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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, June 22, 2023


Education Reform

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The next item of business is a statement by Jenny Gilruth on education reform. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.


The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Jenny Gilruth)

I want to briefly pay tribute to Winnie Ewing, a giant of our movement in the Scottish National Party, and to send condolences to our friends and colleagues Annabelle Ewing and Fergus Ewing on the sad loss of their mum.

Three weeks ago, I set out the vision and values that were produced by the national discussion on education. Two weeks ago, the Government published James Withers’s report on the skills delivery landscape. Today, I will update Parliament on the final report of the independent review of qualifications and assessment that was led by Professor Louise Hayward. Next week, Parliament will receive an update on the purpose and principles of post-school education, research and skills.

There is a lot happening in the policy world of Scottish education, and that external context is important when considering the internal context in our classrooms at the present time. I will return to that point.

“It’s Our Future: Report of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment” is a detailed and comprehensive report that sets out 26 recommendations. It is a culmination of the work that has been undertaken over the past year by Professor Louise Hayward and her independent review group, which involved a wide range of stakeholders. I am grateful to Professor Hayward and to everyone who shared their views with the review. I commend the inclusive and transparent approach that has been taken.

The final report recommends that a Scottish diploma of achievement should be the graduation certificate that is offered in all settings where senior phase education is provided. The report suggests that all learners should be provided with the opportunity to experience learning in the diploma, programmes of learning, project learning and a personal pathway.

In respect of the programmes of learning, the review recommends that learners should continue to study subjects and for vocational, technical and professional qualifications; that a wider range of methods of assessment should be adopted; and that the number of examinations in the senior phase should be reduced, with the removal of exams at the end of secondary 4 being suggested.

In project learning, the review explains that learners would have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills that they have developed in a real-world situation by undertaking a project on a significant question or problem important to them.

The focus of the personal pathway is a reflection on learning, whether that be learning in school, in college or in the community. The purpose is to give learners the opportunity to personalise their diploma by selecting aspects of their experiences that reflect their interests, the contributions that they make to society and their career aspirations.

The review recommends that there should be a digital profile for all learners that allows them to record personal achievements and identify and plan future learning. The report also highlights the need to support the system through any process of change, with phasing and timing being linked to the resources available.

The recommendations, if implemented, could represent a very significant change to the qualifications that are offered by Scotland’s schools and colleges. The recommendations for reform in the report could amount to a radical shift in Scottish education. As cabinet secretary, I need to be certain that those changes are the right ones for Scotland’s young people.

To that end, and before I arrive at a conclusion on the proposals, I need to hear from our teachers, particularly our secondary teachers, who will be key in driving any changes to our qualifications system. I must also be mindful of the wider policy context that I have outlined. With four substantive reports being published within four weeks, the Government now requires to provide an overarching narrative that ties those outputs together to set a clear trajectory and not miss the inherent opportunities that exist.

We also need to learn lessons on educational reform. As the report notes of curriculum for excellence,

“When they asked for support, more guidance was developed. What teachers wanted was practical support”.

When I visit schools, it is not advice and guidance that teachers want; often, they want practical help in responding to things such as additional support needs and behaviour and relationships post-Covid, and in seeking to improve parental engagement. I need to be certain that our reform agenda is ambitious enough to deliver on that expectation.

As we have discussed in the chamber in recent weeks, the culture in our schools has changed post-pandemic, and we know that that is impacting on attendance. We also know that schools are responding to a cost of living crisis and other external challenges, from artificial intelligence to global instability. The Hayward report and the national discussion talk to that uncertainty.

The Government must provide leadership on reform that addresses the new normal in our school communities. In evidencing that leadership, I have concluded that now is not the time to introduce legislation on educational reform. Any reform that meets our ambitions for our young people must be bold and holistic and, crucially, must be shaped by the expertise of our teachers. I am determined to take the time needed to ensure that that happens before introducing legislation during the next parliamentary year.

The immediate challenges faced by the teaching profession in responding to our post-pandemic school communities will not be helped by legislation, nor can I expect meaningful engagement on our future qualifications if Parliament is focused on legislating for those new bodies. Instead, the focus must be brought back to improving educational outcomes for our children and young people and on delivering excellent learning and teaching for all. The component parts of our education system must work together in a spirit of partnership.

We must take the opportunity to design our entire national education and skills landscape to better support children, young people and adult learners. Pre-empting what is possible in the context of the new national bodies by taking a narrow legislative focus at this stage would, I believe, miss that opportunity. If we are to deliver parity of esteem across the education system, we will require a holistic approach to legislation.

