Scottish ministers attacked for 'rebadging not reforming' embattled and scrapped Scottish Qualifications Authority

The education secretary has been attacked for failing to truly embrace the reform of Scotland’s education system after confirming a key agency’s responsibilities will barely change.

Shirley-Anne Somerville told MSPs the replacement for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which she pledged to scrap, would retain its regulatory and accreditation responsibilities.

This goes against the recommendation by Professor Ken Muir in his wide-ranging report into the reform of Scottish education to separate the two functions and create a new body responsible for the awarding of exam results.

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The education secretary said there were “significant benefits” to including the two functions in the new qualifications body due to be set up alongside a new national agency.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has been criticised by opposition parties

However, this decision has been criticised by opposition politicians, who accused the Government of failing to follow expert advice around the future of Scottish education and of rebranding existing parts of the system rather than reforming them.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Michael Marra said: “This is just the latest example of the SNP-Green Government going back on its promises and sweeping the big issues under the carpet.

“This is the first major test of whether the Scottish Government is serious about the findings of the Muir review and it has completely failed it. This is a blatant refusal to follow the expert advice.

“This flies in the face of both the research and the response that the Scottish Government made to the research in this area. This decision confirms the continuation of a status quo, which has caused many of the present problems in the SQA. With reform boards stuffed with insiders, many people have suspected that the reforms are a rebrand under the same management – this is the proof.”

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP, said it was a demonstration the Government “prefers education rebadging to education reform”, adding the reform appears to only change the name on the front door.

He said: “Parents and pupils will feel let down by this timidity and sleight of hand and this will also be a disappointment to the many teachers who engaged in the consultation exercise in good faith, only to discover that the review means nothing. If the outcome is just the same old, same old, what was the point of the exercise?”

Ms Somerville said: “The Scottish Government is taking forward sweeping reform, which will result in the creation of a new qualifications and a new national education agency. To suggest otherwise is wholly incorrect.

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“The initial proposal to hand responsibility for accreditation to the new national education agency would have raised issues over its independence from government. That is not something that we could support and our plan ensures independence of accreditation will be guaranteed in law.

“The Scottish Government has decided that accreditation and regulation functions will sit best with the new qualifications body following feedback and engagement with experts.”

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