The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has this afternoon written to schools, following Tes Scotland's story this morning about thousands of students sharing details of assessments on social media site TikTok.
The message, titled "Maintaining the confidentiality of secure assessment materials" and sent from Dr Gill Stewart, the SQA's director of qualifications development, advises that "appropriate penalties should be applied" if cases of "candidate malpractice" are identified.
But a teacher and lecturer who is one of the fiercest critics of the SQA has accused it of "seeking to blame others for their own incompetence", and described this afternoon's move as "ridiculous".
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The SQA message reads: "SQA has been made aware of very serious incidents involving candidates sharing confidential assessment content on social media. We are taking this matter very seriously and have contacted the centres [that is, schools and further education colleges] to ensure that the posts are removed as soon as possible and that any candidate malpractice concerns are managed locally within the centres."
SQA assessment: Students sharing 'exam' details online
It advises that "candidate malpractice concerns are to be managed locally within centres", adding: "If you become aware of a candidate malpractice concern, your own centre's malpractice procedures are to be applied as quickly as possible to contain any potential security breaches. If the malpractice investigation finds that there has been candidate malpractice then appropriate penalties should be applied.
"Taking these steps to maintain the security and confidentiality of the secure assessment materials will protect the integrity of these assessments and help to ensure fairness for all learners.
"Maintaining the confidentiality of these assessment materials is critical to the credibility of the alternative certification model."
James McEnaney, an FE lecturer, teacher of English and education journalist, tweeted about the message shortly before 5pm today.
He told Tes Scotland: "Once again the SQA is seeking to blame others for their own incompetence. Are they seriously suggesting pupils should be punished for talking about exam questions that they have already sat? It is a ridiculous idea that needs to be squashed immediately.
"Anyone with even the slightest grip on reality could have seen this coming and the fact that they did not simply adds to the overwhelming evidence that this organisation is not fit for purpose."
The message from the SQA's Dr Stewart also states: "We have provided optional secure assessment materials to assist teachers and lecturers with gathering evidence for provisional results. These include 2021 question papers and marking instructions, and 2021 coursework assessment tasks, which are available from the SQA Secure website. Teachers and lecturers have the flexibility to decide how and when to use these materials with their learners, which can be used in part or in their entirety.
"We wrote to all schools, colleges and training providers on Tuesday 20 April confirming the importance of maintaining the security of these assessment materials. They are confidential materials and must be stored securely when not in use.
"Learners must only have access to the content of secure assessment materials when completing their assessments under supervision. Learners must not be given access to printed or digital copies of the assessment materials before or after their assessments take place. This includes content that has been extracted from the 2021 question papers and used as part of a centre-devised assessment. In addition, items such as mobile phones should be removed during assessments.