Scottish Government – Written Evidence (EDU0103)



Scotland’s lifelong education and skills system is part of Scotland's critical national infrastructure, underpinning our economy and our society. This system, like many others, was tested to its limits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst this presented unprecedented challenges, it also generated innovation, new practice and enhanced collaboration across all parts of the system. 


There is much to learn and build on from that experience to ensure our system is better able to adapt to meet the challenges ahead of us. Working together with partners across the education and skills landscape, the Scottish Government is driving forward a programme of transformational change with a laser focus on securing better outcomes for our children, young people and adult learners.


To support this ambitious agenda, a series of independent reviews were commissioned (see Annex A) aimed at informing our reform commitments and ensuring that the delivery landscape that underpins our lifelong education and skills system is fit for the future. It must be capable of responding and adapting to technological change, free of silos, and encompass bodies with clear roles and responsibilities who act in concert with one another to serve the needs of our learners, our economy and our society. 


On 22 June, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Jenny Gilruth MSP, gave a statement to the Scottish Parliament to set out her ambitions for reform, with reference to the publishing of these independent reviews. She emphasised the importance of ensuring reform is guided by the sector and that there is capacity within the system to work with government to deliver on reform objectives. 


The Scottish Government is currently undertaking a detailed examination of the proposals that have been put forward through these interrelated reviews. Stakeholders across the system will have the opportunity to engage with and contribute to this consideration before final decisions are made. 


In her statement, the Cabinet Secretary made clear that our approach to reform must be holistic and reflect a clear expectation that all elements of the education and skills system will work together as one single system, that has a collective responsibility to deliver for learners of all ages. This approach recognises the opportunity to deliver against our economic ambitions, supporting employers to be better connected to provision at all ages and stages and to take account of the specific place-based needs of Scotland’s regions in terms of workforce planning and provision.   


This agenda has the potential to be the most comprehensive and cohesive set of reforms across the public sector landscape in Scotland. These reports have implications for children and young people, as well as those looking to upskill or retrain; practitioners, local government and central government along with our national bodies. The Cabinet Secretary has been clear that we must ensure that the full range of reform reflects their interests. 


Her Statement also confirmed her commitment to replace the current education and qualifications bodies, recognising that the establishment of new bodies alone will not in itself deliver the meaningful and radical reform we need. This needs to be accompanied by changes in culture and ways of working. She also confirmed that legislation to underpin a new qualifications body and new inspectorate would be introduced in the next parliamentary year (2023-24). This would allow the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment and the James Withers’ Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape to be fully considered before introducing legislation.


The Cabinet Secretary indicated her intention to provide a comprehensive update on next steps and a response to the reviews in the Autumn.


Links to all the reports mentioned in this briefing can be found at Annex A.


The OECD Review and the Muir Report

In 2020, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney MSP, invited the OECD to assess progress implementing Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in Scottish primary and secondary schools five years on from the previous OECD review in 2015. The aim of this was to understand how school curricula in Scotland have been designed and implemented.

In its report “Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future”, the OECD recognised that Scotland’s CfE was among the pioneers of 21st century learning and that it continued to offer a vision and a philosophy of education that was widely supported and worth pursuing. However, it also indicated that Scotland needs to adopt a more structured and strategic approach to curriculum review and implementation and enhance the coherence of the policy environment that surrounds CfE.

In June 2021, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, confirmed that all 12 OECD review recommendations would be accepted in full and announced her intention to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), to consider a new specialist agency for both curriculum and assessment, while also taking forward reform of Education Scotland (ES) including removing the function of inspection from the agency. Professor Ken Muir of the University of the West of Scotland, and independent adviser to the Scottish Government, was appointed to lead an expert panel.

Professor Muir led the work to provide advice to the Scottish Government on the next steps for the replacement of SQA and reform of Education Scotland, including separating out the Inspectorate from Education Scotland. Professor Muir asked for consultation inputs and received responses from a broad range of practitioners and stakeholders including: SQA; ES; the 50+ strong Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group (PSAG); children and young people; and parents and carers.  Representatives from professional associations, local and national government and national and international organisations were also consulted.

