The Education Committee brings together experts across all areas and levels of education to debate and analyse educational issues and produce recommendations for decision-makers. Since its inception in 2009, it has established itself as an independent and credible voice on various education issues such as the attainment gap, the review of Curriculum for Excellence and interdisciplinary learning.

Committee purpose

The Education Committee will:

Be concerned with all aspects of education in Scotland, and at all stages

Consider education initiatives or proposals and advises RSE Council on how the Society should respond to these, particularly those from Government

Organise, where appropriate, events that stimulate debate on educational issues

Be proactive in identifying and promoting priorities for education in Scotland

Be guided by the Programme Committee on resources, priorities, strategic fit and links with other work.

Operational process

  • Meeting frequency: normally meets three or four times a year as agreed by the committee.
  • Activities outwith meetings: to ensure that the RSE is in a position to engage with developments between meetings, sub-groups can be established to develop contributions by the Society to ongoing changes in education in Scotland. Such sub-groups must ensure that any submissions are signed off by the Convener or Vice Convener.
  • The Convener is responsible for signing off submissions and external engagement by the Committee. RSE General Secretary is responsible for signing off Education Committee responses on behalf of the Society.
  • Budgetary responsibility: to remain within the budget as set by Council. If projects or initiatives arise which would go beyond this, a case must be presented to the Council or appropriate Office Bearer with delegated powers for approval.
  • Committee quorum: at least Four members must attend meetings, including Convener or member of Council.
  • Reports to: the RSE Council.

Committee activities

The future of education

The RSE’s plans focus on the education and skills system that will be needed as we transition to a net zero economy and sustainable development and practices, while stressing inclusion and interdependence and coherence across the education system.

Key questions that sit beneath this overarching challenge include:

What does society value in education and skills?

How do we ensure we have the skills to achieve net zero?

What knowledge do learners need?

What is the balance between knowledge and skills?

What is it we are seeking to assess in education?

The committee is also actively engaged in the education reform agenda that is underway in Scotland, coordinating expertise advice and stimulating wide-ranging debate on critical issues. This includes the implementation of the findings of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) review of Curriculum for Excellence, Professor Ken Muir’s review of educational governance, and the Hayward review of qualifications and assessment.


Interdisciplinary learning

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) has, in partnership with others, sought over many years to raise the profile of interdisciplinary learning (IDL) in Scottish education, especially at primary and secondary school levels. While IDL is an explicit context for learning within Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), it has not yet been widely developed or embedded in school practice. The Committee recognises that there are positive examples of IDL being successfully implemented in schools, but in others it is clear that there has been little or no coordinated IDL development, indicating sporadic implementation at best.

The Education Committee held its first major full-day conference in January 2019 on the topic of IDL in education. This brought together policy makers and influencers, practitioners, learners and employers, and combined insights from leading international figures and practical wisdom and experience from closer to home. The conference considered: what IDL is; the importance of IDL for addressing major societal and global challenges; how IDL is currently being developed and delivered in Scotland and in other education systems; the main challenges to implementing IDL; and how teachers and schools can be supported to deliver IDL.

Interdisciplinary Learning: Creative Thinking for a Complex World

Reflecting the findings of the conference, the Committee published an advice paper in February 2020, setting out the actions and conditions needed to support the delivery of IDL in Scotland’s schools.

Embedding Interdisciplinary Learning in Scottish Schools

The IDL Network is a response to feedback provided by teachers during the 2019 conference which indicated that the sharing of best practice is critical to IDL delivery. The Network hosts free resources, guest blogs and a discussion space for practitioners.

The IDL Network

IDL teaching resources

An in-depth look into interdisciplinary learning and its benefits.
A statement of intent for the adoption and implementation of interdisciplinary learning as a key feature of Scottish education.

Early years education

The RSE held an early years conference that focused on placing the needs of children – their being and belonging – at the heart of early learning.

The conference took a comprehensive look at placing the needs of children at the heart of their learning, rather than focusing on early learning and childcare (ELC) as a means to an economic or practical end. The event comprised a series of plenary sessions which began by identifying problems before presenting potential solutions, culminating in a final session to hear sectoral views on where Scotland wants the ELC system to be ten years from now and the steps needed to get there.

Being and belonging – early years conference
Paul Bradshaw is Director of ScotCen Social Research, an independent, not-for-profit research institute and the Scottish arm of NatCen Social
Our approach to early education and childcare is of both symbolic and practical significance. It is suggestive of the type
Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology, at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of over 120 journal
The idea of universal early childhood education and care (ECEC) services is embedded in Nordic educational policies, and ECEC is
September 2021 marked the introduction of 30 funded hours of early learning and care provision for all Scottish 3-, 4-
As a leader in the field of early learning and childhood development, Professor Peter Moss will critically reflect on the

PUBLISHED PAPERS

The RSE response to the consultation on the provisions of the Education Bill, and the potential impact of proposed reforms to the SQA.
The briefing supports the potential of regionalisation but emphasises the need to address limitations and create the right conditions for its success.
The RSE’s response to the national discussion on education.
The RSE’s response to Professor Louise Hayward’s review of qualifications and assessment.
The RSE’s response to the Scottish Government’s consultation enhanced data collection for educational improvement.
Regionalisation marked a significant development in Scotland’s design and delivery of further education, but has not yet been fully realised.
The RSE Education Committee response to Professor Ken Muir’s consultation on the proposed replacement of the SQA and reform of Education Scotland.
The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Education Committee responded to Scottish Qualifications Authority’s (SQA) consultation on proposed models for the 2021 appeals process.
The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Education Committee recently prepared a response to the OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), commissioned by Scottish Government. This builds on the Committee’s representation in stakeholder sessions run by OECD this past autumn.
The RSE has provided a letter response to the Cumberford-Little Report on the economic impact of Scottish colleges. This response
A joint response in support of Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee’s evidence session on COVID-19 and the reopening of schools.
The RSE has published an advice paper setting out the actions and conditions needed to support interdisciplinary learning (IDL) in Scotland’s schools.
The Chief Executive of the RSE, Dr Rebekah Widdowfield, has written to Audrey Cumberford and Dr Paul Little in response to their review into the economic impact of Scotland’s colleges.
The RSE has responded to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee inquiry into Subject Choices.
The RSE has responded to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee inquiry into Scottish National Standardised Assessments in schools.

Committee Membership

Contact the education committee

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