I WOULD like to respond to the article by Andrew Johnstone and Stuart Ainsworth ( TESS, June 4). SQA has received a number of letters of complaint from individuals, education authorities and groups with specific interests in multicultural and anti-racist education. SQA acknowledges that their concerns, which relate to the General level English reading tests, are fully justified.
Setters and vetters of papers are appointed from the ranks of practising teachers and bring to SQA expertise in terms of knowledge of the subject and its assessment. Setters selected the passage with the aim of stimulating the interest of young people, as those which fail to stimulate do not bring out the best responses and candidates may fail to demonstrate their true attainment as a result. Nonetheless, the use of this passage was an error of judgment for which SQA accepts full responsibility.
SQA is committed to the principles of equal opportunities, and as part of this policy, we issue a checklist to setters designed to avoid cultural, racial or religious bias in examination tasks. That guidance has now been copied to the Commission for Racial Equality with a request for advice on how it might be improved.
SQA apologises unreservedly for the distress caused to candidates. We will ensure that it does not happen again.
Scottish Qualifications Authority