SQA clamps down on teacher access to exam papers after online criticism

Written by Tom Freeman on 3 May 2017 in News

Teachers to be blocked from seeing exam papers until a day after they are sat, under new SQA rules

Exams - credit Eric E Castro 

Exam body the Scottish Qualifications Authority will block teachers from viewing exam papers immediately after their pupils have sat them after what the agency called “inappropriate postings” online.

Previously schools have been able to use the exam papers almost immediately to provide feedback to pupils, but under the new policy the contents will be held back until at least the following day.

Teachers have reacted angrily in what is the latest episode in a break down in the relationship between them and the exam body.


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The move follows a series of high profile petitions and complaints about the content of exams online in recent years, including allegations papers were too difficult and differed from what was taught in term time.

In 2016 the Higher English exam was changed at the last minute after a reported leak and in 2015 the Higher Maths pass mark was reduced to just 34 per cent. Both were the subject of online petitions.

And last year’s Higher Geography exam was among heated criticism levelled at the SQA in the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills committee

The SQA say the new measures were to prevent security breaches and “remove the risk of inappropriate postings on social media”.

Teaching union the EIS said it demonstrated “a lack of trust” in the teaching profession.

General Secretary Larry Flanagan said some teachers would “be suspicious” of the policy.

“It is disappointing that the SQA is apparently putting the management of its own public image ahead of the desire of pupils to discuss exam papers with their teachers,” he said.

“It is very important for pupils, following the often stressful experience of an exam, to have the opportunity to discuss the paper with their teachers and to receive feedback while the experience is fresh in their mind.”

An SQA spokesman said: “At the end of each exam, invigilators are required to collect all exam papers, which are then returned to the chief invigilators. Those papers will now be released to heads of centres the next day.

“We took this decision to prevent any breach of question paper security and confidentiality, but to also remove the risk of inappropriate postings on social media which can cause distress for candidates.”

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