Teacher Panel meeting: minutes October 2016

Minutes from the second meeting of the Teacher Panel, held on 27 October 2016.

Items and actions            

Attendees were welcomed by the Chair, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.  Apologies were noted from Andrew Travis.

The note of the first meeting was agreed. The Panel noted the number of actions to reduce teacher workload which had been taken forward since the Panel’s first meeting, as detailed in Paper 1.

Assessment in the Senior Phase

The Panel considered the removal of unit assessments from National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. Overall the change was welcomed, and it was acknowledged that the removal of mandatory unit assessments would help to reduce teacher workload and the demands placed on young people. 

In discussion, the following points were made:

  • it was acknowledged by all that it is important that the message gets across that undertaking National 4 is a significant part of learning and should be celebrated as a valuable achievement
  • it was suggested that one of the barriers to encouraging learners to view National 4 positively is that it has no grading scale, and as a result learners are unable to display excellence or receive credit for additional effort. Similarly, teachers can find it difficult to gauge learner progression which can lead to a difficult start for those learners who progress to National 5 
  • it was suggested that it would be helpful to be able to distinguish between ability levels in National 4, although views varied on whether a final exam or a graded voluntary unit would be the best mechanism for this. It was noted that teacher professional judgement should remain paramount in deciding whether to present learners for any added value component of National 4
  • it was noted that some Added Value Units at National 4 do not appropriately link across to coursework at National 5. It was suggested that improvements could be made in order to make these a useful tool for assisting progression
  • the potential introduction of a Grade E as a safeguard was discussed by some Panel members. It was suggested that that this was inconsistent with a culture of aspiration and could lead some schools to present learners for a National 5 on the basis that a Grade E at National 5 carries more tariff points than National 4. All agreed it is important that teachers are encouraged to consider, in their own professional judgement, which qualifications are most of value for individual learners when determining presentation policies

Assessment in Broad General Education

The Panel considered the impact of the Benchmarks for literacy and numeracy which were published in August. It was noted that initially there had been some concern these would require a degree of work to implement but in practice this has not materialised, due to consistency with the Significant Aspects of Learning (SALs). It was commented that the SALs had helped to increase confidence in professional judgement and that the Benchmarks would, in time, help to further increase teacher confidence. Overall the Benchmarks were seen as a positive, clear document which would help with moderation.

In discussion, the following points were made:

  • it was noted that the early level benchmarks for literacy did not necessarily reflect some of the effective work currently being undertaken by speech and language therapists in some areas. It was noted that work is ongoing in Education Scotland to ensure benchmarking is appropriate at the early level, and the opportunity to level the vocabulary gap amongst learners from the most disadvantaged backgrounds is maximised
  • it was noted that there are a significant number of Experiences and Outcomes and Benchmarks which are marked as the responsibility of all and some teachers in areas other than English and Maths may feel less confident in assessing these. The importance of retaining the ability to specialise in secondary was also remarked on. It was acknowledged that it is important all schools are taking a holistic approach to curriculum development and that the focus on literacy and numeracy in all areas is correct, but challenging
  • it was suggested that readability may be improved if the Benchmarks were set out in columns by level, so that learner progression could be more easily seen 
  • it was noted that some schools are using this academic year to familiarise themselves with the content of the benchmarks and planning to incorporate them into school improvement planning in the new year

Governance Review

The launch of the Governance Review was discussed together with some of the key issues which Panel members thought required to be looked at in the Review. Some teachers shared experiences of their arrangements under different local authorities, and noted the impact council staff resourcing levels can have on the ability of local authorities to interact with schools.

It was noted that local authorities have a role to help ensure equity of provision amongst schools and it is important to bear in mind that not all schools may be equipped for greater devolution of responsibility. It was also acknowledged that there may be less time available for school management in primary settings than secondary.

Next Steps

It was agreed that a special meeting of the Panel would be held in December to allow a more thorough discussion of the issues raised by the Governance Review.

Due to time constraints, it was not possible to provide an update on progress with the National Improvement Hub so it was agreed that this would be picked up at a future meeting.


Meeting agenda - October 2016
Paper 1 - Delivery plan update
Paper 5 - National Improvement Hub update
Paper 5b - National Improvement Hub slides
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