Professor Muir delivered his report “Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education” in March 2022 based on wide-ranging consultation and review of other countries’ systems. The report recommended the establishment of a revised infrastructure to begin the simplification of the Scottish education landscape and to ensure that all teachers and practitioners have greater clarity on the roles and functions of the national bodies.

It was agreed that the evidence base provided a compelling case for reform of the education system. Whilst the reputation of the qualifications offered in Scotland remains strong, there was a consensus that the system that delivers them needs to be improved. It indicated that simply changing the organisations will not be sufficient, and whilst it is recognised that transformation work has already taken place in the current bodies, significant whole system change is necessary. It was acknowledged that, over time, the opportunity cost of not proceeding with system change is likely to have an increasingly deleterious impact. 

The National Discussion on Education in Scotland


The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) co-convened the National Discussion on Scottish education in response to a recommendation in Professor Ken Muir’s report; Putting Learners at the Centre. Professor Muir recommended a National Discussion be undertaken to design a compelling and consensual vision for the future of Scottish education.

Ministers appointed Professor Carol Campbell of the University of Toronto and Professor Alma Harris of Swansea University to co-facilitate the National Discussion. Both are also members of the International Council of Education Advisers. Their remit was to engage with children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, education staff, the further and higher education sectors and employers to produce a

“compelling and consensual” vision for Scottish education.

The National Discussion was launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and

Skills and the COSLA Children and Young People’s Spokesperson on the 21st of September 2022. This was followed by an intensive engagement phase that ran until the 5th of December 2022. In keeping with the recommendations of the Muir Review, the facilitators ensured that the views of children and young people were at the heart of the National Discussion. They also sought the input of the adults who care for, represent, support and work with children and young people, including parents and carers, school leaders, teachers, other education practitioners and support staff.

This was a generational opportunity for children, young people, and those who support them to have their voices heard concerning the future direction of Scottish education. The guiding question for the National Discussion was: "What kind of education will be needed by children and young people in Scotland in the future and how do we make that a reality?" 

Through analysis of the responses and discussions during the National Discussion, the intended outcome was to produce the vision for Scottish education accompanied by a Call to Action to outline the strategic steps to achieving that vision in practice.

The independent facilitators worked with a broad coalition of early years organisations, schools, other education organisations, community groups, third sector organisations, youth workers, parents' groups, education professional organisations, local authorities, and policy makers to engage all those involved in Scottish education. 

In designing the questions and engagement plans, they consulted with more than a hundred organisations dedicated to supporting and representing children and young people, as well as education partners and parent stakeholder groups. They kept in touch with these organisations throughout, offering the opportunity for further feedback and commentary.

The depth and breadth of engagement in the National Discussion far exceeded expectations, with over 38,000 people participating and having their views heard. 

In collaboration with the Scottish Government, an online survey was launched with ten key questions available in multiple community languages, in accessible formats, and in an easy read version. A range of age-appropriate tailored discussion guides with further adapted National Discussion questions were produced by Education Scotland to help teachers, parents/carers, and youth workers engage children and young people directly and for adults to also engage in facilitated discussions. 

A total of 5,671 responses were submitted to the National Discussion, including survey responses and open submissions in a range of formats. Of these, 232 group responses were received.

The independent Facilitators participated in as many online and face-to-face sessions as possible. In total, there were 101 National Discussion events that they, or their National Discussion team, participated in directly. They adopted an invitational, grassroots engagement approach to help ensure that the discussion was as inclusive as possible, hosting public engagement events and participating in meetings hosted by organisations nationally, regionally, and locally. There were also face-to-face meetings with key groups to extend the reach of the discussion and gather as much first-hand evidence as possible. A social media campaign resulted in 10 million unique social media users seeing the hashtag #TalkScottishEducation. There were 6,000 Twitter posts about the National Discussion.

All schools in Scotland were invited to take part, using the age-appropriate facilitation guides. Online National Discussion assemblies and classes were provided by e-Sgoil for primary and secondary age pupils. Over 26,000 pupils and students participated in these online events to provide their views and to inform the exercise.

Every effort was made to ensure that the voices of children and young people who are not usually forthcoming in discussions or debates like this were included through specialist support groups or through their parents, carers, and teachers. Discussions with seldom heard groups of children and young people were organised and the facilitators reached out in ways that reduced as many barriers to participation as possible. 

