SQA staff consider strike action, threatening disruption to exams

The Unite union says staff have not been consulted about their future.

SQA staff consider strike action, threatening disruption to exams PA Media
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has said work to reform Scotland’s exams will begin in the new year. 

Staff at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) could go on strike before the agency is scrapped, potentially causing disruption to this year’s exams.

The SQA is due to be replaced as part of plans to reform the education system in Scotland, but the Unite branch says staff have not been consulted about their future.

Exams are due to go ahead as normal this year as the government considers overhauling the system.

The Herald reported that staff were concerned talks about the replacement for the SQA could go on for years, leaving staff in limbo.

The Unite branch at the SQA is due to hold a consultative ballot on strike action.

Alison MacLean, Unite industrial officer, told the newspaper: “The impact of industrial action?

“Absolutely yes, there is an impact on the exam diet, there is an impact on the ability to undertake this reform.

“The biggest issue for the public if industrial action takes place is a threat to future exam diets as well as the reform of national qualifications being impacted and/or delayed.”

She continued: “They are asking staff under threat of redundancy to carry on with a smile on their face.

“It is as if they’re locking them in a cupboard and saying: ‘We want you to do this work for us, but we can’t guarantee you will have job security.’

“It is a political decision of Scottish Government and our members are being used as a political pawn and football in all of it.”

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has said work to reform Scotland’s exams will begin in the new year. 

Exams themselves will not be scrapped but a group led by Professor Louise Hayward of Glasgow University will advise ministers on a new system.

An SQA spokeswoman said: “SQA management has continually pressed the Scottish Government for commitments on job security for staff since it announced in June that SQA is to be replaced.

“We understand the Scottish Government is actively considering the issue.

“Any threat of industrial action is disappointing and not in the interests of learners.”

Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Michael Marra said: “The SNP government must act immediately to prevent yet another year of exams chaos as a result of their own mismanagement.

“The SQA is being scrapped by the SNP because of the disastrous policies cooked up between the government and the leadership of the organisation.

“Staff in the SQA warned their failed leaders of the consequences of awarding grades by algorithm but they were ignored and now are worried for their own job security.

“Labour have repeatedly raised this issue with the cabinet secretary, seeking guarantees that staff won’t pay the price for her incompetent predecessors. It is disappointing that when I met her last week she couldn’t give staff reassurances.”