Items and actions
Attendees were welcomed by the Chair, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
The Panel discussed the Governance Review and in particular, explored a number of themes emerging from it including leadership capacity, local accountability and the importance of sharing evidence-based practice.
In discussion, the following points were made:
- it was suggested that current governance arrangements do not ensure equity of opportunity for young people given the variance in localised approaches to common problems. Some Panel members provided examples of different approaches taken by local authorities in relation to flexibility for, and empowerment of, school leaders
- it was acknowledged that teachers would welcome greater autonomy over educational development but not over administrative functions
- the quality of leadership in schools was discussed by Panel members and the importance of good leadership in increasing levels of attainment was noted. It was acknowledged that leaders need to be empowered but also supported, in recognition of the varying degrees of support currently in place. It was noted that whilst university and college teaching courses brought benefits, it is important that leadership is promoted within schools. Mentoring programmes were suggested as a successful tool which can help to develop leadership capacity
- the importance of collaboration as a means both of providing support and sharing best practice was mentioned by several members. It was acknowledged that consideration needs to be given to how collaboration can most effectively take place in rural areas
- It was noted that schools and clusters of schools need research-based guidance as to what interventions will make the most impact in closing the attainment gap. The Professional Learning Academy in North Ayrshire and the cross-authority thematic research programme being undertaken by the Northern Alliance were highlighted as positive models. It was suggested that other authorities could take similar measures and that more needs to be done to ensure outcomes are quality assured and shared between authorities
- it was acknowledged by all that the current streamlining exercise in relation to national guidance is to be welcomed. It was agreed that a set base of national resources should be available for teachers and schools to use at will but also that many teachers would benefit from more targeted training and CPD resources, tailored to individual development needs
- it was agreed that the system should be based on an aspiration for excellence rather than a deficit model
The Panel discussed the introduction of benchmarks for the remaining curriculum areas, those for literacy and numeracy having been published in August.
Panel members welcomed the clarity provided by the benchmarks, noting that these would support teachers in assessing learner progress and that the National Improvement Framework data indicated that this was necessary. Panel members acknowledged concerns that the benchmarks could result in increased bureaucracy and a “box-ticking” approach if they were used to plan learning and teaching. Members highlighted that it was crucial the benchmarks are presented appropriately in order to ensure they are well received by profession and do not result in greater workload.
The Panel agreed that strong educational leadership and support in schools for teachers using the benchmarks were crucial. It was noted that SQA Nominees had been helpful in providing support in relation to National Qualifications and a similar resource for BGE, in light of the introduction of the benchmarks, could prove equally useful.
Any other business
Panel members suggested it would be helpful to get an update on the proposed changes to National Qualifications and the introduction of a potential grade “E”, given recent press coverage and the discussions the Panel had on this topic in October. It was explained that no decision had yet been taken on this and that it would be revisited in the New Year. It was acknowledged that it would be important to ensure that this takes account of considerations of changes to National 4.
It was agreed that the perceived credibility of N4 qualifications needs to be improved and that communications on this need to be consistent. It was agreed that this would be discussed further at the next meeting.
It was agreed that the next meeting of the Panel would be held in March to allow the Panel to resume the quarterly schedule originally envisaged.
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