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Education In The Scottish Parliament

In: Scottish Educational Review
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Morag RedfordEducation, University of the Highlands and Islands, Perth, Scotland, UK, morag.redford@uhi.ac.uk

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Preamble

This paper follows on from the previous bulletin (), which covered the education remit of the Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee between February and August 2021. The following bulletin covers the education remit of the Education, Children and Young People Committee from September 2021 to January 2022.

Preamble

This paper follows on from the previous bulletin (Redford 2021), which covered the education remit of the Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee between February and August 2021. The following bulletin covers the education remit of the Education, Children and Young People Committee from September 2021 to January 2022.

August 2021 To January 2022

The Education Children and Young People Committee had the following members during this period: Stephen Kerr, Convener, Kaukab Stewart, Deputy Convener, Stephanie Callaghan, Graeme Dey, Bob Doris, Ross Greer, Ruth Maguire, Michael Marra, Oliver Mundell and Willie Rennie. Full records of the Committee meetings, including minutes, official papers and transcripts of proceedings can be found on the Scottish Parliament website at: https://www.parliament.scot/chamber-and-committees/committees/current-and-previous-committees/session-6-education-children-and-young-people-committee/meetings [accessed 08.05.22]

In this period the committee began work in a number of areas beginning with the oecd Report. They took evidence on the alternative certification models that were in place in 2020 and 2021, discussed the government’s priorities for this session of parliament with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and heard evidence about the budget for 2022–2023. A major part of their work was on the impact of covid-19 on children and young people with additional support needs and care experienced young people. They also took evidence in relation to skills aligned to business needs and the impact of covid on schools. They held a round table session about the issue of drink and needle spiking for young people. They heard evidence and approved subordinate and negative orders.

The committee considered their work programme, in private, at their meetings on 8 September 2021, 10 and 24 November. Their meetings during this period were held virtually, in a hybrid model or in person.

oecd Report

The committee took evidence from oecd policy analysts at their meeting on 8 September 2021. The meeting was supported by a SPICe briefing paper (ecyp/s6/21/2/3). The committee returned to the oecd report at their meeting on 10 November when they took evidence from Gordon Stobart. This meeting was supported by an oecd report pack (ecyp/s6/21/8/1).

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The convener opened the questions by asking about the restrictions placed on the work of the oecd because of the pandemic. In reply Beatriz Pont introduced the project and explained the methodology they used to collect information and their findings. Ross Greer asked for further information about what the report said about Scottish National Standardised Assessments. Romane Viennet answered, ‘they are maybe not the most appropriate mechanism to use to measure the impact of curriculum for excellence on student learning’ (Viennet, 08.09.21, Col 15). In answer to a further question from Ross Greer, Beatriz Pont said:

In the oecd’s view, the assessment system does not fully provide information about how cfe is succeeding. It is focused more on the knowledge aspect, but there are three other capacities that do not appear in the data. That means that, when you try to understand how cfe is progressing, the only—or at least the more prominent—focus is on the knowledge side rather than on the other aspects.

pont, 08.09.21, col 16

Fergus Ewing asked what other data should be collected. Beatriz Pont replied that Professor Gordon Stobart had produced a working paper on the assessment system with options for change. Michael Marra asked about international comparisons and Beatriz Pont listed other countries that have introduced a similar curriculum to curriculum for excellence and the changes they have made. Kaukab Stewart welcomed the report and asked for information about Scotland’s standing in education internationally. Beatriz Pont replied that Scotland, ‘is viewed internationally as an example of high performance’ (Pont, 08.09.21, Col 30). Ross Greer asked about the report’s findings in relation to the Scottish Qualification Authority (sqa) and Education Scotland. In reply Beatriz Pont said that they found that the curriculum and the sqa did not respond to each other. She then used the example of the Irish National Council for Curriculum and Assessment as, ‘a professional institution that defines and reviews the curriculum’ (Pont, 08.09.21, Col 32). Romane Viennet added that the report recommended that student assessment should be dealt with by the agency responsible for the curriculum, but that the report did not comment on the sqa. Willie Rennie asked a number of questions about the focus on knowledge in the senior phase, and Michael Marra about the preparation of students for university. Beatrix Pont replied that there was an issue of depth versus breadth in the senior phase of the curriculum, and that the report recommended defined pathways for students that could lead into specific subject areas in university. The meeting ended with a question from the convener about which of the recommendations it was most important to take forward. In reply Beatriz Pont listed the need to find a balance between depth and breadth of learning across the curriculum, a balance between assessment and the curriculum, to introduce a systematic approach to curriculum review and support the teaching profession.