Groups were facilitated for advocates who were able to represent the views, interests, and learning needs of those less likely to disclose their experiences within a public engagement meeting. 

Engagement with children and young people took place in the places that they use, in ways that worked for them, in areas of familiarity, including through social media. Work was also carried out through trusted networks such as the safe spaces created by youth workers, and there was extensive connection with parents and carers. Letters were sent to parents in collaboration with Connect and the National Parent Forum of Scotland that were distributed through schools. 

National and local parent organisations led their own National Discussion engagement activities and invited the facilitators to participate in meetings and focus groups. Parents of vulnerable and marginalised groups were invited to participate or be represented in discussions with relevant organisations.

There was collaboration with professional organisations to engage with the education workforce at all stages, from early years through to university. For example, the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS), the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), and the University of Glasgow hosted National Discussion events.

There were meetings the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women

Teachers (NASUWT) Scotland Black members' network, and  sessions during

Association of Head Teachers and Deputes Scotland (AHDS), and Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) conferences and many school leader events hosted by local authorities. 

The facilitators visited schools and met with staff and learners. Many education organisations also facilitated their own discussions and submitted responses to contribute to the National Discussion.

Local authorities and Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) facilitated local events and/or invited the facilitators to join meetings to discuss the National Discussion. (RICs are forums where local authorities and Education Scotland work together to improve education in their region.)

There were also opportunities to engage with members of SOLACE, ADES, and CoSLA and had invitations to participate in their conferences and meetings.

The National Discussion is the biggest public engagement exercise on education to have been undertaken nationally in Scotland and is already gaining international attention as a way of engaging people in educational change. To put this in context, the previous National Debate conducted twenty years ago had 1,517 responses. A total of 5,671 formal responses were received for the current National Discussion. 

An independent research company undertook an analysis of every National Discussion response submitted and of relevant social media posts. This work has considered all the evidence gathered to ensure that all the voices that were heard, and all those who contributed, are included in the analysis. To inform the National Discussion, the facilitators also considered previous reviews and consultations conducted concerning Scottish education in recent years and existing vision statements relating to key educational organisations, policies, and strategies.

To prepare this final report, the facilitators drew upon the analytical report produced by the independent company. They augmented this analysis by examining what was heard directly in National Discussion focus groups, meetings, and the events that they participated in, reviewed social media posts using #TalkScottishEducation and #NationalDiscussion, and undertook their own reading of submissions received as part of the National Discussion. The data was systematically reviewed and a full comparative analysis was undertaken to inform the vision, values, and Call to Action outlined in the report.

Some testing of the initial vision and values was conducted, and revisions were made to take account of the feedback received. Inevitably, each response to the testing phase was accompanied by suggestions to revise the vision and/or values in some way. 

The overall response to the vision and values was positive in terms of substance, tone, and positioning. The testing phase was also useful to ensure the wording of the vision and values resonates with key partners and stakeholders, while staying true to the commitment that the substance of vision and values would be directly informed and shaped by responses to the National Discussion. 

The central purpose was to reflect, authentically and clearly, what was heard within the National Discussion.

Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment 


The former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills announced in October 2021, the intention to reform qualifications and assessments. 

This was influenced by:

         Recommendations in the OECD’s Independent Review of Scotland’s School Curriculum;

         The COVID-19 pandemic and a renewed debate around assessment following the cancellation of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams in 2020 and 2021;

         Professor Gordon Stobart’s OECD paper setting out possible options for Scotland’s future approach to assessment and qualifications;

         Professor Ken Muir’s Report (2022) – Putting Learners at the Centre;

         Angela Morgan’s Report (2020) Support for Learning: All Our Children and All Their Potential.

The Review was independent from the Scottish Government, local authorities and other public bodies and was led by Emerita Professor Louise Hayward of Glasgow University.


Engagement Methodology

Professor Hayward designed and delivered an innovative model of engagement centred around an Independent Review Group (IRG) and allied Collaborative Community Groups (CCGs). There were three Phases to the Review and three points at which views from a wide range of stakeholders were sought.

