A specialist group to give children and young people a say on education policy is being set up as part of a major shake-up.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced that she is to establish the Children and Young People’s Education Council – saying the new body will “ensure that the voices of those who are most affected by any changes in education are always heard loudly and clearly”.
Ms Somerville herself will personally chair this group, as well as a reconvened Scottish Education Council – which young people will also be represented on.
She said: “I want consideration of the lived educational experience of young people, current teachers, leaders and other practitioners to be fundamental to the work I do and the decisions I take as Education Secretary.”
And she stressed she was “absolutely committed to putting the voices of young people, parents, teachers and schools” at the centre of policy.
The move comes as the Scottish Government looks at how best it can implement changes following a review of the curriculum by experts at the OECD.
After its report was published on Monday, Ms Somerville announced that the exams body the Scottish Qualifications Authority was to be scrapped.
Work towards a new organisation to replace it, which will be responsible for both the curriculum and assessment, will be led by Professor Ken Muir – who was until recently the chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
Ms Somerville announced the moves as she set out her intention to decide how qualifications will be awarded in 2022 in time for youngsters going back to school in August.
The coronavirus pandemic forced ministers to cancel exams for the last two years, with Ms Somerville stressing this was done on the “basis of public health advice”.
She told MSPs she wanted to “be in a position to confirm our central planning assumption for awarding qualifications in 2022 for the start of the school term in August”.
The aim of this is to “give as much certainty for learners, teachers and the system as possible”, the Education Secretary added, as she made clear the decision taken then would “take account of the latest state of the pandemic”.
Conservative education spokesman Oliver Mundell claimed the exam system “has been a disaster in recent years”.
The Tory said: “Young people know the SQA has screwed them over and it is right that the SQA pay the price for their own incompetence”.
But he stressed the need for assessments, saying that “historically rigorous exams have been a real strength of Scotland’s education system” in the past and were a “cornerstone of how we help young people to succeed in life”.
He pressed Ms Somerville on whether exams could be scrapped altogether, with the Education Secretary telling him that the OECD would publish a report by the end of August on the issue of school qualifications.
And she said she would be “open to a discussion about what is in that report” when it is made public.
“This isn’t reform for reform’s sake,” Ms Somerville insisted.
“This is listening to internationally renowned experts moving forward with what they suggest, if it is right for us, after consultation.”
Meanwhile, Green education spokesman Ross Greer urged ministers to scrap standardised assessments, which monitor the progress of youngsters from P1 through to S3.
He insisted: “It’s long past time that the failed Scottish National Standardised testing system was scrapped, reducing the anxiety and workload of teachers and pupils.”
Ms Somerville, however, said the assessments were “a key part of our improvement agenda”.
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