The second session of evidence began with an opening statement from Gordon Stobart about his report into the alignment between curriculum for excellence and the senior school assessment system. Kaukab Stewart welcomed the international and UK comparisons in the report and asked what Scotland could learn from that. In reply Gordon Stobart said that most countries were facing similar challenges, as the needs of students became more diverse and said that was important to consider the role of the teacher, the role of the student and how to take account of student views of the system. Willie Rennie asked what should be removed from the current qualifications system. Gordon Stobart replied that his report recommended other ways of recording progress should be considered. Willie Rennie then asked about raising the school leaving age and Gordon Stobart replied, ‘That is being done almost naturally, as 88 percent of students in Scotland continue in education after the age of 16’ (Stobart, 10.11.21, Col 6). Fergus Ewing asked how to engage all young people in education. Gordon Stobart replied that engagement depended on the learning and teaching provided and suggested that for some students, there was a ‘need for an imaginative offer that involves a more practical, hands-on approach’ (Stobart, 10.11.21, Col 10). Stephanie Callaghan asked about the engagement of students in shaping the assessment system. In reply Gordon Stobart said that every country had some difficulties with that and said that he was, ‘a little bit surprised’ (Stobart, 10.11.21, Col 14) by how little research was carried out on pupil perceptions and attitudes in Scotland. Ross Greer asked how teamwork and group communication skills could be assessed. Gordon Stobart replied that was an area of assessment that had to carried out in a classroom rather than in an exam. This led to a question from Michael Marra about multi-level teaching. In reply Gordon Stobart said that not many other countries did that and that it came from having three levels of exams in the senior phase of the curriculum.

Scotland has got itself a problem with multilevel qualifications. It takes a great deal of teaching skill to take three groups through their qualifications in the same classroom, particularly when the syllabuses are a bit different for each of them.

stobart, 10.11.21, Col 17

Oliver Mundell asked Gordon Stobart about Lindsay Paterson’s criticisms of his report and why he had been asked by the oecd to report on assessment in the senior phase. In his reply Gordon Stobart explained the choice of countries used for comparison in his study and that he was very interested in, ‘fitness for purpose, and what purpose an exam serves’ (Stobart, 10.11.21, Col 21). In answer to a follow up question from James Dornan, Gordon Stobart confirmed that exams needed a purpose and that he would consider assessment to involve more than exams. Fergus Ewing asked, ‘How do you see the overall benefits and disbenefits of examinations?’ (Ewing, 10.11.21, Col 23). In reply Gordon Stobart said that the comments he heard about advanced highers were positive from students and teachers, ‘They are about showing students’ knowledge and how they can be flexible with it,’ (Stobart, 10.11.21, Col 23). He concluded that his guiding outcome was if the exam or other assessment encouraged students, ‘to think for themselves’ (Stobart, 10.11.21, Col 24). Ross Greer raised the issue of assessment for students with additional support needs. Gordon Stobart commented that it was a wider issue than giving additional time and that the assessments used needed to be fully considered. The meeting ended with a discussion about the need for cultural change to support a movement away from exams.

Alternative Certification Model

The committee took evidence from the Association of Directors of Education (ades) and professional associations at their meeting on the 20 September 2021. This meeting was supported by a submissions pack (ecyp/s6/21/3/2) and a SPICe briefing on the Alternative Certification Model (ecyp/s6/21/3/1). The committee took evidence from the sqa at their meeting on the 29 September 2021. The papers for this meeting were combined in an information pack (ecyp/s6/21/4/1).

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The convener opened the meeting with ades by asking how well the witnesses felt supported by the Scottish Government and the sqa over the previous 18 months. In reply Tony McDaid said, ‘There was a genuine willingness to collaborate and a genuine opportunity to do that through different engagement exercises’ (McDaid, 22.09.21, Col 3). Audrey May supported that and described how her authority had communicated with young people. Michael Marra asked what concerns the panel had about what young people had missed. Tony McDaid replied:

Young people have shown us that we can learn in a different way. I am not as worried about the knowledge gap, because, from a qualifications perspective, adaptations were made. There were practical adaptations around some of the content.

mcdaid, 20.09.21, Col 8
Audrey May added, ‘that some young people engaged very well online and some hit the ground running when they returned to school’ (May, 22.09.21, Col 9). The convener asked if the attainment gap had not widened for some young people. Audrey May agreed that it had for some young people and reminded the committee that during lockdown vulnerable young people were taught in school hubs. Bob Doris asked about the role of moderation in schools. In reply Audrey May described the moderation and quality assurance systems set up in her authority:

I am confident that we did everything that we could in that time to make sure that our young people were getting the results that they deserved, because people were working really hard. The commitment of teachers at that point to do the best job that they could for the young people was second to none.

may, 22.09.21, Col 13
Tony McDaid added that the process required confidence in teachers’ judgements.

