learner journey, was noted.

In discussion the following specific points were made:

  • it was explained that the text “do not spend time on assessment activities which do not help to identify children’s next steps in learning.” was not intended to imply that all assessment should be formative but rather that all summative assessment should also support next steps in learning
  • it was acknowledged that there may be some frustration that Significant Aspects of Learning (SALs) were to be replaced by the new Benchmarks given that many schools had undertaken significant amounts of work on the former. It was noted that SALs are embedded in the Benchmarks and that work previously undertaken at school level should not, therefore, be wasted
  • it was suggested that an emphasis on young people demonstrating learning in unfamiliar contexts may be leading to superficial or artificial opportunities being created in secondary (it was acknowledged that identification of opportunities was perhaps more natural in primary). It was noted that such superficial learning was not desirable, however, interdisciplinary learning (IDL) could add significant value given time for planning and professional dialogue; key messages on interdisciplinary learning (IDL) should be added to the statement
  • it was noted that some electronic approaches to tracking required lots of individual Es & Os to be recorded which adds to workload. SEEMIS was given as an example of a system that at times created additional workload, depending on how it is used. Education Scotland and Scottish Government are working with SEEMIS to support improvement to this. It was also noted that SEEMIS is owned by the 32 local authorities
  • it was suggested that clarity about HMI expectations, and that most inspection evidence is generated from talking and observing and from existing material, would helpfully offset any pressure on teachers from Local Authorities or Headteachers to generate excessive evidence
  • it was noted that the draft statement helpfully emphasised collaborative work and that collaborations needed to be supported and managed well


Tackling Bureaucracy working group

It was noted that the recommendations in the Tackling Bureaucracy Report had been generally agreed as valuable but that they had not yet been fully implemented in schools and local authorities.

Four areas of key concern to teachers were identified:

Assessment and qualifications

It was generally considered that the new qualifications, and the way in which they have been implemented, has resulted in unintended over-assessment, with some issues of duplication and, inflexibility. It was also agreed that there was a need for greater clarity. It was agreed that this has had a detrimental impact on learners as well as on teacher workload. Teachers were clear that learners should be appropriately stretched and challenged, but also that their health and well-being should be protected. It was further suggested that unit assessments in national qualifications had little value, especially for those likely to pass the final exam, given that they are based on a minimum level of competency. The ballot on industrial action by the EIS over excessive qualifications workload was also noted.


Staff shortages and the need to obtain or provide cover were raised as issues which can cause stress for teachers. It was also noted that the problem is exacerbated by an increase in the number of staff working part-time which has led to a significant discrepancy between FTE and headcount i.e. almost 100 individual teachers are generally needed to fill 70 FTE posts. Where staff can be recruited to fill vacancies it was suggested that they should only be allowed to move between local authorities at the end of the term to reduce the risk of prolonged shortages during term time, although it was acknowledged that schools could both gain and lose in such situations. It was noted that such an arrangement had been adopted for staff moves within Fife.

Levels of vulnerability

It was suggested that greater account needed to be taken of the range of additional support needs across schools and that a more holistic approach through better engagement with mental health, social work, language therapists etc. was needed. Models of multi-agency provision which have been adopted in Australia and New Zealand were mentioned favourably as were Community Schools in New York and the integrated campus model at Duloch Primary and Calaiswood School in Fife. It was noted that the success of any provision for young people with additional support needs required staff appropriately skilled in developmental needs. It was also suggested that more national support was required for special schools with regard to the curriculum.


It was noted that networking and CPD opportunities can be particularly difficult to access in rural settings. It was acknowledged that building school networks to create opportunities for professional learning can be a good alternative to requiring teachers to travel for courses, and such collaborative working arrangements can have a positive impact on the quality of provision.


CfE Implementation summary plan

It was suggested that a single national improvement plan which will support individual school improvement plans should be considered in future years. The summary plan was welcomed.


Next Steps

It was noted that, in the light of the issues raised in the meeting, revisions would be made to the statement and further consideration would be given to how and when it should be launched. It was agreed that a programme of work would be developed to fit with quarterly meetings of the Panel.


Meeting agenda - August 2016
Draft remit and membership
Reducing workload in schools
Education Scotland CfE statement for practitioners
Back to top