Scotland Policy Conferences

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
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Next steps for the school curriculum in Scotland following the OECD Independent Review

TO BE PUBLISHED October 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference will examine the key policy priorities for curriculum design in Scotland.

Areas for discussion include measures that can be taken to:

  • narrow the attainment gap
  • expand the current education offering
  • respond to disruption caused by the pandemic

It will also be a timely opportunity to consider the OECD Independent Review of Curriculum for Excellence, which is due to be published in June 2021 - with delegates examining the recommendations made in the review, and priorities for taking them forward.

We are delighted to be able to include keynote contributions from Beatriz Pont, Senior Policy analyst, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); and Anneli Rautiainen, Senior Counsellor of Education, Finnish National Agency for Education (FINEDU).

Overall, sessions in the agenda look at:

  • Findings from the Independent Review of Curriculum for Excellence, and the steps that should be taken to implement recommendations
  • Harnessing the CfE to support improvements in key areas of the Scottish education system:
    • supporting effective catch-up on learning
    • closing the attainment gap
    • driving wider post-pandemic recovery
  • Improving approaches to the teaching of the curriculum in schools:
    • scope for local flexibility
    • addressing educational inequality
    • fostering collaboration between providers
    • expanding the depth and breadth of learning
  • The latest in forward-thinking curriculum design - teaching carbon literacy, digital skills and gaming, and diversifying the curriculum
  • Learning from overseas practice around curriculum design and application
  • Next steps forward for the CfE - addressing its current performance and identifying the roadmap ahead

The agenda:

  • Findings from the Independent Review of Curriculum for Excellence and the steps that should be taken to implement the recommendations
  • Harnessing the CfE to support improvements in key areas of the Scottish education system - supporting effective catch-up on learning, closing the attainment gap, and driving wider post-pandemic recovery
  • Improving approaches to the teaching of the curriculum - scope for local flexibility, addressing educational inequality, collaboration, and expanding the depth and breadth of learning
  • The latest in forward-thinking curriculum design - teaching carbon literacy, digital skills and gaming, and diversifying the curriculum
  • Learning from overseas practice around curriculum design and application
  • Next steps forward for the CfE - addressing its current performance and identifying the roadmap ahead

Key policy developments:

  • Recent speech in parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, outlining her plans for education, which include: 
    • reviewing the remit and function of Education Scotland and the SQA
    • investing £1bn to close the poverty-related attainment gap
    • recruiting 3500 additional teachers and classroom assistants
    • ensuring every schoolchild has access to the technology they need
    • free school lunches for P4 children, before extending it to all primary school children
    • expanding free early learning
    • offering a £20m Summer Programme to help restore the wellbeing of children and young people worst affected by COVID-19
    • removing charges for core curriculum activities and music and arts education 
  • the OECD’s Independent Review into Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) - with the Review’s final report due to be published 21st June 2021
  • the Improvement Framework and Plan for Education in 2021 - The Scottish Government setting out key priorities, including improvements in:
    • attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
    • health and wellbeing
    • employability skills
    • positive school-leaver outcomes
  • recent research on education in Scotland - Devolved public services: the NHS, schools and social care in the four nations, the report from the Institute for Government:
    • finding that educational attainment and PISA results have declined since the implementation of the CfE, in sciences and maths in particular
      • despite Scottish schools spending the most per pupil, and having the most teachers per pupil of all the devolved nations
    • concluding that the introduction of the CfE might be an important factor in explaining the recent fall in attainment
  • response to the OECD Review - from the Royal Society of Edinburgh Education Committee, including recommendations such as:
    • promoting and developing the CfE’s role in skills development and interdisciplinary learning
    • improving transitions within the education system, especially in the progression to senior studies
    • teaming up with pedagogical experts in Scottish universities to provide clear guidance on curriculum design at a national level
  • forward-thinking curriculum design and education - recent developments, including:
    • A Changing Nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world - The Scottish Government’s recent Digital Strategy, including aims to improve the embeddedness of learning of digital skills in the education system
    • OCR’s proposal for a GCSE in Natural History - submitted to the DfE in October 2020, and seeking to address the gap in natural world and environmental issues in education
    • the recent call by the Scottish Greens for students to be taught a decolonised history of the UK, coupled with a greater emphasis on global warming and ways to combat it
    • the STEM strategy for education and training third annual report - sets out a range of principles to improve STEM education and training provision in Scotland

Areas for discussion:

The OECD Independent Review - assessing its findings, issues for implementing its recommendations, and next steps

The CfE and opportunities for improving the Scottish education system

  • catch-up tutoring:
    • harnessing the CfE’s focus on personalised and localised learning plans for supporting students to catch up on their learning in the wake of challenges caused by the pandemic
    • tailoring support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • wider post-pandemic recovery:
    • the role of the CfE in plugging Scotland’s skills shortages
    • addressing concerns over the potential impact of the CfE on performance in sciences and maths
    • ways to ensure preparation for the jobs of the future, such as those focused on data analytics and emerging technologies

Improving approaches to teaching the curriculum

  • local flexibility:
    • the experience so far of utilising the room for flexibility to meet local and regional needs
    • the potential for building on this for tackling educational inequalities, and tailoring approaches for students most in need
  • teacher development - discussing priorities for:
    • improving teachers’ capacity to implement the CfE
    • managing teacher workload and stress levels
    • priorities for clarifying the guidelines in curriculum design and implementation
    • the role of collaboration and sharing of best practice between providers
  • transitions:
    • next steps for improving the process of moving through educational stages and ensuring a coherent approach
    • ways that the CfE can respond to challenges for educational attainment and progression in the wake of the pandemic

Forward-thinking curriculum design

  • latest developments - assessing emerging best practice in cutting-edge curriculum design being put in place in schools
  • broadening Scottish curricula - options for widening the breadth of perspectives included, in areas such as:
    • climate change:
      • options around incorporating carbon literacy and environmental topics into school curricula
      • evaluating the recent proposal by OCR for the introduction of a Natural History GCSE, and the potential for applying similar approaches in Scotland
    • digital skills and gaming:
      • looking at ways to embed activities encouraging students to develop their digital skillsets
      • learning from best practice in gamification and the incorporation of digital technologies into education
    • diversity and inclusion:
      • examining calls for decolonising Scottish curricula following the Black Lives Matter protests
      • the role of LGBT content in school curricula
      • improving consultation with parents and guardians

International benchmarking

  • best practice - learning from overseas practice in curriculum design and development, and assessing ways to incorporate insights into the Scottish approach
  • benchmarking - evaluating Scotland’s performance in relation to other OECD countries

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from Education Scotland.

For this conference, as is typical of our meetings, we expect speakers and other delegates to be an informed group comprised of parliamentarians, senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with other education stakeholders including school leaders, teachers and teacher groups, virtual learning platforms, skills and training bodies, programme coordinators, mentoring groups, counsellors and wellbeing officers, local government, as well as academic researchers and reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Shortly after every Scotland Policy Conferences seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates