SQA is not a monster… just a parasite

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YOUR headline describing the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) as a “bureaucratic monster that needs slain” (6 June) is a little hyperbolic. The SQA has evolved to be such as successive governments have abdicated responsibility to it, allowing government to crow about any success but deny any failure: nothing new there.

The SQA has as one of its strategic aims “to continue to pursue a business model that would enable SQA to achieve self-financed status”.

One way to do this is to cut costs. The SQA is doing this in two ways which, in my opinion, are highly detrimental to the holistic education that the Scottish Government advocates in the Curriculum for Excellence.

The SQA has done away with examinations for large numbers of S4 pupils, stigmatising them just as they were stigmatised before Standard Grade when we had the O-grade children sitting exams, and the rest who didn’t. National 4 second-class citizens know that the government and the SQA don’t value them as much as National 5 citizens who get invigilated, external exams that are marked by paid, outside markers. National 4 pupils get what the teacher delivers, and that’s it.

It’s cruel for 15-year-old pupils – who you’ve nurtured for well over a year – to be told that there is no National exam for them, unlike other pupils in their year. I’ve had hard-working pupils in tears when they find that they haven’t done well enough in soul-destroying SQA internal assessments to be allowed to sit an external exam: so much for Curriculum for Excellence’s “confident individuals”, and so much for the fairer society that the Scottish Government wants. Government has been complicit in condoning the SQA’s un-­egalitarian approach.

The second way that the SQA ensures “… that arrangements are in place that will lead to an economical, efficient and effective use of the organisation’s resources…” is to use other people’s resources. The SQA demands that teachers deliver, mark, assess and verify tests, then do it all again if a pupil has not done well enough, all at no cost to the SQA.

But there are costs. There are costs to the physical and mental health and well-being of both pupils and teachers. There are costs to extra­curricular activities and costs to teaching and learning as teachers are spending hugely disproportionate amounts of time working for the SQA (which is not even their ­employer).

The SQA may well be a bureaucratic monster that may need slain in some people’s eyes. It is certainly a parasite. It parasitises schools and maintains itself by sucking resources from the education system, energy and enthusiasm from teachers, and motivation and interest from pupils.

If you can’t get rid of parasites, they should, at the very least, be controlled and the damage that they do should be minimised.

David Muir

Findhorn Place