It is based around what young people have done in class, and, ultimately, a young person wants to be assured that they have been treated as fairly as possible.

mcdaid, 22.09.21

Bob Doris agreed that there was confidence in the alternative certification model for 2021 but asked about contradictions in the sqa advice. In reply, Tony McDaid said schools and teachers tried to give young people certainty about when they might be assessed. Fergus Ewing moved the discussion onto the future of assessment for Scotland. Audrey May replied that there was a need for trust in the system and for everyone to be involved in a debate about future changes. Willie Rennie asked if assessments were less stressful than exams for pupils and teachers. Audrey May said it was something that education authorities wanted to understand but there was too much uncertainty due to the pandemic to reach a decision. Oliver Mundell asked about the data analysis tools local authorities used to support quality assurance in schools. Tony McDaid replied that they were sense- checking tools to ensure consistency across professional judgement. Stephanie Callaghan asked how local authorities would listen to the views of young people about their covid-19 experiences and Audrey May described the consultations held with young people in her authority. Ross Greer then asked about the use of historical data for moderation. Tony McDaid replied that was useful, ‘to make sure that teachers are confident in the grades that they give’ (McDaid, 22.09.21, Col 30). The meeting ended with a discussion about the number of assessments some pupils had in a short period in May.

The second session of evidence began with a series of questions to Larry Flanagan about the sampling of courses and the level of trust the Scottish Government and the sqa had in teachers’ judgement. Larry Flanagan replied that the Scottish Government and the sqa were focused on, ‘a robust quality assurance process’ (Flanagan, 22.09.21, Col 36) and the eis wanted the process to support the professional judgement of teachers. Fergus Ewing asked Larry Flanagan about the eis views on the way the system should operate in 2022. In reply, Larry Flanagan suggested changes that could have been made and concluded that, ‘reverting to the existing system was probably the most straightforward approach’ (Flanagan, 22.09.21, Col 38). Seamus Searson said that for the ssta there were problems with communication and that the moderation in 2021 involved different processes, ‘as if the teacher was not being trusted’ (Searson, 22.09.21, Col 41). Oliver Mundell asked if the sqa had too strong a say in the alternative system. Seumas Searson replied that, ‘the sqa wanted to put control back into the system’ (Searson, 22.09.21, Col 44). Stephanie Callaghan asked how young people’s views would be included in the decision making about national exams. Larry Flanagan replied that ongoing dialogue was important, Seumas Searson that it was important to talk to the young people who had been through the alternative certification process. Tara Lillis added the feedback from nasuwt members was that they had been advocating on behalf of their pupils. The session ended with a discussion about the appeals process.

The third evidence session began with an opening statement from Fiona Robertson. In this she reflected on the use of the alternative certification model in 2021 and looked forward the return to exams in 2022. The convener asked a series of questions about the Government announcement to accept the oecd recommendation to replace the sqa with a curriculum and assessment agency. Kaukab Stewart asked what the sqa had learned from the previous two years. Fiona Robertson replied that contingency measures had been agreed to ensure that there was minimum disruption to learning if the pandemic situation changed. Gill Stewart added that they recognised the importance of communication with young people, to ensure they were fully aware of any future changes. Willie Rennie asked about inconsistencies in the system and Fiona Robertson replied the alternative certification model had to be flexible to fit with the different experiences of disruption across Scottish schools. James Dornan asked about consistency of grades across the country and Gill Stewart explained the moderation systems used in the alternative certification model. The meeting then discussed the use of historical examination data by local authorities as part of their moderation processes. Fergus Ewing asked how all four capacities could be assessed in the future. Fiona Robertson referred to her previous role as chair of the curriculum for excellence management board and that she was confident, ‘that the four capacities of curriculum for excellence are covered in the suite of qualifications that the sqa offers’ (Robertson, 29.09.21, Col 23). Ross Greer then asked how the sqa worked with the National Qualifications 21 group and asked if Fiona Robertson had met with the Children’s Commissioner to explore his comments about the work of the group. Fiona Robertson replied that she had not. Michael Marr and Bob Dorris asked a series of questions about preparations for the sqa exams in 2022. In reply Beth Morris described the modifications that were in place and the times at which decisions would be made, if national exams were unable to be held. Stephanie Callaghan asked about collaboration and making decisions with teachers and young people. Fiona Robertson replied that the sqa had appointed a new director of communications and they were increasing the number of young people on their working groups. The session ended with a question from Stephanie Callaghan about e-enabled assessment and Gill Stewart replied that the sqa had begun work on changing short question papers into e-assessments.