I recognise that this announcement will have an impact on the staff of the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland. I thank everyone in both organisations for their on-going work to support Scotland’s young people and reiterate the Scottish Government’s commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the reform process.

Nonetheless, I reassure Parliament that the work to deliver the new national education bodies will continue at pace, strengthened by the extended period of engagement. We already have plans in place to recruit a new chair of the SQA, who will lead the transition to the new qualifications body. It is also critical to establish the leadership of the new independent inspectorate. I want to start that process now and am therefore taking forward recruitment for the role of chief inspector of education. Both posts will provide enhanced leadership to support the establishment of the new bodies and to ensure that we deliver change in both practice and culture.

As cabinet secretary, I will work with all parties in Parliament to improve educational outcomes for all. That is a prize worth striving for and it is vital that we get that right for the next generation.

Throughout their educational journey, our learners are supported by excellent teachers and other professionals. We want that support to continue as the effects of the pandemic continue to impact on the young people we entrust to their care. I very much recognise the pressures faced by our teachers and wider education workforce. As a first step, I want to work with local government partners to ensure that we have a comprehensive picture of the health and wellbeing support that is currently available and to identify how we can build on that.

As part of our reform, we also want to undertake a short, sharp review of the impact that our regional improvement collaboratives have had on supporting our pupils and practitioners. I will work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the RICs and others on that review, which will conclude in October.

It is important that we assess the ideas coming out of the national discussion and the independent reviews in more detail. As cabinet secretary, I can see that a lot of reviews are happening at a similar time: it is important that we now hear from the profession about the outputs of those reviews. I am determined that that process will move at pace and that it will involve teachers, and others working in education, at the earliest possible opportunity. To that end, I have written to directors of education to request that they prioritise time to consider reform during in-service sessions in the new term. We will use the outputs of that feedback to provide a full response from the Government and I commit to returning to Parliament to fully and more extensively debate the proposals in the review.

Good teaching uses continuous assessment to monitor progress and we trust our graduate workforce to do just that. The report takes the view that there should be an end to the taking of final examinations in secondary 4. Some would describe that as radical but, since the introduction of national 4 in 2013-14, learners taking those qualifications have not been required to sit a final exam. At the time, critics argued that that devalued national 4; it is likely that that contributed to a level of over-presentation, with more pupils being presented for national 5 as it was considered to be a more robust qualification due to its final exam element.

Scottish education likes a test. As Professor Gordon Stobart has observed, Scottish upper secondary school students are examined more frequently than those in other jurisdictions. That is a consequence of the tradition of offering three suites of examinations—national 5, higher and advanced higher—during the secondary school years S4 to S6; such examination loading is not found in other jurisdictions.

As a former teacher, I am fully supportive of the use of more continuous assessment. That must, of course, be managed appropriately, but a move away from high-stakes final exams will create a more holistic approach to assessment. It also means that our young people will not face a cliff edge.

It is worth reflecting that the new national qualifications as they originally operated contained an element of continuous assessment through unit assessment. However, the recording of outcome and assessment standards quickly became quite a burdensome bureaucratic task that detracted from day-to-day learning and teaching. Ultimately, unit assessments were removed for that reason. We need to learn lessons from that experience in designing, with teachers, continuous assessment practices that are proportionate and robust and that enhance learning and teaching rather than detract from them.

The independent reports by James Withers and Professor Louise Hayward have implications for learners of all ages across all settings; for teachers and practitioners; for local and central Government; and for our national bodies. I would like to use the coming weeks and months to take forward detailed examination of the proposals, allowing Parliament and others across the system opportunities to engage with and shape our response.

Our response must be holistic to reflect a single clear expectation—namely that, following the reform process, we will have a coherent education and skills system where every part works together and there is collective responsibility to deliver for learners of all ages. We want a coherent education and skills system that is focused on taking the best from our educational traditions, including our long-standing and well-recognised highers, and making sure that we build on that success in order to help our learners to go on achieving the very best that they can.

Change in education is not always about inputs. It is most of all about the outcomes and the lifetime satisfactions that come from every young person—every individual learner—being enabled to reach and often surpass their potential. In the end, we must judge everything that we do by those criteria, focusing on the needs and expectations of all those in our schools. If we can all agree on that, Scotland and Scotland’s learners will be the winners. It is surely worth working together to achieve that.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you, cabinet secretary. I echo your sentiments in relation to the passing of Winnie Ewing, who was the first person to preside over this Parliament on its re-establishment in 1999. I send my condolences to Fergus and Annabelle Ewing and the wider family.

