Teacher Panel meeting: minutes June 2019

Minutes from the thirteenth meeting of the Teacher Panel, held on 26 June 2019.

Items and actions


Teacher Panel members were welcomed to the meeting and apologies given on behalf of those unable to attend. 

For the benefit of those new members in attendance the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (DFM) provided a brief background on the creation of the Teacher Panel and explained its role in helping to formulate his thinking on relevant issues. All those around the table were then asked to introduce themselves.

Refreshed curriculum narrative

DFM gave a brief outline of the meeting agenda and informed the panel of a late addition, namely a discussion on work to develop a refreshed curriculum narrative. 

Panel members were provided with some background to the refresh which followed the OECD’s 2015 independent review of Scottish education. Its report suggested that a new narrative on Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) was required. DFM highlighted the potential value of a refreshed narrative in terms of maximising the effectiveness of CfE and building confidence in it. He commented that he was keen to hear members’ views on the narrative and how to help ensure it was received well by practitioners, acknowledging that how the narrative is communicated would be critical. 

It was explained that the refreshed narrative was developed with input from practitioners from the outset, and was designed to be succinct, to reassure the profession by re-stating the long-standing aims of CfE and to assist practitioners in engaging with CfE in the current context of Scottish education.

The panel heard how the refreshed narrative:

  • sets out Scotland’s approach, re-stating the long-standing central importance of the four capacities
  • clearly defines the curriculum, the four contexts for learning and what children and young people are entitled to
  • highlights the role of individual empowered teachers and practitioners in making the decisions required to provide a coherent, flexible and enriched curriculum
  • places considerable focus on how practitioners take the philosophy of CfE and translate it into meaningful practice

Panel members were asked for their thoughts and they raised a number of points, including:

  • the timing of the narrative’s launch is crucial – engagement is more likely if this is at the beginning of an academic year – and a planned delivery approach is needed
  • the refreshed narrative will help practitioners and schools reflect on their own practice. It was also reassuring that much of the narrative’s content would be recognisable to practitioners
  • the last 10 years have seen a huge shift in the workforce, and as such not all practitioners have had a chance to engage fully with the curriculum. This refreshed narrative provides an opportunity for re-engagement and a revisit of the basics
  • the launch of the refreshed narrative is timely, but there has to be buy-in from local authorities which should then filter down through schools
  • work needs to be done with parents and carers, and there should be something available to help them understand the role they play and the routes that are available to children and young people. It was noted that there were plans to develop complementary narratives for learners and parents and carers
  • this may be the ideal opportunity to reinforce the empowerment model for Scottish education
  • there is scope to increase the prominence of Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) work and the definition of interdisciplinary learning. It was noted that more comprehensive guidance on those topics, as well as others, will sit behind the narrative and will be accessed via hyperlinks
  • it would be helpful to be clear about the use of heart images signalling the central importance of learners

Closing the poverty-related attainment gap

DFM introduced the second agenda item and accompanying paper, stating that he believed a critical point has now been reached in the attainment challenge. Attainment challenge Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) has created a rigorous focus on closing the attainment gap, highlighting the barriers to closing it, and it is therefore important to reflect on where we’ve got to and whether sufficient progress is being made. The challenge now is to identify what is working well and to create platforms for that to be shared.

Panel members were provided with some background to Education Scotland’s summary report of its inspection programme for the nine ‘challenge authorities’. 

One central issue arising from the programme is the consistent collection and analysis of high quality data to identify next steps and drive improvement. The most effective of the challenge authorities have provided training to ensure that high quality data is available, and that staff have been trained in its use. 

Education Scotland’s report also indicates the importance of quality professional development opportunities. This needs to be made central to the system, and high value professional learning should be made available to everyone.

Finally, panel members were informed that collaboration had emerged as a key factor for success in closing the poverty related attainment gap. 

A number of points were raised by panel members:

  • there has been huge transformational change given that all in the profession now know about the attainment gap and the need to close it – this wasn’t the case five years ago
  • one of the main benefits of the cluster model is the increased availability of data. The analysis of this data is of central importance in driving improvement
  • a number of panel members shared effective strategies being taken forward in their contexts and confirmed that PEF had provided them with opportunity to undertake this work  

DFM stressed the importance of creating a culture that enables empowerment and asked panel members to identify any areas of activity that need to be intensified. Comments included the following:

  • teachers need ‘space’. They tend to be focused on preparing pupils for exams, so it is hoped that the extra in-service days could provide the space that teachers need
  • support for practitioners on the ground would be valuable e.g. in relation to data gathering and professional enquiry
  • DFM stressed that the National Improvement Hub is creating an evidence base that can be considered by practitioners
  • Education Scotland is currently involved in some joint work with the Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs). The RICs will be able to provide practitioners with face-to-face support
  • one member informed the panel that their school now has a ‘data champion’ who tracks pupil health and wellbeing and participation. The use of data enables the identification of pupils who require more support
  • some panel members feel that it is easier to build relationships with primary pupils than it is with secondary pupils. They need time to be able to develop and nurture relationships with secondary pupils – successful curriculum design is necessary for that
  • one panel member illustrated the successful use of PEF to target pupils who faced challenges in his school. This had enabled them to be taken out of classes in which they would likely have performed poorly, and instead attend other more appropriate and relevant classes. A noticeable positive change in the pupils’ attitude was subsequently noted

Secondary curriculum design

DFM introduced the third agenda item and its accompanying paper, asking panel members whether the relationship between the Broad General Education (BGE) and senior phase is as coherent as it needs to be. 

Panel members made a number of comments including:

  • the relationship between BGE and the senior phase is crucial, as is the design of third year. S3 needs to provide pupils with a successful transition period
  • there is a challenge with S3 with regard to curriculum design – the curriculum entitlements are ‘forcing children into boxes’ and are hindering flexibility
  • one panel member commented on the risk that some S3 pupils could become disengaged by the end of the autumn term. In an attempt to overcome this their own head teacher has given permission to adapt the offer for third year pupils, allowing it to become more relevant to their needs
  • the traditional model works for some pupils, but not all. One panel member’s school is now looking at outdoor learning and is making more qualifications available to pupils
  • the success of the BGE-senior phase transition depends on the cohort, and can change from year-to-year – what is appropriate one year may not be appropriate the next. Schools should therefore adapt their offering in line with changing learner needs
  • there is a need to publicise pathways more widely so that parents and carers are aware of what is available to pupils

DFM suggested that BGE could be added as an agenda item for a future Teacher Panel session.


DFM thanked attendees and noted that the next meeting of the panel would be held in September 2019.

Curriculum Unit
Scottish Government

Meeting agenda: June 2019
Paper 1: closing the poverty-related attainment gap
Paper 2: secondary curriculum design


Teacher Panel

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