What would you change about Scottish education?

National consultation on future of education to get under way this week

Emma Seith

What would you change about Scottish education?

A national consultation on the future of Scottish education will run for eight weeks from the end of this month.

Ken Muir is running the consultation after being appointed by the government to take forward some of the key recommendations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) review of Curriculum for Excellence published in June.

He described the consultation as “a golden opportunity” to reflect for all those involved in Scottish education, as the review explores what should replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and how Education Scotland should be reformed.

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The first question, Professor Muir said, would be about the purpose of education over the next 10-20 years and “what you want the Scottish education system to look like”.

“It’s about reimagining what it is we want for the future of our learners,” said Mr Muir during an online session for the Scottish Learning Festival (SLF) last week.

Mr Muir – who retired earlier this year as the chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland – has been charged with advising the government on taking forward the plans to replace the SQA; plans to remove inspection from the remit of Education Scotland; and reforming Education Scotland.

Mr Muir said this would be “challenging” but it was just a “starting point” and that, while he was due to submit his report to the Scottish government in January, it was not “about having everything done by early 2022” and his work had to be part of a “longer-term programme of educational reform”.

He said that the national consultation would be divided into four sections: vision; curriculum and assessment; roles and responsibilities; and replacing the SQA and reforming Education Scotland.   

Mr Muir said the consolation would be an opportunity to reflect on “what is good in our system, what we want to keep, what we want to change and what we see as being the education system that will deliver best for all learners”.

He said the section on roles and responsibilities was about “the complexity of the Scottish education system” and “the number of organisations that have roles and responsibilities” and how to improve “the clarity, the transparency and the accountability around Curriculum for Excellence”.

He said that included how to simplify “the massive guidance that’s out there” and that was reported by teachers to the OECD as being “highly burdensome”.

In August, Mr Muir set out how he planned to take forward his work for the government. An expert panel with eight members was established, as well as a Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group (PSAG) consisting of more than 50 organisations, including teaching unions, school leaders’ organisations and parent bodies. 

There was criticism, however, that only one serving teacher – the headteacher of Renfrew High, Billy Burke – was on the expert panel.

Mr Muir said there had been “a bit of misunderstanding” about the relationship between the expert panel and the PSAG.

He said that the role of the expert panel was to support him “in the areas where I think I need support” and that PSAG was not “subservient” to the expert panel.

He added that Professor Walter Humes – who has often been outspoken in his criticism of national organisations and bodies in Scottish education, and who is sitting on the expert panel – would act as “the grit in the oyster” and challenge him.

Mr Muir said: “There’s nothing at all at any time to stop you – either individually, or in groups, or in schools or in establishments – submitting anything directly to me through the educationreform@gov.scot email address. You may want to wait until you see the consolation document itself, however, because it gives you lots of opportunity to share your views, share your issues, share your ideas with me through that formal consultation process.”

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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