The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues that were raised in her statement. I intend to allow about 20 minutes for questions, after which we will move on to the next item of business. I urge members who wish to ask a question but have not yet pressed their request-to-speak buttons to do so.

Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

Deputy Presiding Officer, I wish to associate myself entirely with the sentiments that you have just expressed in relation to the passing of Winnie Ewing.

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of her statement and the effort that she went to to reach out to the parties in this Parliament. However, to expect members to digest a 230-page report, complete with summaries and appendices, in the hour before a statement is, obviously, to ask a lot of us. [Interruption.] I hear the minister saying “Slacker”, but that is a lot of reading, even if we divide it up. It would appear that the Minister for Parliamentary Business was more interested in abiding by the protocol than he was in enhancing scrutiny. It is worthwhile to work together but, to do that, we need to share our working.

I thank Professor Louise Hayward and everyone who worked with her to produce the review. I also thank the authors of the national discussion, the Withers review and the Muir report. However, let me not pussyfoot around the issue. Those reports and reviews, combined with the output that we see from various sources, represent a damning verdict on 16 years of SNP Government. Based on the national discussion, I think that the cabinet secretary knows that she has a long way to go in regaining the trust of teachers, parents and learners and delivering the practical support that she mentioned in her statement.

The truth is that, after all those reviews—and, I think, by her own word—we still have no clear sense of what the Government’s strategy is, or its direction of travel. Having said that, if Jenny Gilruth embraces the need for bold, innovative and urgent change that will be better for learners, she will always have the support of those on the Conservative benches.

I have four short questions, to which I would like to give the cabinet secretary an opportunity to give four short answers, because I can see the concern of the Deputy Presiding Officer.

How does the cabinet secretary assess that the recommendations in the Hayward review will change the commonly diagnosed issues in the senior phase, such as the two-term dash and teaching to the test? How does she envisage that course assessment other than examinations will be externally verified, and what does that assessment mean for teachers’ workload? Does she agree that we must not do anything to diminish the standing or reputation of the higher and advanced higher in the eyes of employers and further and higher education? Does she agree that much more needs to be done to create parity of esteem for technical and professional qualifications—

Thank you, Mr Kerr.

—in the education system overall?

Jenny Gilruth

I thank Mr Kerr for his questions. I am not sure that I will be able to give a detailed response, Presiding Officer, but I am more than happy to meet him to discuss the substantive questions that he raises, because I think that they are important points.

The first question that Mr Kerr poses relates to the two-term dash. The report talks to the challenge implicit in having a system that is largely dependent on a final examination, which we currently have. That is one reason why the report recommends that we remove final exams at the end of S4, so that we can have a more continuous approach to assessment throughout the school year. Such assessment might not be in one school year—it might be over the course of two years, for example—but that in itself could remove the two-term dash.

It is important that the profession engages with the practicalities of what is a very detailed report. It is hugely important that I hear from the secondary teaching profession, because a move towards continuous assessment will fundamentally change the type of learning and teaching—and, in fact, the pedagogy—that exists in our classrooms, particularly in the senior phase.

The second thing that I would observe is that we have always had continuous assessment—I was quite careful to make that point in my statement. It existed in standard grade to an extent—for example, we always had end-of-unit tests—and in the architecture around curriculum for excellence when the new national qualifications came forward, but we deviated back to a final exam system.

Part of that related to the administration of unit assessments, and I mentioned their removal. That was a test of the exam system, and it is hugely important that the new exams body, which will be key in this endeavour, works with the profession to deliver assessment criteria that do not add to workload and that help to improve the learning and teaching that we have in our classrooms.

I will try to touch on Mr Kerr’s three other questions, while being mindful of time. I think that I have answered the question about workload. He talked about not doing anything to diminish higher and advanced higher, and I fully agree with that; I had a point about that in my concluding comments. I am really keen that we do not deviate from that, and that we recognise the strengths of Scottish education—particularly the gold standard of our higher qualifications, but also parity of esteem.

That is why we cannot read the report in a silo, away from the recommendations and what James Withers has said. It is really important that those outputs come together and that we deliver that overarching narrative.

Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow) (Lab)

I thank Professor Hayward for her work, the people who engaged with it and the cabinet secretary for advance sight of her statement and the conversation with us yesterday. However, as I think that she agrees, it would have been far more helpful to have seen the report earlier than one hour ago.

The cabinet secretary has acknowledged that the report is another in a long list of reviews that has left teachers, pupils and parents waiting and anticipating change for some time. Of course, understanding and reviewing problems is necessary for change, but it is clear that what is needed now from the Government is leadership, clarity and action.

I welcome, as others will, the breadth of the report and the cabinet secretary’s commitment to put teachers at the forefront of reforms. However, as she takes the time to do that, there are significant questions around the suggested reforms, and teachers, pupils and parents need more answers to those from the cabinet secretary today.

The report recommends the removal of S4 exams, but it leaves questions on how children leaving after S4 will demonstrate their achievements. Significant reductions in high-stakes exams will have a huge potential impact on teacher workloads, and teachers are worrying that they could increase. To settle some of that uncertainty early, I ask the cabinet secretary to consider that issue, especially in the light of the commitment to reduce teacher contact time, and set out how that aspect of the vital reforms could work.

Finally, in the light of the cabinet secretary’s—

Both opening questioners have gone beyond the time allocation, which is going to eat into the available time for back-bench questions. That is not acceptable. Cabinet secretary, can you respond, please?

Jenny Gilruth

Ms Duncan-Glancy and Mr Kerr referenced that they have not had enough time to digest the report. I recognise the limitations around publishing an embargoed report before giving a statement. I undertook in my statement to come back to Parliament to debate more fully the outcomes of the report.

Ms Duncan-Glancy asks a fair question in relation to the overarching narrative surrounding the four separate outputs. On the point that she made about workload, I met trade unions yesterday to discuss those issues. That relates to some of the points that I made in response to Mr Kerr about the administration of what continuous assessment looks like. When I reflect on my experiences of being in the classroom 10 years ago when we brought in the new national qualifications, I can see that it became a bit of a tick-box exercise, if I may say so.

The new qualifications body has a key role to play in ensuring that teacher workload is not increased as a result of the changes. I also say to the member that if we are looking to move away from high-stakes final exams, we also need to look at the percentage allocation that is applied to the final examination and the overall awarding of the qualification.

As cabinet secretary, I do not have all the qualifications and expertise to make such decisions, but I very much trust Scotland’s teachers to tell me what they think. They fed into the SQA’s work on developing the new national qualifications, and I fully expect them, at a subject specialist level, to feed into the work as we move forward with the recommendations of Professor Hayward. Teachers have the subject expertise and the knowledge to ensure that we can deliver assessments that are balanced, and that we improve the learning and teaching that happens in our classrooms through continuous assessment.

We have 11 members who want to ask questions, but we have only 12 minutes, so the questions and responses will have to be as brief as possible.

There can sometimes be a difference between what young people want to learn and what employers are looking for. Does the cabinet secretary think that we are getting the balance right in that regard?

Jenny Gilruth

The member poses an interesting question about whether the purpose of our education system is just to prepare our children and young people for the world of work, or whether its purpose is to give them a well-rounded education that equips them with the necessary skills for life. I am inclined towards the latter, but I accept that what our employers need must be part of that broader consideration.

We know that we now have record numbers of young people going on to positive destinations, and that is evidence of progress. There has been good progress but, nonetheless, we need to build on that. That is why we need to have a holistic approach to where we go next, which is absolutely the reason why the outputs from the James Withers review need to be considered in the wider context of education reform, particularly—to answer the member’s question—in relation to the needs of employers and that wider skills base.

Meghan Gallacher (Central Scotland) (Con)

We have had review after review of our education system—I think that we have had enough reviews to last this Parliament a lifetime. However, there is no strategy as of yet. From today’s statement, I understand that more reviews will be undertaken before any direction will be given by the Scottish Government.

I understand that the cabinet secretary has inherited a mess after 16 years of Scottish National Party Government: there is too much bureaucracy and too many education bodies, and reforms that could bankrupt councils should this Government not fund them correctly.

Question please, Ms Gallacher.

How many more statements will be made to this Parliament before we see legislation that will transform our education system?

Jenny Gilruth

I agree with the member to some extent in relation to the number of reviews and reports have come to fruition at a similar time, but I think that the member does a disservice to Scottish education when she describes it as “a mess”. Actually, we are starting to see real progress in relation to the poverty-related attainment gap closing and we are starting to see more young people going on to positive destinations, but we recognise the need for that overarching narrative that Government will provide.

It is important that Parliament talks about these things, which is why I have committed to come back to Parliament to more substantively debate the outputs from the report that, if enacted, could see radical changes for Scotland’s children and young people. It is important that we get the change right, and, as I gave a commitment to do in my statement, I will work across the party divide to ensure that that is what happens.

Marie McNair (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

None of the proposed reforms is possible without our hard-working teachers, who are the lifeblood of our education system. Unfortunately, at the moment, many of them, especially those with only a couple of years’ service, are struggling to obtain full-time permanent positions after they have finished their probation. Numerous constituents have raised this issue with me, and it is leading to many young teachers leaving the profession to seek work abroad.

In light of the recommendations of the independent review, and, indeed, the national discussion, can the cabinet secretary outline what further reforms she will bring forward to ensure that our invaluable teachers remain in our education system?

Jenny Gilruth

The member asks an important question. She might remember that we faced similar challenges when I first qualified as a teacher in relation to staffing and how to attract people to the profession and ensure that they are in the right parts of the country at the right time. There are lots of different ways in which we can do that. For example, the Government offers a golden handshake to probationary teachers who are prepared to go anywhere—I was one of those back in 2007. That is an important part of how we can attract people into the profession. However, there are other things that we need to consider. A couple of weeks ago, I started a conversation with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and we have been undertaking further work on the issue through the Scottish education council to consider its role in relation to staffing.

Ultimately, staffing in relation to teacher numbers is a matter for local authorities. We have provided additionality in that respect—more than £145 million—to protect increased teacher and support staff numbers, and to ensure that teachers in Scotland are now the best paid in the United Kingdom, but I commit to working with COSLA on the issue, because it is hugely important that we retain teachers in the teaching profession. We want to keep teachers in Scotland to help them to be part of the journey of education reform.

Martin Whitfield (South Scotland) (Lab)

I welcome the fact that we have a statement that confirms that we are going to have a pupil-centred education system, and I also welcome the cabinet secretary’s guarantee that we will have a graduate workforce that sits in front of those.

With regard to the education reforms and the cabinet secretary’s confirmation that now is not the right time to introduce legislation, does that mean that she has decided not to abolish the SQA, which was set up by the Education (Scotland) Act 1996?

Jenny Gilruth

No, the SQA will be abolished, and it will be replaced by a new qualifications body. I put that on the record for absolute certainty.

I appreciate that members will not have had time to go through all the detail of the report. There are a number of recommendations that have a bit of read-across to the reform agenda on the new bodies and what that will look like. Of course, we also have the wider report landscape, as I outlined in my statement to Parliament. It is important that we take account of both things through the legislative process. I need to ensure that what comes next in qualifications reform is fit for purpose, and I think that legislating at the current time would not be the right thing to do. That is why we have decided to pause for a year.

I confirm that we will legislate to remove the SQA.

What more will be done to support the quality and consistency of the implementation of existing policies and practices that improve outcomes for children and young people?

Jenny Gilruth

Ruth Maguire is quite right to raise those issues. While we look to a bold and ambitious reform agenda, we cannot lose sight of the key priorities that are in front of us right now. I will continue to work with Education Scotland, our local authorities and others as we seek to deliver the best possible outcomes for our children and young people.

Making progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap is of the utmost importance to the Government. Our £1 billion of investment in the Scottish attainment challenge is designed to do exactly that. That includes, of course, empowering our headteachers to use pupil equity funding to best support children and schools impacted by poverty in their locality.

Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD)

I share the cabinet secretary’s caution in terms of the implementation of the report. There is an awful lot going on in respect of behaviour, the pandemic, closing the poverty-related attainment gap—on which we are not quite making as much progress as she indicates—and raising our international performance. However, I am a bit concerned that she is delaying the reform of the national bodies by a year, it seems. It is important that the profession has confidence in those national bodies.

Ask a question.

I worry that, if reform is delayed, we will have a real problem in inspiring confidence among teachers. Can the cabinet secretary assure me on that front?

Jenny Gilruth

Willie Rennie has made a really important point. My reflection on where Scottish education is currently is that it faces a number of challenges. We have talked about that at length in recent weeks in the chamber. We have talked about behaviour post-Covid, the change in the culture in our schools, and excellence. Willie Rennie referred to international surveys. Rejoining those international surveys is a hugely important step from the Government.

