The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has faced criticism following the news that it has been forced to turn to the Scottish Government to cover a £3m deficit, and will likely need to borrow a similar amount again next year.
The announcement, arriving as thousands of pupils across Scotland sat the new national exams, represents another stumble in the troubled introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).
To be fair, overspending public funds is nothing new, with the £3m deficit paling in comparison to the debacle surrounding Edinburgh’s trams.
And having attempted to take on a major infrastructure project myself recently, I know how easy it is to make mistakes.
My landlord delivered a new wardrobe to my flat last week, which I agreed to put together myself in exchange for £20 off the rent.
But after two days of intermittent construction, it became apparent that the project was somewhat more difficult than I had forseen, forcing me to provide a revised schedule for completion.
With stakeholders expressing dissatisfaction (my girlfriend had doubts over the value-for-money of the £20 financing deal) and building work literally stalled (I got it stuck between the bed and the wall), questions were raised about the whole project.
Transport times increased due to the building works (you either had to climb through it or over the bed) and Narnia jokes did little to raise public confidence. Plus I had already spent the £20.
But for the SQA, criticism may hang in the air even longer, since it still remains unclear why no one was able to predict this overspend.
As the Scottish Conservatives demanded answers from ministers over where the extra money will come from, the General Secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, Alan McKenzie, said: “We have concerns that the scale of the extra demand placed on resources because of the roll-out of CfE was not anticipated.”
After all, it is not unusual for complicated, highly technical long-term projects, like major public transport systems or three-door Ikea wardrobes, to go over budget or get behind schedule.
But in this case, the problem is not that authorities had to spend more on CfE, but that it came as a shock. That it would cost money to introduce the new curriculum could have been predicted.
The SQA is used to asking tough questions. It may now need to provide some answers.
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