Exams Scotland: SNP warned recent reviews have 'paralysed' plans for a shake-up of Scottish education

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth urged to be ‘brave’ as she prepares to update Holyrood today

Education chiefs have called for ministers to take “brave decisions” on the future of Scottish schools as they warned a flurry of recent reviews had “paralysed the system”.

The Association of Directors of Education Scotland (Ades) and council umbrella body Cosla have both given their backing to a major shake-up of school exams, proposed in June in a key report led by Professor Louise Hayward.

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Cosla has revealed it told ministers it was “broadly supportive of the direction of travel” outlined in the report, which recommended ending school exams for S4 pupils and introducing a new Scottish Diploma of Achievement.

Education and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA WireEducation and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Education and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Ades has also backed the findings, but warned there was “confusion and frustration” about the future of education reform in Scotland.

The intervention comes as education secretary Jenny Gilruth prepares to update the Scottish Parliament on the proposed overhaul today.

In June, she paused plans to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland to take time to properly consider the wide-ranging recommendations made in a series of reports, including the Hayward review, the “national discussion” on the future of education, and the Withers report on skills delivery.

In a newly-published submission to Holyrood’s education committee, Ades highlighted a dozen recent reviews impacting Scottish education. It said there had been “little progress” made since a landmark report by the OECD in 2021, “other than further external reports”.

The education directors added: “There are many opportunities outlined in the many external reports on the direction of reform, but the number of reports and recommendations has paralysed the system. Now is the time for some brave decisions based on all of the advice already provided over the last three and four years.

“The risk is to ignore the advice and not progress with a review of the senior phase in particular.”

Ades also said: “There is no doubt that confusion and frustration exist in the system due to the large number of external reports followed by the number of recommendations making progress unmanageable, swiftly followed by inactivity.”

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Meanwhile, in its letter to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, Cosla said it was asked by the Government to provide its response to the Hayward review in August.

It said: “Cosla is broadly supportive of the direction of travel of the new approach to qualifications and the shape of the reform programme set out by Prof Hayward’s report, as it is in line with the key points set out in Cosla’s response to the public consultation.

"However, we believe that this report is a first step and there are areas that will need to be worked through in more detail with schools, local authorities, and our partners across the education system.”

Cosla said a “key area” would be focusing on “equity” as any new framework for qualifications was created, highlighting Scotland’s communities and schools were diverse in terms of geography, demographics, and levels of deprivation.

The body said it was equally important that work was carried out to “understand the capacity that will be required in schools across Scotland to deliver a new approach to qualifications”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The education secretary has been clear that we must take the opportunity to design our national education and skills landscape in its totality, to better support children, young people, and our adult learners – and that this process should be given the time needed to allow it to be shaped by the expertise of our teachers and practitioners.

“It is only right and responsible that a range of views are gathered from experts and key stakeholders and that these are able to be considered fully and holistically as we move forward.”



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