Cutting private school tax relief 'puts exams at risk'

Exam body SQA warns that private school staff account for 10% of teachers who help set and mark Scottish qualifications
2nd September 2019, 3:38pm

Share

Cutting private school tax relief 'puts exams at risk'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/cutting-private-school-tax-relief-puts-exams-risk
Cutting Rates Relief For Scotland's Private Schools Could Put Exams At Risk, Warns Sqa

The body that delivers Scotland's national qualifications is warning that they could be put "at risk" if the government pushes ahead with its plans to remove the rates relief that independent schools receive as charities.

Legislation currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament proposes removing the charitable rates relief currently enjoyed by independent schools - something that it is estimated will cost the sector around £7 million a year.

However, the Scottish Qualifications Authority has said that around one in 10 of the 6,000-plus teacher appointees it has on its books - who do everything from marking the exams to helping to set them - currently come from the private sector. 


For the removal of rates relief: 'It's only right to stop private school tax breaks'

Against the removal of rates relief: Rates reform 'restricts' work of independent schools

Background: MSPs meet private schools over plan to axe rates relief


If independent schools were to withdraw their support for the national qualifications by refusing to release teachers to take on these roles, it would "impact significantly on the SQA's operations and, in particular, successful delivery of our National Qualifications would be at risk", the SQA has said.

SQA 'relies on independent-school teachers'

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee, which is seeking views on the bill, Jacqui Faulds, the head of appointee management at the SQA, said the recruitment of appointees had already been "particularly challenging in recent years".

This was because of the increased number of appointees needed to deliver the new qualifications, she said, and the fact that "constraints within local authority schools" had "impacted on the release of teachers to undertake appointee roles".

Last year (2018-19), some 6,208 teacher appointees supported the SQA's activities, and approximately 10 per cent, many of whom were in "senior appointee roles", were employed by private schools, she said.

Ms Faulds continued: "If independent employing schools were to withdraw permission for teachers to work with SQA in appointee roles, this would impact significantly on SQA's operations and, in particular, the successful delivery of our National Qualifications would be at risk."

She added: "I would ask that this information is shared with [committee] members and SQA's dependency on the use of teachers from the independent sector is considered fully during discussions."

Melvyn Roffe - principal of independent school George Watson's College in Edinburgh - told Tes Scotland that the letter proved that "far from leeching off the state" independent schools actually provided "a grossly disproportionate number of staff under a system that benefits everyone".

Whilst private school teachers make up 10 per cent of SQA appointees, private school pupils make up just 4 per cent of the pupil population - and not all the private schools deliver Scottish qualifications.

However, Mr Roffe said he had already had discussions with his fellow headteachers about whether that support could continue if private schools had to pay rates in full.

Teachers at George Watson's did everything from marking to "developing assessment criteria" for national qualifications, he said. But if the schools were under pressure financially this would become harder, as had already been shown in the state sector.

Removing the rates relief would also result in a loss of good will, he predicted.

Mr Roffe said: "10 per cent of teachers come from our schools, which is more than three times the proportion you would expect. We have stepped up to fill the gaps that have been left by local authority employers, who have pulled their staff out because of cost pressures.

"We are told we are leeching off the system, that we are privileged and elitist, but this is proof that that extremely simplistic view of how the sector operates is inaccurate. Before this legislation goes through, I hope MSPs will think carefully."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Every year, thousands of teachers support SQA to deliver the national qualifications, and we expect this to continue. There are clear benefits for  teachers and schools in doing so, in terms of professional development and in helping them to improve the learning experiences of their young people. 

"As always, Scottish government will continue to work with SQA to ensure the effective delivery of the national qualifications system for Scotland's learners."

 

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters