Urgent work needed to improve SQA


Urgent work is needed by the SQA to rebuild its relationship with teachers. This is just one of the recommendations for improvement from a report issued today by the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee.

The report follows scrutiny of four key public bodies charged with developing and implementing education and skills policy, namely the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Education Scotland. 

The Committee heard a wide range of frustrations from teachers including issues with excessive and unclear guidance, complex administration and mistakes in exam papers issued by the SQA. Much of the evidence the Committee received was anonymised as teachers felt this was the best way for them to express their views freely. Hundreds of teachers also responded to a survey, with 67% of 646 respondents suggesting they lacked trust in the SQA.

The Committee’s report also raises concern about the impact of the ongoing Enterprise and Skills Review on the Scottish Funding Council. It questions the evidence base and calls on the Scottish Government to carefully consider the impact abolishing the SFC board will have on higher education, including on widening access, before proceeding.

Committee Convener, James Dornan MSP said:

"The evidence our Committee received was nothing less than eye opening about some of the problems faced by those working so hard on the front line of education.

"We heard first-hand about the time-consuming burden of guidance that has been placed on teachers, something the Cabinet Secretary has already shown his commitment to deal with. However, there continues to be confusing and contradictory messages coming from the very bodies that should be making it easy for our teachers to focus on the needs of our children.

“We were able to tell these big organisations in no uncertain terms how their actions impact on teachers.

"The Committee found it hard to understand how, in particular, the SQA has met the needs of Scotland’s learners having designed qualifications that have created a huge workload for teachers and led to a breakdown in trust and threats of industrial action.”

The Committee's report includes the following recommendations:

Skills Development Scotland

  • The Committee calls for an Equality Impact Assessment to be done on all of its programmes as a matter of urgency to ensure its programmes are equally accessible to all Scotland’s young people.
  • An assessment should be made of how SDS meets the needs of rural areas.

Scottish Funding Council

  • The Committee is concerned that the Scottish Government has not provided evidence to support plans to scrap the SFC’s board and create a combined board for all of the enterprise and skills agencies.
  • SFC should undertake work to better understand the reasons why students do not complete college courses.


  • Improvements should be made in the design, delivery, supporting documents and marking of national qualifications and the SQA’s communication with teachers.
  • Efforts should be focused on ensuring that there are no errors in either the production or marking of exams.
  • Data collection from chief invigilators should be improved to ensure that the living wage is paid to all the people it appoints.

Education Scotland

  • Clarity is needed on who is the decision taker in different areas of the Curriculum for Excellence.
  • The Committee urges Education Scotland to consider what can be done to address the consequences of lack of measurement and collection of outcome based data at the start of the Curriculum for Excellence.
  • The Committee is concerned that the number of inspections appears to be reducing given the key role of inspections in understanding how well the education system is performing.


The Committee held a Chamber debate on its evidence on 12 January.


The Committee will continue its work with an evidence session with the CfE Management Board on Wednesday 18th January, the papers are on its website.


The SPICe survey on all 4 bodies can be found here:


The Committee agreed to take evidence from teachers and education practitioners anonymously in order that it could have the candid opinions to help shape its consideration. This included a survey, a meeting with teachers and anonymous submissions. Evidence was also received from a range of stakeholders. Copies of this evidence can be found here:



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