Two years ‘at least’ before Education Scotland changes

A strategic director at Education Scotland has said it will be “business as usual” for the organization “for the next few years” – despite the Scottish government’s promise to reform the body in the wake of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report last year.

The OECD review published in June recommended splitting the dual functions of Education Scotland, which is responsible for inspection and curriculum development. That move was also supported by Professor Ken Muir in his report, published in March, on how the reform of Education Scotland and the replacement of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) should be taken forward.

But, in evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education, Children and Young People Committee today, Patricia Watson, an Education Scotland strategic director, told MSPs that education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville had said it would be “at least two years before the organization actually does change “.

Ms Watson added: “So, as far as we are concerned, for the next few years – and the cabinet secretary has been very supportive of that too – it is business as usual in Education Scotland.”

Ms Watson was seeking to reassure the MSPs who sit on the committee – and who were today continuing their inquiry into the Scottish Attainment Challenge – that it would continue to have the capacity to fulfill its challenge function in relation to closing the attainment gap, given the structural change on the horizon.

However, that there will be no change for “at least two years” will be a source of frustration for those critical of Scotland’s Education performance.

Before the OECD report was published last year, both Education Scotland and the SQA were already under pressure after, in February, MSPs voted for “substantial reform” of the organizations, saying they had “not met the expectations or requirements of hardworking teachers, pupils”. or parents throughout the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic “.

In her evidence to the committee, Ms Watson said that “the whole issue of reform” had been “a challenge for Education Scotland over the last year” but that the organization welcomed the Muir report and did not see change “as a bad thing”. .

The committee convener, the Scottish Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr, challenged Ms Watson on this saying: “You’re being scrapped – how can you welcome that?”

Ms Watson replied that “reformed” was the word she would use, but that the change the body would eventually undergo was “not just a name change”.

She said: “The change to the organization will create for us really important opportunities. As you know, there has been a lot of discussion, shall I say, about the need to separate the inspection function from the improvement function in Education Scotland. All of that will be to the good, I think, for the system. ”

The Muir report recommended the creation of three new agencies in Scottish education: a new qualifications body to succeed the SQA that was provisionally called Qualifications Scotland; a new national agency for Scottish education responsible for curriculum, assessment, and professional learning; and a new independent inspectorate.

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