Panel tasked with scrapping SQA and reforming Education Scotland to complete work within six months

An expert panel set up to make recommendations over replacing the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and reforming Education Scotland is to be set up by August and the work of advisor Professor Ken Muir concluded within six months, documents published by the Scottish Government have shown.

The government pledged to scrap the SQA, which oversees Scotland’s exams system, and reform Education Scotland following recommendations from an OECD report earlier in the summer – just weeks after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged she had “full confidence” in the examinations body.

The advisor, supported by the panel, will provide advice to the Scottish Government and education secretary Shirley Anne-Somerville on aspects of education reform.

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This will include designing the implementation of the OECD’s recommendations for structural and functional change of SQA and Education Scotland. It will include the delivery of the national curriculum, assessment, qualification and inspection functions, and recognise and include the wider functions of both these bodies.

The advisor, supported by the panel will publish his conclusions by January.

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The consultation, which will also engage widely across the education sector with relevant bodies, will be led by Prof Muir, who will carry out the work four days a week alongside his role as Honorary Professor at the University of the West of Scotland.

It is expected that the panel, which will include Billy Burke, head teacher of Renfrew High School and Cathy McCullouch, Co-Director and co-founder of Children’s Parliament in Scotland, will meet at least monthly between August and January next year.

Other proposed members include education academics Professor Graham Donaldson and Professor Louise Hayward, both of the University of Glasgow, Prof Walter Humes of the University of Stirling, Prof Anne Looney of Dublin City University and Khadija Mohammed of the Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators, as well as Dr Naomi Stanford, organisation design author and consultant.

In addition to the expert panel, Prof Muir will also establish a more extensive Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group, made up of organisations including professional associations, that represent the following diverse range of interests related to the reform – children and young people; employers; local authorities; the tertiary sector; practitioners across different sectors and providers; and parental interests.

As well as scrapping the SQA, it is expected the inspection function will move out of Education Scotland – an issue that Prof Muir will consider.

The Scottish Government publication said: “The advisor will consider the proposal and resultant implications of creating a new, specialist agency responsible for both curriculum and assessment.

"In addition, he will outline the rationale and purpose for reform as set out by Scottish ministers and ensure that any reform is designed to achieve this. All aspects of the work will be undertaken with as much openness and transparency as is possible.”

The document added: “The advisor will begin this work in August 2021 and it will conclude in around six months after this start date. The intention will be to also have expert panel membership and that of the practitioner and stakeholder advisory group confirmed by mid-August.”

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