It also has to be about partnerships. Our local authorities are key to delivering quality learning and teaching in our schools. We need to have the faith of the profession, and the profession has been through quite a challenging time in relation to industrial relations. I am glad that we have been able to resolve the dispute, but I now need to work with our teaching profession.

As I have gone in and out of schools over the past couple of months, it has struck me that I am not sure how many teachers have engaged with the national discussion and have engaged holistically with the outputs from the Hayward review. I need to ensure that the teaching profession is engaged with the outputs of the reviews. That has an impact in relation to reform.

Reform of the bodies is absolutely coming, but I absolutely have to work with the teaching profession to drive the reforms forward. I cannot foist change upon the teaching system. I think that I know that better than others in the chamber.

We have less than four minutes, and five members still want to get in.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Any future education reform must proactively remove practical or discriminatory barriers to learning. What consideration is the cabinet secretary giving to the needs of those who may feel excluded or marginalised in the current education system?

Jenny Gilruth

That is a really important question from Rona Mackay. She is absolutely right. The reform agenda that I am committed to has to secure better outcomes for all our children. A crucial part of that will be ensuring that remaining barriers to learning for those who feel marginalised by the current system are removed.

The Government is, of course, already taking steps to tackle specific barriers to education in the work through the Scottish attainment challenge and the national improvement framework. More broadly, we have had good discussions in the chamber in recent weeks about behaviour and relationships challenges. We will take forward work on that next week.

I hope that the changes and the support across the system to improve inclusivity will be a driver behind our reform. One of the key outputs from the national discussion was that we have a really inclusive system in Scotland. It is important that we use that strength to build on the changes that we seek to bring forward.

Ross Greer (West Scotland) (Green)

The review is the end result of an agreement that was reached between the Greens and the Scottish Government in 2020. I am delighted by its output. As part of taking it forward, will the Government progress the review of indicators and measures that are associated with the curriculum to ensure not just a sustainable teacher workload, but that the curriculum matches up with any requirements of a move towards a continuous assessment model?

Jenny Gilruth

Ross Greer makes a good point about teacher workload in particular. We cannot just assume that the system is operating at optimum level. As we take this brief pause in legislation, we need to look at the current qualifications to ensure that they are fit for purpose and that they are not driving teacher workloads. I am happy to take Ross Greer’s suggestion away.

In yesterday’s discussions with the teaching unions, they made the point strongly to me that we need to consider the impact that any reform will have on teacher workload. Fundamentally, we want continuous assessment to drive better learning and teaching without high-stakes exams at the end. That is where the reform agenda will get to, but we need to support the profession to get there. That goes back to Willie Rennie’s question about the reform of the bodies. They will be key in driving the change that we need.

Sue Webber (Lothian) (Con)

On the basis of the cabinet secretary’s statement and comment, it is not advice and guidance that teachers want; it is often practical help in responding to things such as additional support needs, behaviour, relationships, and seeking to improve parental engagement. I was under the impression that Education Scotland’s role was to offer that practical help. If it is not, what is Education Scotland doing?

Jenny Gilruth

The member makes an interesting point. Education Scotland has a key role in that regard. When I was bringing together the reports in the past few weeks, I was struck by the role of our regional improvement collaboratives. That is why, in my statement, I talked about reviewing the role of our regional improvement collaboratives, which are staffed by people in Education Scotland and supported by our local authorities. It is important that that improvement function is looked at to ensure that it is fit for purpose. The challenges that Ms Webber has played back to me are ones that I would expect Education Scotland to support. It is important that we hear from the profession about how we can perhaps better support some of that work going forward.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

The independent review and the national discussion have undertaken significant engagement on necessary and appropriate modernisation. Building on that, can the cabinet secretary elaborate on how that engagement will continue? She rightly emphasised the engagement with the teaching profession, but I presume that engagement will also continue with learners, the business community and other relevant stakeholders.

Jenny Gilruth

As Mr Macpherson outlined, we had substantive engagement in relation to the work of the national discussion. It has generated a level of enthusiasm for change in our system, and we have also seen that reflected in Professor Hayward’s review. As the member said, it is important that this is not just about the teaching profession. They are key drivers within the system, but our children and young people also have to be part of the discussion. They were very much part of Professor Hayward’s review, and they also fed in substantively to the national discussion. I expect to continue to work with our children and young people on the outputs from the reform of our qualifications system, but I also take the member’s point in relation to business.

I apologise to the member whom I was not able to call, but we need to move on to the next item of business.