Session 6 Priorities

The committee took evidence from Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and her officials at their meeting on the 6 October 2021. This meeting was supported by a private paper (ecyp/s6/21/5/1).

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The meeting on the 6 October 2021 began with an opening statement from the Cabinet Secretary. In her statement the Cabinet Secretary referred to a paper ‘Education Recovery: Key Actions and Next Steps’ (Scottish Government, 2021) that drew from consultations with young people, partners and the international council of education advisors. She confirmed the funding of £1 billion over the parliamentary session to close the poverty-related education gap and the delivery from 1 August 2021 of the 1,140 funded hours of early learning and childcare. Stephanie Callaghan then asked what lessons the Government had learned from the pandemic. In her reply Shirley-Anne Somerville commented on how well education had worked together. Bob Doris asked about the strengths of the education system during the pandemic. Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that one of strengths of the system was, ‘The trust we can have in our teachers and their professional judgement’ (Somerville, 06.10.21, Col 5). Willie Rennie asked if the Government was going to follow the recommendation of the oecd and stop collecting assessment data from schools. The Cabinet Secretary replied that the government would review the use of assessments and what teachers used them for. Kaukab Stewart spoke about feedback the committee had received from young people who had told them. ‘that there were too many assessments in too short a time’ (Stewart, 06.10.21, Col 12). She asked if the Scottish Government was intending to listen to the views of young people and the unions when planning for the year ahead. In reply, Shirley-Anne Somerville spoke about the formation of the national qualifications 2021 group and said that the sqa was considering how to involve more young people in the group. The convener asked about Skills Development Scotland and Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that she thought it was ‘working effectively’ (Somerville, 06.10.21, Col 15). Ross Greer asked for information about the action the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ehrc) was taking with the sqa. The Cabinet Secretary replied that she took the issue very seriously and had been reassured that work was underway to address the issue. Oliver Mundell suggested that because of this situation the government should, ‘step in and assume day-to-day responsibility for decision making at the sqa,’ (Mundell, 06.10.22, Col 21). Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that, ‘it would be utterly inappropriate for a politician of any colour to have direct control of qualification credits in the country’ (Somerville, 06.10.21, Col 21). Michael Marra asked about the implications of the ehrc’s action on the sqa. Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that the action was related to historic policies, and that the sqa had sought permission from the ehrc and published a list of the policies affected. This led to further questions about the inclusion of sqa staff in the consultation on education reform to which Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that staff had already been in discussion with Ken Muir, who was chairing the review. Stephanie Callaghan asked about government plans to publish data on the health, wellbeing and confidence of pupils. In reply, Shirley-Anne Somerville said that there would be review of the national improvement measurements in 2022 and then a consultation about which measures need to change. Willie Rennie asked about the proposal to include children’s services in the national care service and the Cabinet Secretary replied that that proposal was still under consultation.

Pre-Budget Scrutiny

The committee took evidence from the Auditor General for Scotland and officials for Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission at their meeting on 3 November 2021. This meeting was supported by a Pre-Budget Scrutiny Pack (ecyp/s6/21/7/1).

