SQA criticised for holding teachers and pupils in 'contempt' as statement on appeals expected next week
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has been accused of holding pupils, parents and teachers in contempt after it missed another deadline for publishing its appeals process for the 2021 exams.
Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Michael Marra criticised the qualifications authority for “repeated mistakes” and called on the education secretary to consider whether the SQA’s role was “tenable”.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, who took over the education brief from deputy first minister John Swinney last week, said she intended to make a statement about the appeals process to Parliament next week.
She said she was confident the system would be “fit for purpose” and “robust”.
Pressing the Scottish Government on the SQA's failure to publish details of their appeals process for the 2021 exam diet during an urgent question in Holyrood, Mr Marra said it was now a “necessity” to make the process public.
He said: "The SQA have promised the publication twice and have missed both of those deadlines.
"Does the Cabinet secretary recognise that it is now less that four weeks to the deadline for submission from schools to the SQA and if evidence is to be collected for appeals, when would parents, pupils and teachers be able to do this in the absence of a published process?
"I don’t think that the Scottish Government is in any doubt that a public appeals process is a necessity.
“We would ask the Cabinet secretary to reflect on the conduct of the SQA across the last year. These latest delays show a level of contempt, frankly, for parents, pupils, teachers across Scotland who are having to deal with a situation.”
Ms Somerville said the process would be “communicated very thoroughly” to pupils and teachers when it is announced.
However, Mr Marra said it was time for a rethink around the role of the authority.
He said: "I’m really glad that there is a change in tone in this to tell the truth from the new Cabinet secretary, that she’s not digging in as we’ve heard recently that these assessments are not exams.
"People are sitting exams across the country and they have a right to that appeals process and to put it in place.
"I will be raising with the Cabinet secretary the status of the SQA and whether she thinks their continued role is tenable given repeated mistakes again and again over the last year."
Responding, the education secretary said the past year has been “difficult” for pupils and teachers, but defended the SQA, adding the organisation had “worked very very hard” in developing the alternative certification model.
She said: “I think the SQA have worked very hard to ensure that what is in place is fit for purpose and to ensure that they have done that in a fair and equitable way and those are the principles that I’ve certainly been speaking to the SQA about and that is something they absolutely share and have a determination to have right at the heart of the system.
"Will we have lessons to learn at the end of this process? Undoubtedly we will.
"I think we have made clear during the entirety of this pandemic that we have to reflect about what went well, what we could have done better, and that goes for every single part of government.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.