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National discussion to be launched on future of Scotland’s education system

Scotland’s education system is to be the subject of a national discussion after it was announced the SQA and Education Scotland are to be scrapped (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Scotland’s education system is to be the subject of a national discussion after it was announced the SQA and Education Scotland are to be scrapped (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A national discussion is to be launched on a “consensual vision” which can “put the learner at the centre” of Scotland’s education system.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told MSPs in an update on Tuesday that “the time is right” to open up conversations on the future of the sector, with the discussion set to start in the new term.

It comes after a 2021 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) prompted the decision for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to be scrapped.

Education Scotland, the national body tasked with improving the quality of the country’s education system, is also set to have its inspection powers stripped following a report from academic Professor Ken Muir, with changes to come into effect in 2024.

Shirley-Anne Somerville
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville (Jane Barlow/PA)

The education system has “shown itself to be resilient, creative and adaptive” in the face of the pandemic, Ms Somerville said, but the challenges presented have provided an “opportunity to reflect and reform”.

Carol Campbell, professor of leadership and educational change at the University of Toronto, and Dr Alma Harris, emeritus professor at Swansea University and professor at Cardiff Metropolitan University, will co-facilitate the national discussion, while the Scottish Government and local government partner Cosla will co-convene.

Ms Somerville said that as of Tuesday, she had written to education spokespeople from all parties in the Scottish Parliament inviting them to take part.

She added that “all those who have a stake in the continued success of our education system” will also be engaged with, including employers, parents and carers, trade unions and equality and human rights organisations.

Ms Somerville said: “It is by listening carefully to the learners of today that we will build a vision for the education system of the future.

“We are grateful to the Scottish Youth Parliament for the work they will be doing over the summer to start gathering the views of young people and we look forward to working with many other organisations and learners as we seek to hold a discussion in which we prioritise listening to those whose voices are seldom heard.

“I want this to be the most inclusive-ever discussion on education.”

An independent review on qualifications and assessment will also be undertaken by Professor Louise Hayward, with key findings to be considered ahead of the final recommendations arising from the national discussion.

Prof Hayward is expected to report on her findings by the end of March 2023.

Design and delivery of the three new bodies set to replace the SQA and Education Scotland – a qualifications body, a national agency for Scottish education and an independent inspectorate body – will be “informed by engagement with a broad spectrum of those with a stake in their success”, MSPs were told.

“I have been clear and unambiguous in setting out my desire for substantive change and meaningful reform, with children and young people, families, teachers and practitioners playing a key part in decision making,” the Education Secretary said.

“Staff in Education Scotland and the SQA deserve our thanks for continuing to deliver for Scotland’s learners, including successful delivery of exams over the past two months, and we will ensure their knowledge, expertise and experience contributes to reform.”