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The meeting began with an opening statement from Stephen Boyle about their joint report with the Accounts Commission: Improving outcomes for young people through school education (Audit Scotland, 2021). James Dornan asked what had been learned from the pandemic in relation the Christie commission. Stephen Boyle replied that the pandemic had led to more collaboration in the delivery of public services. Rebecca Seidel gave an example of colleges and universities working more closely with regional partners to address skills needs during the pandemic. Kaukab Stewart asked about the lack of connection between spending per pupil and attainment. In reply Sharon Connor highlighted the differences between areas in Scotland and the range of challenges in different areas. Fergus Ewing asked about the cost of providing education services in rural areas. Stephen Boyle replied that one of the findings in their report was that the attainment challenge funding structure did not recognise rural challenges in the distribution of the funding. Willie Rennie asked about colleges and if regionalisation had achieved the outcomes expected. Stephen Boyle replied that they continued to work with colleges and had seen some examples of good practice. Rebecca Seidel added that in 2018 they had reviewed three of the regional groupings and had recommended that the Government and the Scottish Funding Council should review the regional arrangements. Michael Marra asked if any work was underway to assess the longer term impact of the pandemic in children and young people. Tricia Meldrum responded that the equity audit published in January 2021 had collated information about that impact and recommended areas to take forward. Stephanie Callaghan asked about the expansion of early years services and how that would be evaluated. Stephen Boyle replied that the policy had been explored and was now in place in all local authorities. He added that Audit Scotland had recommended to the government to evaluate the wider economic benefits of the policy, such as parents entering the workforce. Ross Greer asked about planned work on the provision of additional support for learning in schools. Stephen Boyle replied that they had been encouraged to undertake the work by the Morgan Report but had not yet planned the evaluation. Tricia Meldrum added:

We are considering issues around the transitions from early learning into primary and secondary education, and then potentially into post-school destinations. Links with colleges provide a potential area of focus, given that we can look across the whole range of public services and the whole learner journey.

meldrum, 03.11.21, Col 36

The meeting ended with a question from the convener about the focus of the committee’s scrutinising during session 6 of the parliament. Stephen Boyle replied that, ‘Public spending needs to be mapped to the national performance framework outcomes that are intended from it’ (Boyle, 03.11.21, Col 42).

Impact of covid-19 on Children and Young People with Additional Support Needs and Care Experienced Young People

The committee took evidence from two panels of witnesses at their meeting on 17 November 2021. The meeting was supported by a covid asn Pack (ecyp/s6/21/9/1). The committee took further evidence at their next meeting on the 24 November, which was supported by a covid-19 Impact Deprivation paper (ecyp/s6/21/10/1). The committee heard further evidence at their meeting on the 1 December 2021. This meeting was supported by a submissions pack (ecyp/s6/21/11/2).

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The first session of evidence began with a question from Bob Doris about the learning and wellbeing hubs that operated during lockdown for children with additional support needs. Bruce Adamson replied that the hubs were important in ensuring access to education but said that the commission was concerned that the specialist support that was available before covid was not in place in the hubs. Stephen McGhee agreed that the hubs were a vital provision but that when hub staff had covid this reduced the support available. Linda O’Neill added that local authorities took different approaches to assessing individual need and offering places in hubs. Bob Doris then asked what support was available for children and young people who could not attend hubs. Linda O’Neill replied:

There are some really lovely examples of local authority services going out to families’ doorsteps to do sessions in music, art and creativity, or going for socially distanced walks because they recognised the need for people to continue their crucial relationships with the trusted adults in their lives and support wellbeing during the pandemic.

o’neill, 17.11.21, Col 5

Bruce Adamson said that the children and young people had told the commission that, ‘No-one asked them what they or their families needed’ (Adamson, 17.11.21, Col 6). The meeting then discussed the range of children and young people who attended hub schools. Kaukab Stewart asked about digital provision during lockdown. Bruce Adamson said that this worked well for some children but there were limitations for children who required different technology. Linda O’Neill said that the challenge with digital provision was not just equipment but also about digital literacy and using different software packages. Michael Marra asked for evidence about the impact of the pandemic on children and young people with additional support needs. Bruce Adamson replied that it was difficult to measure the impact and longitudinal research would be required to follow what happens. Ross Greer asked about young people who had re-engaged with school during lockdown through remote learning, and what had happened to them now young people were back in schools. Bruce Adamson replied that they had not been able to follow that up and noted that the transition back into school was difficult for some children. The session ended with a discussion about the impact of face masks on communication for children and young people with additional support needs.

