Scotland's schools standards body is to be replaced as part of efforts aimed at revamping the national education system.

The new agency will take over from Education Scotland after a critical review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) that was published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville unveiled the change in a statement to MSPs on Wednesday afternoon.

She said: “Scottish education has much to be proud of but the system needs to evolve and improve.”

Ms Somerville told MSPs the new agency would “provide excellent leadership and support for curriculum, assessment, learning and teaching while also having a lead role in relation to Curriculum for Excellence”.

Plans for the new body are among a range of newly announced measures, which include replacement of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the creation of a fully independent inspectorate.

READ MORE: Scotland should reform '19th century' pupil assessments

Ms Somerville’s statement is in response to recommendations in a report that was produced by Professor Ken Muir, former chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland. His work was informed by a national consultation involving pupils, teachers, parents and other stakeholders.

Prof Muir’s recommendations broadly mirror those set out in the OECD review, published last year, which highlighted the need for a more structured approach to curriculum review and implementation.

The OECD authors also highlighted a misalignment between arrangements in the Broad General Education – which is delivered between the ages of 3 and 15 – and those for S4-6 pupils in the Senior Phase.

Their report says young people preparing to sit exams find senior school lessons “boring” due to an excessive focus on memorisation and rote-learning. "CfE was characterised to the OECD team as a 'clash between 19th century assessment and 21st century curriculum'," it states. 

The analysis led to an announcement by Ms Somerville that the SQA would be replaced. She also said inspections would be removed from Education Scotland’s remit.

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Addressing MSPs on Wednesday, the Education Secretary added: “My announcements today are significant and are designed to strengthen the education landscape and to provide clarity and coherence. However, if we are to place learners at the centre of our education system we must also reform the culture of bodies and indeed the system itself. Professor Muir’s message in this respect is challenging and we must all do more.

“Our renewed system must reflect the culture and values we want to see embedded throughout; it must be a system that puts learners at the centre and provides excellent support for our teachers and practitioners.

“But it must also be a system where there is clear accountability. Democratic accountability, organisational accountability but also accountability to the learners who have a right to expect the highest quality of learning and teaching while giving them the best chance of success.

“A clear and unambiguous learner focus must therefore be a feature of the way we take forward our work. Professor Muir’s report contains some hard messages from young people about their experience of education and one way to address this to ensure these voices are heard more clearly and more often.

“We need a culture and mind-set that places the needs of individual learners and their learning at the centre of all decision making; all actions; all behaviours. We also need a culture and mind-set which ensures that those working with learners can have their professional needs readily supported.”

The Herald: Ross Greer, of the Scottish Greens, welcomed the reforms.Ross Greer, of the Scottish Greens, welcomed the reforms.

Ross Greer, Scottish Greens education spokesperson, welcomed the changes. 

He said: “These reforms are exactly the kind of structural and cultural shake-up our education system needs.

"I know from years of holding the SQA to account that pupils, teachers, parents and carers have all felt ignored, so I am proud of the government’s commitment to ensure that the replacement bodies will give them a seat at the table when decisions are made."

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He added: “For too long the SQA and Education Scotland have appeared out of touch, hostile to feedback and lacking in transparency. As per the terms of our cooperation agreement, the Scottish Greens and SNP will now take these much-needed reforms forward.

"Working with the hundreds of talented staff at both bodies and their trade unions will be key to this process. They are certainly not to blame for years of management failures."