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by Jack Thomson
24 June 2021
Scottish Government has ‘lost its way’ on education, claims Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives (Alamy)

Scottish Government has ‘lost its way’ on education, claims Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross has accused the Scottish Government of having "lost its way" on education and "no real vision" of the direction it is taking on the matter.

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives pressed Nicola Sturgeon on plans to scrap the SQA, the findings of the OECD report, and whether exams will go ahead in 2022 during a fiery First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament.

He cited Sturgeon's previous admission that she had full confidence in the beleaguered qualifications body and claimed the government's subsequent decision to replace it was an example of saying one thing and opting to do another.

Ross said: "Nicola Sturgeon said she had full confidence in the SQA, so she scrapped it. It's just another example of a government that has lost its way in education, that says one thing and does another, with no real vision of where they're going, or how they get there.

"This is the final chance in parliament before courses start next term for the First Minister to give young people and teachers who faced so much uncertainty over the last year a clear answer. Will there be traditional exams next year?"

Sturgeon repeated that she has confidence in the SQA's work around the alternative certification model, which is being carried out following the cancellation of exams because of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said the government was reflecting on the OECD report and has come to a decision that it is "right" to replace the SQA but to do so "carefully with proper consideration of the detail of what that replacement is".

The long-awaited report ​recommended the government should consider creating a "specialist stand-alone agency responsible for curriculum (and perhaps assessment)".

The review warned that Scotland’s education system has become too “politicised” with changes being reactive rather than long-term.

The OECD also praised Scotland's teachers but warned of “a large variety of practices between schools and classrooms” which could be “threatening the aspirations for equity in students’ experiences and outcomes”. There was also criticism over the sheer number of exams for senior phase pupils.

On the question of exams next year, Sturgeon said: “If I was to stand here, in a knee jerk, ill-considered way, [and] decide now what is to happen for exams next year, then I think people across the country would be right to criticise me for doing that.

“That would not be the responsible considered thing to do. Instead, and the education secretary set this out in parliament, we will consider this as COVID develops over the summer, and we will set that out in August so that schools as they return know what the situation is going to be.”

However, Ross said young people were being “left in limbo with no answers as to whether they will sit traditional exams or not next year.”

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