Our “In a Nutshell” series provides parents, carers, professionals and others interested in all things Scottish Education with a wide variety of resources to help keep them in touch with policy changes, current events, subject matter and now, education reform.

This Nutshell guide was produced with support from the Scottish Government’s Parent and Learner Engagement Team.

You can download our latest Nutshell guide here: Education Reform in a Nutshell

Today we are launching a survey to gather input from parents and carers across Scotland as a follow-up to conversations around education reform that we have been having throughout the last 12 months. This survey focuses on creating a new national body responsible for qualifications and assessment.

You can dive right in and complete our survey here. If you’re interested in participating in one of our focus groups on this topic, register your interest here. If you’re an office bearer in a parent forum, parent council, or parent teacher association interested in setting up a local focus group on this issue, please email resources@npfs.org.uk for an info pack.

For background and further information, you can read the Scottish Government’s consultation paper on establishing a new qualifications body here. You can also complete the official Scottish Government survey here.

The National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) understands the difficult decisions being taken regarding the exam diet planned for 2021.  As an organisation we have contributed to the Priestly review as well as being consultees in the process to find the best way forward for our children and young people. 

As the body representing Parents across Scotland’s public schools, we recently undertook a snap poll of Secondary School Parent Councils to gauge the views of parents and carers in advance of today’s announcement.  


Over 80% of Parent Councils who responded to our poll were opposed to the full exam sitting being forced through irrespective of the public health situation at the time.

It was clear that over 70% of respondents wished for Higher and Advanced Highers to be prioritised, given the importance of this stage of the senior phase in education. 

A narrow majority of respondents sought to have all exams be cancelled, using teacher assessment and professional judgement be used to estimate the grade expected to be awarded for each candidate. 

Clearly evident in our findings is that parents, carers and teaching professionals need to be informed as early as possible in order to mitigate the difficulties experienced with the 2020 examination diet and to allow our children and young people to attain the awards that they are entitled to expect from their level of work in these difficult times.  


Speaking about today’s announcement, NPFS Chair Margaret Wilson said

“There is no decision today that is going to please everyone in this situation; whether parents/carers, teachers and support staff and most importantly our children and young people.  The pressures faced by families, coping with stress created by the pandemic, sometimes losing employment, supporting home learning whilst balancing many other issues has been significant.  Our young people have been through a significantly stressful time and we welcome the timing of this announcement which we trust will give sufficient time for our teachers, schools and education authorities to make sufficient plans.  Most importantly we trust that our children and young people will secure confidence in knowing that there is a plan to ensure that appropriate grades are awarded which directly reflect their level of learning, not their postcode or the past performance of their school.”

Further information on the processes to be put in place by the SQA as referred to by the Deputy First Minister are available at 





The National Parent Forum of Scotland is a national body led by and for parents. It is an influential national and independent body, working on behalf of parents with children in education across Scotland to help every pre-school and school pupil maximise their potential.

The National Parent Forum of Scotland is comprised of volunteer parent/carer representatives from each of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas. Please visit www.parentforumscotland.org for more details.

The National Parent Forum of Scotland represents parents and carers by engaging with them and parent councils, and we are involved in working with both local and national levels of government to make sure that parents and carers have a full and equal voice in our children’s education.
We aim to fairly represent all parents, and we appreciate that there are a wide range of views and opinions.

The Scottish Government has announced a new Delivery Plan for Education which aims to improve school performance and close the attainment gap. The Plan will:

Read more about the Plan here.

The Scottish Government is rolling out the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) aspects of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. What does this mean for families?

The Act aims to improve the wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland. It is wide ranging and includes key elements of the GIRFEC approach such as the Child’s Plan and the Named Person.

If you are looking for key facts about the Named Person, the Scottish Government has provided answers to many of the frequently-asked questions about the scheme on this page.

NPFS has worked with Scottish Government on all aspects of the Act and we look forward to more of Scotland’s children and young people benefiting from the national roll out of Getting It Right For Every Child.


Read the evidence submitted by NPFS to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee about the draft National Improvement Framework amendments to the Education (Scotland) Bill.