Independent Review Group

Professor Hayward invited individuals from a range of backgrounds and experiences, including teachers and learners, to join the IRG. Members were invited not as representatives of any group or organisation but to act as a ‘link’ to their respective community. 

Members of the IRG included individuals from the following three core groups:

         those for whom qualifications matter most (learners and parents/carers);

         designers, developers and those who offer qualifications (extended profession and policy); and

         those who use qualifications (colleges, employers, universities, voluntary sectors).

Collaborative Community Groups

Each IRG member was tasked with creating a CCG, bringing together individuals from their community. An important principle of the CCGs was that they should be inclusive and involve individuals and groups which reflect the diverse make-up of all of Scotland’s communities, including those who are often missing from national policy discussions. 

CCGs met regularly throughout the Review to discuss issues relating to qualifications and assessments. CCG membership can be found here.

The number of CCGs increased over the course of the Independent Review as interest grew in the topics and sub-topics under discussion. 

The three phases of engagement, detailed below, provided the structure for engagement with the CCGs. The relationship between IRG and CCGs was iterative. Ideas considered in IRG were discussed with CCG members and evidence and insights from the CCGs was brought back to the monthly IRG meetings to form part of the wider evidence gathering process. 

The Review’s final report estimates that more than 400 people from a wide range of communities were engaged meaningfully in the three phases of consultation via the CCG process.

Three Phases

The first task of the Review was to develop a statement of a possible Vision and Principles for the future of Qualifications and Assessment in Scotland. Colleagues from the Scottish Youth Parliament and from the Children’s Parliament worked with the Review to develop this.

Three phases of engagement followed. The first phase of engagement sought views on the draft Vision and Principles. The draft Vision and Principles were also discussed in the IRG and the CCGs. 

A discussion pack, including a video, a background paper and survey were sent via Local Authorities to every school in Scotland and directly to every college. Responses were independently analysed, and the findings used to revise the draft Vision and Principles.

The Vision and Principles were used to inform the design of the proposed new model for qualifications and assessment. In addition, it was proposed by the Review in the final report that the Vision and Principles should become the “touchstone” for reform going forward. “To avoid the recurrence of previous problems with innovation in Scotland, where practice over time became different from the original reform intentions, the Vision and Principles should be used over time to monitor the relationship between ideas and enactment.”

The second phase of engagement, using the Vision and Principles as the starting point, sought feedback on options that would help define the parameters of a possible new approach to qualifications and assessment in Scotland. This phase of engagement sought views on a range of issues including:

         whether or not evidence of learners’ achievements should be gathered only for successful learners or more broadly to include achievements across the other three capacities of Curriculum for Excellence, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens;

         the balance between assessment based in an education setting and external assessment;

         the use of technology to enable new approaches to assessment and qualifications and as a means of recording achievements and;

         whether or not there should be an award at the end of the Broad General Education.

Topics were discussed in detail in the IRG and in CCGs. A second discussion pack with a supporting video, background paper and PowerPoint presentation was sent directly to all schools and colleges. In response to problems arising from Phase One, where the distribution process to schools had worked better in some parts of the country than others, in Phase Two discussion packs were simultaneously sent to Local Authorities and directly to every school and college. 

As part of Phase Two the Review also issued a public consultation.

The responses to the second phase were again independently analysed and the findings used to develop the model that became the focus for discussion in Phase Three.

The third phase of the Review sought views on a model for future qualifications and assessment in Scotland. The Phase Three model was designed to be consistent with the Vision and Principles agreed in Phase One and with views expressed on the parameters established following the Phase Two consultation. 

Respondents in the third phase were asked to consider the extent to which the proposed new model was consistent with the agreed Vision and Principles and, crucially, to identify the practical steps that would be needed for this, or an adapted, model to be successful in practice.

The findings from all three phases of the Review directly informed the recommendations in the final report.

School and College visits

During the three phases of the Review, members of the Review team visited schools and colleges across Scotland to engage directly with learners, teachers, lecturers, school leaders and college principals. In total 21 visits to schools and colleges were undertaken.

Reflections on the Methodology

The final report contains the following reflections on the Review’s methodology:

The Review was designed to engage all those with an interest in qualifications and assessment from the earliest stages of the design. The Review process included an extensive range of communities, including learners throughout the process. 

