- 14 May 2018
Attendees and apologies
Chaired by Deputy First Minister/Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney.
The Chatham House Rule applies to this group, so attendees will not be listed.
Items and actions
Review of National 4
1. Attendees were welcomed by the Chair, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. The Panel were provided with a summary of a recent discussion by the new Curriculum and Assessment Board on National 4. In the subsequent discussion, the following points were made by the Panel:
- there is a diverse breadth of opinion on National 4 but it is clear that it cannot be looked at in isolation. It was noted that there are wider issues around curriculum design, assessment methodology and credibility which must be part of the conversation
- it is important that any action is predicated on a robust evidence base from a range of stakeholders
- there is a lack of appetite for more wide scale change in the system. The Panel were also clear that no action should be taken which disrupts the principles of Curriculum for Excellence
- there is a need to ensure clear articulation and consistent messaging on the vision for our education system and the learner journey for children and young people
2. It was agreed that it would be useful to arrange a meeting for Education Scotland, SQA and members of the Panel to discuss the vision for the education of children and young people in Scotland and how the system, working collaboratively across sectors, aims to deliver this.
3. The Panel were provided with a short summary of the latest data on achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels which was published on 12 December. The Panel also considered the latest Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland and 2018 National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan. In the following discussion:
- there was general agreement that the data reflects a sense of improvement in the quality of teacher professional judgement across the system. It was noted that the benchmarks have helped with moderation of standards but there is still more work to be done to improve teachers’ understanding of learner progression and enable greater consistency
- it was acknowledged that it will take time for teachers to build confidence in their own assessments but that collaboration and cluster working, where possible, is helping. It was noted that the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives have a key role to play in helping schools to improve learning, teaching and assessment cycles
- the measures detailed in the National Improvement Framework which will monitor progress towards closing the attainment gap were welcomed. In particular, the Panel recognised the importance of the health and wellbeing measures which had been added
- it was noted, in a discussion on approaches to improving literacy, that the most important consideration is what is in the best interests of individual children. There was general agreement that there is no one size fits all approach to teaching literacy and teachers should be considering a mix of approaches. It was noted that certain programmes which schools can buy can be effective but only as a tool. The needs of the child should remain at the centre of all pedagogical approaches
Recruitment and Professional Development
4. The Panel discussed school staffing and the availability of teachers across the sector. In particular:
- panel members described staffing challenges in their schools and the areas in which there remained high numbers of vacant posts Given the high numbers of individuals entering Initial Teacher Education and taking probationer posts, the Panel considered the extent to which teachers are choosing to exit the profession. One member queried the extent to which those new to the profession are being adequately supported and encouraged to develop
- the Panel discussed how early promotion contributes to a number of teacher vacancies. It was considered that many young teachers go for promotion to support their life outside of work, and there is a need to create incentives for people to remain in teaching positions for longer
- it was agreed that improving the quality of education requires both great school leaders and great teachers in the classroom. There was a desire to see more routes for promotion and leadership outside traditional management routes including in subject areas and specialisms
- it was acknowledged that greater autonomy for headteachers in determining staffing structures would also help to create more opportunities for leadership and promotion. It was noted that the Headteachers’ Charter will help to bring about change but that there is also nothing to stop headteachers being granted greater autonomy at present. Pupil Equity Funding and the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives are already helping to effect changes in staffing
5. It was agreed that at the next meeting of the Panel, it would be helpful to have a discussion on the Scottish Government’s workforce planning model.
Parental engagement and pupil participation
6. The Panel were given a summary of the proposals to strengthen parental engagement and pupil participation under the new Education Bill. In the following discussion:
- panel members provided a number of examples of effective parental engagement in their own settings. It was noted that Pupil Equity Funding had been crucial in enabling schools to try diverse and unique methods to target harder to reach parents
- there was general agreement that the strengthened duties represented good practice which was already in place in many settings. However, given that there continues to be a lack of consistency across the sector in relation to parental engagement, the Panel welcomed the duties as a tool to increase the extent of best practice
- it was acknowledged that good parental engagement is not about running all decisions past parents but ensuring meaningful collaboration. It will be important that this message is clearly given to all parts of the sector, including inspectors, so that there is not a perceived need for increased workload or paperwork
- it was also acknowledged that there is a role for schools to ensure they are working in genuine partnership with parents in the ways and means which are most effective for their local community. It was commented that schools will need to take care to avoid prescribing how parents can be involved in school life
7. The Chair thanked attendees and noted that the next meeting of the Panel would be held in in March.