When will the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) be replaced?

The next deadline might turn out to be as realistic as the last one

Everyone knows that big government policies and projects have a habit of running late and over budget.

There are countless examples, from new ferries, to the National Care Service, A9 dualling, minimum unit pricing, the Scottish Parliament building itself, not to mention HS2, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines overseen by Westminster.

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As such, few will have been hugely shocked when Jenny Gilruth announced in June that plans to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Education Scotland had been delayed by a year.

That is not to say that everyone was happy about it, with the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union warning that teachers were “angered and dismayed” by the news.

Ms Gilruth seems to have come to the conclusion fairly quickly after becoming education secretary in March that it would be unwise to proceed with the legislation to create the new bodies within weeks of a huge number of recommendations having been made in a series of reports on the future of education.

However, her predecessors might be asked why 2024 was ever considered achievable, given the scale of the change proposed and the various reviews that were in the pipeline.

Ms Gilruth did not say that money was a factor in the decision to delay, but the delivery boards overseeing the reforms were repeatedly raising questions about resources and financing in the weeks and months leading up to the announcement.

The Scottish Government also often makes clear that it is facing the “most challenging financial environment since devolution”.

In the education budget alone, a £46m funding promise for universities and colleges has been withdrawn in recent months, and an announcement on which school building projects will get government support has also been delayed repeatedly.

Despite these pressures, Ms Gilruth has been adamant the reforms will go ahead, confirming to The Scotsman last Monday the replacement for SQA would be up-and-running in order to oversee the exams process in 2025.

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She must believe that is achievable or she would not have said it.

But few will be surprised if the next timetable for reforming Scotland’s education bodies is soon deemed to be as realistic as the last one.



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