Relationship with teachers improving, says SQA

Written by Tom Freeman on 13 September 2017 in News

Increasing concern about how National 4 is perceived, says Janet Brown

Exams body the SQA has taken steps to rebuild its relationship with teachers, chief executive Janet Brown has told MSPs.

The organisation gave a progress report to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee after MSPs had warned of a “lack of trust” among the teaching profession.

The SQA was told to make “urgent” improvements after teachers told the committee of “excessive and unclear guidance, complex administration and mistakes in exam papers”, particularly in newly introduced national qualifications.


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Last November Brown had told the committee internal surveys had instead suggested teachers were happy with its service.

But speaking to MSPs today, Brown after admitting some feedback was closer to the submissions to the committee, and said the body was pursuing closer engagement with teachers.

“We’ve taken action to both review our approach to engagement and communication with teachers,” she said.

The SQA has “taken stock” and employed more staff to support teachers, she added.

Engagement has also included workshops on how to access SQA support. “We’ve had some very strong feedback on our website, as you can probably imagine.”

A “significant portion” of teachers had raised concerns that the National 4 qualification has no external assessment, she told Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith, but refused to say whether the SQA had a position on it.

Robert Quinn, SQA head of qualifications development in English, Language, Business and Core Skills, said it was important to remember national qualifications were part of a “mixed economy of provision” in the senior phase of school, and shouldn’t be looked at in isolation.

However, Brown said there had been “increasing concern about how National 4 is perceived across the board”, particularly among employers.

She also announced a reversal of the decision taken in May to deny teachers access to exam papers until 24 hours after the exam.

The move had followed a series of high profile petitions and complaints over the contents of exams online.

“We did not consult, and you’re correct, we should have done,” Brown told Greens MSP Ross Greer. “We went back out and we did consult and we learned the lesson.”

After the meeting Greer said: “Pupils can once again seek reassurance from teachers on the same day that they have sat the exam, rather than go through the stress of a day's information vacuum where their teachers are unable to explain exam papers they haven't yet seen.

“The lesson for the SQA, which I am glad they now accept, is to consult teachers and pupils before making such important decisions on exams.”

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