The second session of evidence began with a general question from Willie Rennie about the difficulties in accessing additional support. Laurie Black agreed that covid had made access more difficult, but that the situation existed before the pandemic. James Dornan asked about support for schools and teachers to support children with additional support needs. Laurie Black replied, ‘we need a better infrastructure or additional support needs and pupil support as a career pathway for teachers’ (Black, 17.11.21, Col 30). Michael Marra asked if taking forward the recommendations of the Morgan review would be more difficult post pandemic. Sally Cavers replied that it would be and that the implementation should be taken forward quickly in order to support children and young people. Fergus Ewing asked what changes needed to be made to enable access to support for children with profound needs. Sally Cavers said it needed to begin by including the child and their family in the discussions about the support needed. Kaukab Stewart asked about engagement with black and minority ethnic children who had additional support needs and their families. Sally Cavers replied that there was a need to work with community organisations to support such families. Willie Rennie asked about the impact of mainstreaming on other pupils and teachers. Sally Cavers and Laurie Black replied that mainstreaming did not meet the needs of all pupils. The meeting ended with a question from Ross Greer about the delays in the diagnosis of additional support needs during lockdown.

The third session of evidence began with a question from Stephanie Callaghan about the aim to close the poverty-related achievement gap. In reply John Dickie said that everything needed to be in place to achieve that aim, including action to address poverty itself. Michael Marra asked about changes to the funding structures for the Scottish Attainment challenge and the implications of that for the nine local authorities with the most deprived communities. John Dickie replied that it was, ‘right to ensure that funding reaches all parts of Scotland, because we know that children live in poverty in every part of Scotland’ (Dickie, 24.11.21, Col 3). He then added that local authorities would need to work with Government to ensure that no gaps were caused by the transition to new funding structures. The convener asked if child poverty in Scotland had changed because of the pandemic. John Dickie replied that that pandemic had made poverty more visible and there was now understanding, ‘that the best way to support families on low incomes is to ensure that they have more money’ (Dickie, 24.11.21, Col 10). He then gave an example of the way that cash responses in place of free school meals during lockdown worked best for these families. Willie Rennie asked what the role of schools was in relation to poverty. In response the panel talked about understanding local communities, using a rights based approach in schools and working to enable children and young people to access education. Oliver Mundell asked about rurality and poverty during the pandemic. John Dickie replied that existing barriers were made worse during lockdown such as transport and access to out of school activities. Sawat Rehman said that there was a need to look across Scotland and understand the impact poverty had on families living in different places. Bob Doris asked about pupil equity funding and how schools could plan to use the money. John Morrison said that the priority for the funds should be health and wellbeing, this was supported by John Dickie and Sawat Rehman added that engagement with families was important. Ross Greer asked about any positive developments during the pandemic that should be continued. John Dickie replied that devices and connectivity were key and cash based responses to enable families to make choices. Sawat Rehman talked about the importance of engaging with people and John Morrison that parents and carers had begun to value themselves more as educators.

The fourth session of evidence began with a question from Kaukab Stewart about the covid-19 education recovery group (cerg). Jennifer King replied for ades that her experience on one of the cerg sub-groups was of a collaborative approach to the challenges they faced. Laura Caven added that cerg had a specific role in taking scientific advice and turning that into practical actions to support learners. Bob Doris asked cosla about the money identified for education recovery. In reply, Laura Caven said that local authorities would make the decisions about spending. The meeting discussed the number of teachers on temporary contracts which Laura Caven agreed to write to the committee about. Stephanie Callaghan asked Mike Corbett about teachers supporting the mental health and wellbeing of pupils. He replied that additional staff were needed to support pupils. The convener asked about the reduction in child protection referrals during the pandemic. Joan Tranent explained the change in referrals was caused by school closures and that referrals were starting to come through schools again. The meeting then discussed the need for data to inform future interventions and the challenge of responding to the recommendations in the Morgan Review.

Skills Aligned with Business Needs

The committee took evidence from two panels on skills aligned with business needs at their meeting on 8 December 2021. The meeting was supported by a submissions pack (ecyp/s6/21/12/5). They heard a further session of evidence at their next meeting on 15 December 2021. This meeting was also supported by a submissions pack (ecyp/s6/21/13/1).

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The first session of evidence opened with a question from Fergus Ewing for suggestions to encourage young people to enter the hospitality and building sectors. Leon Thompson replied that he would like to see more of the collaborative approach with Government that had happened after the re-opening of hospitality during the pandemic. Paul Mitchell said there were some immediate actions to take to support current apprentices to complete their qualifications and that he would welcome the return of the flexible workforce development fund. Michael Marra asked about skills gaps following the pandemic. Leon Thompson replied that there was a shortage of skilled labour but the sector was adapting to the situation. Ross Greer asked if there was a need to rebrand foundation apprenticeships to encourage more participation. Paul Mitchell agreed and said that foundation was not the right way to describe them. The meeting discussed the apprenticeship levy before considering graduate apprenticeships and the role of the Developing the Young Workforce programme in schools.

