Ms Somerville gave a commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a direct result of any restructuring required due to the replacement of the SQA following an announcement from union Unite that more than 84 per cent of their consulted members said they would consider industrial action. The Education Secretary also said she expected staff terms and conditions to be protected throughout the reform process.
Ms Somerville said: “I have said consistently that I fully appreciate that SQA staff are understandably concerned about the future, and that I am grateful for the hugely important work that everyone does. We are committed to continuing to work with SQA management to lead staff through this challenging time.”
Earlier this month, union Unite warned that workers at the SQA could strike, potentially disrupting this year’s exams.
Alison MacLean, Unite industrial officer, claimed there had been a breach in “fair work principles” by the SQA and Scottish Government.
She said: “The dispute which Unite has with the SQA is not over in any way, shape or form.
In a letter to SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson, Ms Somerville said: “I acknowledge that SQA senior management has, since the announcement was made to replace SQA, sought to secure reassurances on behalf of its staff. You will appreciate that these are complex and potentially wide-reaching issues, that have required careful consideration.
The exams body is to be broken up and replaced, with pupils, parents and teachers to be consulted on changes. Responsibility for school inspections will be split off to a new independent system.
The changes come after two years of disrupted exams as a result of Covid.
Ms Somerville said that following recommendations from an independent report as to how the new system should be structured, a “tripartite forum” would be established to assist staff as the new body is created.
She added: “I hope that this reply enables you to provide further clarity and certainty to staff.”