Education Bill NIF amendments NPFS evidence Nov 15

The National Improvement Framework aims to drive forward improvement in Scottish education and close the attainment gap by focussing on the following ‘baskets’:

Find out more in our submission to the Parliament.


Who does what in Scottish Education?

The Scotland Act 1998 gave the Scottish Parliament power to make laws on devolved matters.  Education and training is a devolved matter. (others include health and social services, law and order, local government, sport and the arts).  Employment and Social security are amongst the reserved matters.

The Scottish Parliament comprises of elected Members of the Scottish Parliament and is the law-making body for all devolved matters.  The Parliament considers proposed legislation and scrutinises the activities and policies of the Scottish Government through debates, parliamentary questions and the work of committees.

Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) represent their constituents and can take a number of actions in the Scottish Parliament, including putting forward an issue for or speaking in a debate in the Parliament, introducing a bill or proposing changes to the law. Ask questions of the Scottish Government.   The MSPs in the other parties with responsibility for Learning/Education are:

Scottish Parliament – Party Spokespersons
Scottish Labour Iain Gray Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Skills
Scottish Conservative Liz Smith Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills
Scottish Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott Spokesperson for Education and Sports
Green Ross Greer International Development, External Affairs, Education, Skills, Culture & Media Spokesperson

The main committee in the Parliament that deals with education related issues is the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee. The committee ask relevant parties to provide written or oral evidence if they are scrutinising an issue.  The NPFS has been asked to provide evidence.  The committee members are:

Scottish Parliament – Education and Culture Committee
Convener James Dornan SNP
Deputy Convener Johan Lamont Scottish Labour
Member Colin Beattie SNP
Member Daniel Johnson Scottish Labour
Member Fulton MacGregor SNP
Member Gillian Martin SNP
Member Jenny Gilruth SNP
Member Liz Smith Conservative
Member Ross Greer Scottish Green Party
 Member Ross Thomson Conservative

Scottish Government  is responsible for deciding how the country is run for devolved matters.  It makes policy and implements laws that have been passed by the Scottish Parliament.   The current Administration is the Scottish National Party (SNP).  Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister and Head of the devolved Scottish Government.  She is supported by 9 Cabinet Secretaries and 12 Ministers.

The cabinet is made up of the senior members of the Scottish Government. Every Tuesday, during the Scottish Parliamentary term, the Cabinet meets to discuss the most important issues for the Scottish Government.   John Swinney ( Deputy First Minister) is Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

There are 12 ministers who are aligned to and support the work of the Scottish Cabinet. Shirley-Anne Somerville was appointed Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science in May 2016.  Shirley-Anne Somerville supports the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

Scottish Government is managed by a Strategic Board of Directors (the civil service top table) who are responsible for different areas of responsibility.  Leslie Evans is the Chair of the Strategic Board.  The Director-General for Learning and Justice is Paul Johnston.

Scottish Government is made up of Civil Servants.  Learning Directorate is structured as follows:

Education Scotland is Scottish Government’s integrated national development and improvement agency for education, charged with providing support and challenge to our education system, right through from the early years to adult learning. It brings together the work of Learning and Teaching Scotland, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and some functions currently carried out by Scottish Government.   As an Executive Agency of the government, Education Scotland agrees its broad strategic plan with Ministers, but also operates with a high degree of independence in turning that plan into practical action.  Dr Bill Maxwell, former HM Senior Chief Inspector of HM Inspectorate of Education is the  Chief Executive Officer of Education Scotland.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the national body in Scotland for the development, accreditation, assessment and certification of qualifications other than degrees and some professional qualifications. It is responsible to the Scottish Government for the credibility, reliability and worth of its qualifications.  The Chief Executive is Dr Janet Brown.

COSLA is the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and is the representative voice of Scottish local government and also acts as the employers’ association on behalf of the majority of Scottish Councils.  There are 32 directly elected Councils in Scotland and 1,222 elected councillors who are elected every 4 years.   Councils are responsible for the delivery of local services including education.   COSLA represents collectively the Councils to Scottish Government.

ADES is the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland   They are an independent professional network for leaders and managers in education and children’s’ services.  They work in partnership with local and national government and other agencies.