The second session of evidence began with a question from Kaukab Stewart about the need to support the development of digital skills in school. In reply Karen Meechan talked about the shortage of computing science teachers, particularly in rural and remote areas. Natalie Coull added that computing science students were often not aware that they could complete a one year qualification to become a teacher. Mark Logan said that a career as a computing science teacher was not seen as attractive by graduates. He then outlined to the committee the actions he would take to change that. Stephanie Callaghan asked about bringing industry experts into schools, which both Mark Logan and Karen Meechan supported. Ross Greer asked what action was being taken to address the gender imbalance in stem subjects. In reply Karen Meechan described two programmes that promoted the skills required in the sector, Mark Logan explained how he would add project based activities to the curriculum to develop skills and Natalie Coull spoke about the lack of knowledge amongst young people about the career opportunities there were in computing.

The convener opened the third session of evidence with a question about the apprenticeship levy. Allan Colquhoun replied that the saab was employer led and that he had heard no complaints about the levy, but that employers would like the levy to be more directly linked to needs in their sector. Karen Watt spoke about the way the levy funded flexible workforce development funds, which were distributed through the sfc. Bob Doris asked how the young person’s guarantee was monitored. Sharon Drysdale replied that Skills Development Scotland (sds) met regularly with colleges and monitored the outcomes for young people at an individual level. Kaukab Stewart asked about work to increase the diversity of students on national training programmes. Katie Hutton replied with information about the equalities action plan in the apprenticeship schemes. James Dornan asked how sds worked out future demand. Frank Mitchell replied that sds did that through a range of regional and sectoral skills assessments. Those annual reviews informed regional and sectoral plans that they agreed with relevant stakeholders. The meeting ended with a discussion about the success of graduate apprenticeships.

Budget 2022- 2023

The committee took evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, and her officials at their meeting on 12 January 2022. This meeting was supported by a Budget Pack (ecyp/s6/22/1/1).

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The meeting began with an opening statement from Shirley-Anne Somerville in which she listed the main spending areas for the education and skills budget. The convener opened the questions by asking about the covid recovery funding provided in August 2021 to local authorities to enable them to offer permanent contracts to teachers and the planned reduction in class contact time for teachers. Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that a reduction in class contact time was something to be agreed with local authorities and the trade unions. Ross Greer asked about structure of the budget for teacher pay. Graeme Logan replied that it was arranged to enable local authorities to work flexibly, according to local needs. Stephanie Callaghan asked about a wider use of qualitative data in education. The Cabinet Secretary replied that a short life working group was considering the oecd recommendations about data. Michael Marra asked a series of questions about the plans for teacher recruitment. In reply, Shirley-Anne Somerville said, it ‘is the biggest increase in funding for teacher recruitment since 2007’ (Somerville, 12.01.22. Col 19). James Dornan asked how the multi-year funding plans for further and higher education would be taken forward. Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that the sfc would work with the institutions to allocate funding. Fergus Ewing asked about funding for rural areas. The Cabinet Secretary replied that she would welcome any proposal Fergus Ewing had to amend the funding formulas to recognise rural issues and reminded him that any changes would need to be agreed with cosla. The meeting ended with a discussion about the budget for additional ventilation in schools and the way that local authorities would spend that fund.

covid-19 and Schools

The committee took evidence about covid-19 and schools at their meeting on 19 January 2022. This meeting was supported by a covid and Schools Pack (ecyp/s6/22/2/2). They considered a draft report, in private, at their meeting on 26 January 2022.

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The convener opened the meeting with a question to Simon Cameron about permanent and temporary contracts for teachers. In reply, Simon Cameron explained the factors that were considered by local authorities when deciding on the nature of contracts. Stephanie Callaghan asked about the impact of the omicron variant on staff absence. Douglas Hutchinson replied that there had been an increase in staff absence which had an impact across schools. Ross Greer asked about the use of funds for ventilation equipment in schools. Simon Cameron replied that discussions about accessing the funds were almost complete. Kaukab Stewart asked for further information about the ventilation assessments that were carried out in schools. Simon Cameron replied that the work was carried out in October 2021 and, ‘Over 52,000 identified learning and teaching spaces were audited’ (Cameron, 26.01.22, Col 20). The meeting spent some time discussing the various approaches schools and local authorities were taking to improve ventilation. Fergus Ewing proposed that every pupil should be taught to touch type to improve their use of digital technology. Douglas Hutchinson replied that he would be concerned about the return on the investment in that type of training, as many digital devices did not have keyboards. The final questions to the panel considered the continued use of face masks in school and the reintroduction of remote learning.

Drink and Needle Spiking

The committee took evidence in a roundtable discussion about drink and needle spiking at their meeting on 26 January 2022. This meeting was supported by a Drink and Needle Spiking Pack (ecyp/s6/22/3/3).

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The discussion began with an introduction from Hilary Sloan about the rise of reported incidents of spiking in October 2021. Sally Mapstone added that spiking affected young people in general and not just students. Martha Williams said that spiking had always been an issue, and that reporting had increased when authorities showed an interest in it. Kate Wallace said her organisation had been working with Rape Crisis Scotland to ask for access to health screening for people who suspected they had been spiked. Hilary Sloan said that Police Scotland had focused their messages about spiking on the perpetrators. Jill Stevenson talked about work undertaken in the University of Stirling and emphasised the importance of a partnership approach to the problem. The meeting then discussed the various ways that spiking was reported and recorded in hospitality settings, before considering bystander training. Kate Wallace made a number of points about the legal situation in Scotland where spiking sits under other crimes. Jill Stevenson said that the equally safe in colleges and universities core leadership group had developed a joint strategy for preventing and tackling gender based violence in universities, suggesting using that group as a way to roll out training across institutions. The group then discussed ways to connect up college and university approaches with city and local authority structures. The meeting ended with a discussion about the need to have spiking as a crime in Scotland.

Subordinate Legislation

The committee considered and made no recommendations in relation to the following instruments during this period:

  1. Registration of Independent Schools (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 (ssi 2021/251)
  2. Disclosure (Scotland) Act 2020 (Commencement No.1 and Transitory Provision) Regulations 2021 (ssi 2021/380)
  3. Education (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) (No.2) Regulations 2021

The committee considered the following instrument and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills for further information about the instrument:

  1. Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021

The Committee took evidence at their meeting on 8 September 2021 the Provision of Early Learning and Childcare (Specified Children) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 2021 from Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People and Joanna Mackenzie, Scottish Government. The committee unanimously approved the order:

  1. S6M—00700 The Provision of Early Learning and Childcare (Specified Children) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 2021

The committee took evidence at their meeting on 27 October 2021 on the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Act 2021 regulations from John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and his officials. The discussion was supported by a SPICe information pack (ecyp/s6/21/6/3). The committee unanimously agreed the first instrument and made no comment on ssi 2021/313 or ssi 2021/333.

  1. ssi 2021/312 Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Reimbursement of Costs and Expense) (Scotland) Regulations 2021
  2. ssi 202/313 Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Payment of Legal Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2021
  3. ssi 2021/333 Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) (No.2) Regulations 2021

The committee took evidence on the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Payments Materially Affected by Error) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 from John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and his officials at their meeting on 1 December 2021. This discussion was supported by a copy of the proposed legislation (ecyp/s6/21/11/1). The committee unanimously approved the legislation.

  1. s6m-01889 Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Payments Materially Affected by Error) (Scotland) Regulations 2021

The committee took evidence on Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (Applications for Removal from List and Late Representations) Amendment Regulations 2021 at their meeting on 8 December 2021. They heard evidence from Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People, and her officials. The discussions were supported by a copy of the legislation (ecyp/s6/21/12/1) and a SPICe note on barred lists (ecyp/s6/21/12/2). Meghan Gallacher moved that the legislation be annulled. The motion was not agreed to by division.

  1. s6m 02353 Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 (Applications for Removal from List and Late Representations) Amendment Regulations

The Committee took evidence on the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Reconsideration and Review of Determinations) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 at their meeting on 22 January 2022. John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and his officials attended the meeting. The motion was agreed unanimously.

  1. s6m-02797—That the Education, Children and Young People Committee recommends that the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Reconsideration and Review of Determinations) (Scotland) Regulations 2022

UK Parliament Legislation

The committee took evidence on a legislative consent memorandum lcm (s6) on the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill from Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, and his officials at their meeting on 27 October 2021. This meeting was supported by an information pack (ecyp/s6/21/6/8). The minister reported to the meeting that an agreement had been reached with the UK Government to enable Scotland’s involvement in the new agency through the chief scientific advisor for Scotland. The committee considered a draft report on this legislation, in private, at their committee meeting on 1 December 2021.

References

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