Having the range of communities within IRG was very positive. All IRG members were given the opportunity to see the issue of qualifications through the eyes of different groups, learners, parents, teachers and lecturers, schools and colleges, local and national policy makers, national organisations, employers and universities. The thematic groups brought different evidence to discussions. The IRG recognised that there were bound to be tensions and openly discussed the issues, with the aim of reaching a design that best meets the needs of Scotland. It is testament to the commitment of all those in the IRG, that despite the highly challenging nature of the conversations and the often-competing views, people stuck with the process and worked through problems.

Having two members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) in the IRG who had recent experience of the Senior Phase ensured the IRG kept a clear focus on learners being at the centre of the Review.

Members of IRG knew the communities with whom they worked and how best to engage with them. They were able to tailor communication from the Review to the specific needs of their community and they had contacts within it that made the Review process more effective and better targeted. The quality of feedback received was rich because of their involvement.

The model embodies collaborative working. However, there are areas where further work needs to be done if education in Scotland is to draw on the creativity and expertise of all those involved in the process. 

First, despite the wide range of approaches the Review adopted to engage with classroom teachers and to bring resources to their attention, we are aware that not all had the opportunity to contribute. The engagement of all teachers in policy development remains an issue for the sector. It will be crucial that this is addressed if reform of qualifications and assessment further to this Review, is to be successful in practice.

Parental engagement is another area where our collective practice needs to improve. The IRG members who organised the parental CCG could not have been more pro-active. Supported by a grant from Scottish Government, they adapted materials, constructed surveys, held meetings and thought creatively about how best to involve parents. 

In addition, some, but not all, schools involved parents in their consultation process. Despite this we retain the sense that not all parents have had the chance to engage with the Review. This is another area where a good start has been made but there remains much to do.

Recommendation two of the report suggests Scotland should retain the structure of the Independent Review Group and allied Collaborative Community Groups as a key method of engagement, as the country introduces and develops new approaches to qualifications and assessment. It should also build on this Review’s attempts to involve every school and college in the country, learn from where it worked well and how that learning should influence future consultations.

Next Steps

As outlined in the introduction to this briefing, the Scottish Government is now taking forward detailed examination of the proposals. A comprehensive update will be provided in the Autumn.

Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape


The Scottish Government initiated the Independent Review of the Skills Delivery

Landscape in August 2022. Ministers appointed an Independent Adviser, James Withers, to lead the Review. It commenced in September 2022 and concluded with the submission to Ministers of the final report in May 2023. 


The Review was launched in the context of Scotland’s new economic strategy, wider reform of the education landscape and the twin imperatives of tackling child poverty and achieving net zero, highlighting the need to ensure Scotland’s skills delivery system remained fit for purpose for the next generation. The priority projects in the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation (March 2022) emphasise the need for an agile, people-centred skills system built around collaboration. 

Scottish Funding Council’s Review of Tertiary Education and Research in Scotland (June 2021) made a case for evolutionary whole-system change to work towards a responsive, coherent education and skills system.


Purpose and Scope

The Review was to recommend how the skills delivery public body landscape should be adapted to be fit for the future and drive forward Ministers’ ambitions for a skilled workforce as set out in Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. 

The scope was established in the Terms of Reference (ToR), with the parameters set by the Scottish Government. It set out specific functional areas on which James Withers was asked to make recommendations including funding and delivery of apprenticeships, skills planning, and careers. It also requested specific recommendations on the functions of Scotland’s skills delivery agencies, particularly Skills Development Scotland.

The Review’s scope was wide-ranging, and the Independent Advisor had the remit to make recommendations to drive significant change. It was not about current or previous performance and focused instead on what was required for the future.

The Review regarded the post-school skills delivery landscape, however necessarily commented on some aspects of school education delivery including Foundation Apprenticeships and careers services where there was policy crossover.


