New bid to secure SQA and Education Scotland reform

Lib Dems aim to ‘secure the will of Parliament’ to remodel the national qualifications and curriculum development bodies

Tes Reporter

The Scottish Lib Dems aim to secure parliamentary support for reforms to the SQA and Education Scotland

Scotland’s national qualifications and curriculum development bodies are "not fit for purpose" and must be reformed, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.

Beatrice Wishart, the party's education spokesperson, said the Scottish government had a "rare opportunity" to reform both the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Education Scotland, arguing that the bodies were no longer suitable.

Earlier this year, opposition parties voted in favour of reform of the SQA and Education Scotland, following a Lib Dem-led debate.

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Now, following the Scottish Parliament elections last month, the party has made it clear it plans to keep up the pressure.

The SQA and Education Scotland 'not fit for purpose'

Yesterday Ms Wishart made an announcement, reported in The Herald newspaper, saying that her party was intent on securing the will of the Parliament, and gaining a commitment from the education secretary to remodel the two bodies.

She plans to lodge an amendment during an education debate in an attempt to secure the backing of other MSPs for the proposals.

News of the plan follows last year’s SQA results fiasco and warnings that this year the process for awarding grades, after the cancellation of exams, is once again failing students, who in many cases returned full-time after Easter to face a barrage of assessment.

Tes Scotland has also revealed in a series of exclusive articles that the exam papers provided by the SQA to support this process have been widely shared on social media. In a survey of 1,700 teachers conducted by teaching union the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), the majority of secondary staff said they had used these assessments in full to help determine students’ grades.

Lib Dem MSP Ms Wishart said the new education secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, must now take action.

"The new education secretary has a rare opportunity to take forward reforms that have the backing of teachers, pupils, parents and the Scottish Parliament," she said.

“[Former education secretary] John Swinney refused to listen and, as a result, lost their trust as well as any sense of how to get things back on track.

“The SQA and Education Scotland are simply not fit for purpose. Their shortcomings should have been addressed long ago. The exams fiascos could have been avoided.

“The SQA and Education Scotland must be reformed for the recovery. Teachers should be able to set the direction of the organisations.

"That's how to protect against repeats of the exams chaos that pupils and teachers have endured. I hope the new education secretary will recognise the benefits of these proposals this week."

Ms Somerville is due this week to reveal what the appeals process for students unhappy with their grades is going to look like.  

It is expected that, following concerns raised last year, including by the children’s commissioner, Bruce Adamson, this will include a direct route of appeal for students.

However, the Scottish Greens' education spokesperson, Ross Greer, said in the Scottish Parliament last week that “a large volume of appeals this year now seems inevitable”. He questioned whether the SQA would have the capacity to process those appeals “in a timely manner”.

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