Teaching union chief: SQA should be replaced, not reformed

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is 'out of touch'.

Teaching union chief: SQA should be replaced, not reformed iStock

The head of Scotland’s largest teaching union has said the country’s exam body should be replaced, not reformed.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, told the union’s annual general meeting that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is “out of touch”.

Earlier this month, new education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced plans to mount a review of the SQA and Education Scotland.

The announcement came as the exams system was embroiled in another scandal over the handling of pupil qualifications in light of the pandemic, this time coming under attack from opposition politicians after, despite the cancellation of exams, some pupils were forced to sit exam-style assessments in class, report claim.

Mr Flanagan said: “I believe that the SQA as an organisation is out of touch with the education system.

“I welcome the announcement on the review of the SQA, but frankly I am unsure about reform.

“I think replacement is a stronger option.

“We need a qualifications body which is accountable to the profession and not one which thinks the profession is there to do its bidding.

“We need to have a strong voice in that review process in order to ensure that post that review, we have a qualifications body that enjoys respect and support from the profession and which exudes respect and support for the profession.”

Earlier on Friday, Somerville addressed the EIS meeting and detailed what will happen in the review.

She told union members: “This will be a key priority and will be informed by the findings of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) review that is due to be published on June 21.

“I am really, really keen that we look at this properly, this is not a piecemeal piece of reform, this is not a round the edges piece of reform, we absolutely need to get this right.

“I am determined to make sure that we do that in a way where we have got teachers’ voices, parents’ voices and, very importantly, young people’s voices in this.”

Representatives of the EIS were part of the group tasked with coming up with an alternative qualification model for this year, and Mr Flanagan said he believes “students will be well served” by the new model.

“Not because of the SQA, not because of the Scottish Government, not because of local authorities, but precisely because of the dedication and extraordinary effort of teachers and lecturers in ensuring that young people’s learning is properly accredited,” he told the meeting.

An SQA spokesman said: “SQA welcomes and will play a full part in the review announced by the cabinet secretary.

“Our focus right now, quite rightly, remains on working with the whole education system to support our young people to get the qualifications they deserve this year.

“The successful delivery of qualifications in Scotland relies on all parts of the education system working together in partnership.

“The Alternative Certification Model was co-created by the National Qualifications Group, which includes the EIS.”

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