The Review was asked to make specific recommendations regarding agency and advisory body roles with respect to:

         the governance and operation of Scotland’s apprenticeship programmes including the funding and contracting of apprenticeships;

         the design, development and approval of apprenticeship frameworks including the role and status of the Apprenticeship Approvals Group (AAG);

         the development and management of National Occupational Standards (NOS) and the commissioning of Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs);

         the contracting and quality assurance of skills provision through independent training providers, particularly to support upskilling and retraining;

         sector and regional skills planning including producing and communicating labour market research and insights and measuring whether planning leads to improved alignment and better outcomes;

         how to work with the proposed Careers Coalition to embed itself as part of the skills system and enable the recommendations of the Careers Review to be taken forward to ensure the provision and quality assurance of careers advice, information and guidance;

         support for young people, including those from marginalised groups, to develop their skills and experience to prepare them for the world of work and ensure that every young person has the option of a positive post-school destination;

         support for employers and industry with workforce planning and talent attraction and retention for their future skills needs;

         supporting employers to shape, inform, encourage and invest in skills and education provision, including the role and status of the Scottish

Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB) and the employer-led Developing the Young Workforce regional groups to best enable them to continue their roles as part of the skills system.



The Review was led by James Withers, supported by a small Secretariat drawn from the Scottish Government, to ensure the process was robust and evidence led, with no preconceived notions or predetermined outcomes.

The Independent Advisor had a specific remit to engage widely with stakeholders across the post-school skills and education system to inform his recommendations. 

The Independent Advisor was clear that the review should be evidence-led, and engagement should enable him to understand the range of views and perspectives on positives, challenges and what might need to change within the existing landscape. His aim was that everyone who wished to provide their views should have the opportunity to do so. 


The Review was conducted in two broad phases – insight and evidence gathering, and analysis and drafting. Engagement with stakeholders continued through both phases.


During the evidence gathering phase, the Independent Advisor and Secretariat conducted over 80 engagements with 100+ organisations and individuals. These included conversations with key stakeholders, businesses, users of the system and the national public bodies operating in the landscape.


A written call for evidence ran between October and December 2022. More than 160 responses were received.


A series of 11 interactive webinars were conducted during the call for evidence period with key stakeholder groups including employers, learners, workers, the post16 education sector and the staff of national public bodies involved in skills delivery. An online whiteboard was used for all participants to choose specific discussion topics, provide their views and as a prompt for discussion. This wide engagement was in conjunction with considering a wide range of relevant literature and reports. 


In the second analysis phase, to supplement the Advisor’s and Secretariat’s consideration of the evidence, consultants were contracted to provide an independent analysis of the submissions to the call for evidence and the inputs from the webinars. 


The final review was published on 7 June 2023.



Learning for Sustainability


In Scotland, climate education is part of a broader approach referred to as Learning for Sustainability (LfS). It is a powerful approach that links together themes of sustainable development education, social justice, climate change, global citizenship, children’s rights, equality and outdoor learning, and continues to draw positive comment internationally. Furthermore, Scotland was one of the very first nations to embed sustainability education as a cross-curricular entitlement for all learners


By way of background, Scotland’s 'Vision 2030+' strategy on ‘Learning for Sustainability’, was published in 2016. It developed the innovative cross-curricular concept of Learning for Sustainability and set a clear entitlement to LfS for all learners.

During 2022/23, the Scottish Government worked with a range of partners to refresh and strengthen its national plan on LfS. There were a number of reasons behind the decision to renew and strengthen the plan: 

         Professor Ken Muir’s report into Scottish Education (March 2022) “Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education” highlighted that this generation of learners sees climate change and social justice as the most significant issues facing their futures and, as such, must be recognised as a key driver influencing the future of our education system;

         At the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, Nov 2021, young people called for a greater emphasis on climate education, LfS, biodiversity and youth participation.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills therefore made a pledge to renew and strengthen the Scottish Government’s commitments on Learning for Sustainability. 

The engagement process to update and strengthen the LfS plan

The engagement process was conducted between 2022 and 2023. It involved a funded project with Scotland’s Children’s Parliament, who worked with children and young people aged 3 to 14 to reflect on why Learning for Sustainability matters for them. It also involved a project by University of Dundee to gather views from pupils aged 14+ and their educators.


The engagement process identified strengths and areas for improvement: 

         Where LfS is embedded it has often been down to the passion of those individuals who are driving the change. They often experience challenges and barriers as they seek to effectively implement LfS as a cross-curricular theme;

         Children and young people asked for more opportunities to learn outdoors and be in nature and to be empowered to make actionable changes in their educational settings to fully embrace the ethos of LfS. They also wanted the adults in their lives to take a proactive approach to support them to make those changes;

         It was clear that educators were at different stages of their “LfS journey”, with some utilising LfS principles in their work for many years and ready to take new next bold steps, while others were more uncertain about where to start;

         A key message, from both educators and pupils, is that adults need to learn more about sustainability to be able to share this with learners;

         Professional learning needs to be better at building confidence and capacity.

         A focus on "LfS in practice" rather than the theory, is key;

         Policy makers, education bodies and relevant partners must ensure that there is support for all those progressing on the LfS journey.

The newly strengthened LfS Plan

The engagement process closed in early 2023. The new Learning for Sustainability Action Plan was published on 23 June 2023.

Key actions within the new plan are:

         An ambitious new “Target 2030” commitment to ensure that every school and early learning setting will be a “Sustainable Learning Setting” by 2030;

         Further work to develop new LfS related qualifications;

         A commitment to take further steps to support Outdoor Learning;

         Creating a new portal which will act as a ‘one stop shop’ for learners and educators to share examples of LfS in action and to signpost to relevant resources and professional learning opportunities;

         Establishing a LfS Mentor Network for educators to encourage collaborative leadership, provide peer support and share approaches on embedding LfS in the curriculum;

         Creating a children and young people LfS Leadership Group to ensure meaningful collaboration with learners throughout the implementation of the refreshed action plan.

ANNEX A – Summary and Links to Reports


Putting Learners at the Centre; Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education

In his report, Professor Muir recommended broad changes to Scottish education, including a new qualifications body, a new national agency for education and a new inspection body. His report states that the needs of learners must be foremost, and that the views of everyone with an interest in learning must be given the chance to share their thoughts.  A National Discussion on education was recommended to help establish a compelling and consensual vision for Scottish education.


Link: Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education

- (



All Learners in Scotland Matter: National Discussion on Education


The facilitators of the National Discussion and their team took part in events the length and breadth of Scotland hearing from learners, carers, parents, teachers and many other groups with an interest in education. They received a total of 5,671 responses, including 232 group responses. Their findings showed that there was a real appetite for change in Scottish education. Respondents wanted learners to be at the heart of matters, and stated that it was crucial that all different sectors involved in education worked together to bring about the change that learners needed.

Link: 5.0 Learners - All Learners in Scotland Matter - national discussion on education: final report - (



It’s Our Future: Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment


Professor Hayward undertook widespread engagement when carrying out this review. She did this via her Independent Review Group, each member of which was responsible for setting up a Community Collaboration Group. She made a number of proposals, including carefully planned changes to assessments and qualifications in the senior phase and the introduction of “the Scottish Diploma of Achievement”, continuing the process of cultural change around assessments and working in partnership with other countries with similar aspirations to Scotland.

Link: It's Our Future - Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment: report - (



Fit for the Future: developing a post-school learning system to fuel economic transformation


As part of the evidence gathering phase for this report, James Withers and his secretariat had more than 80 engagements with over 100 organisations and individuals. These included representatives of key stakeholders such as businesses, users of the system and the national public bodies operating in the landscape. In his conclusion, Mr Withers stated that real change was required. Delivering this change will require strong leadership from the Scottish Government and structural change in the post school learning system.


Link: Fit for the Future: developing a post-school learning system to fuel economic transformation - (


Other Reports and Statements


Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills – Statement to Parliament on 22 June 2023

Meeting of the Parliament: 22/06/2023 | Scottish Parliament Website

Learning for Sustainability

Concluding Report: res1-vision-2030.pdf (

Action Plan:

OECD Report on Curriculum for Excellence: Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future | en | OECD

OECD Report on Upper Secondary Education: Upper-secondary education student assessment in Scotland : A comparative perspective | OECD Education Working Papers | OECD iLibrary (

Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation

Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation - (

Scottish Funding Council- Coherence and Sustainability: A Review of Tertiary

Education and Research

Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability (

Skills Development Scotland: Career Review

Career Review | Skills Development Scotland

Audit Scotland: Planning for Skills

Planning for skills (


9 August 2023