Education Scotland: ‘SQA needs to be provided and changed now’ ahead of decommissioning in 2024, says Scottish government independent adviser Kenneth Muir

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee on Wednesday, Professor Kenneth Muir said there was no “quick fix” as the SQA was holding “two, possibly three exam sessions” in Scotland.

He added: “SQA needs to keep working and also change” and “take a good look at ourselves.”

Professor Muir’s comments come after he drafted a report for Scottish education agencies to be replaced and canceled by 2024.

Professor Kenneth Muir said “more is needed” from the education system in Scotland ahead of the SQA’s abolition in 2024.

The report, which the minister agreed to accept, said there was too much focus on exams in schools at the moment.

This report recommends the creation of a new qualifications body, potentially called Qualifications Scotland, as well as a replacement for Education Scotland.

Another independent agency should be set up to carry out school inspections, and legislation would need to be passed in Holyrood to create all three.

In making 21 recommendations for the future structure of educational agencies, Professor Muir said he had heard a lot of criticism of the SQA as being “inconsiderate” and “aloof” as an organization.

Professor Muir said: “My report is meant to be a catalyst for further reform and further change.

“This is certainly a case where the replacement of the SQA and the restructuring of education reform in Scotland is a launching pad, but I think more is needed to ensure that the education system in Scotland is suitable for current and future students in what is a very changing peace”.

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Quoting a senior Scottish director, Professor Muir said that “in a few years” SQA had become “deaf”.

He said: “In particular, in the recent past there have been problems regarding national qualifications and problems that have arisen over the past year.

“I think it goes beyond that. I think there has been concern that national qualifications designed to support a continuing education curriculum are not meeting the needs of practitioners and the needs of young people.

“There has been a significant degree of dissatisfaction with the way SQA works and the extent to which its management reflects some of the knowledge that exists in schools and classrooms.”

Professor Muir said that if the new body were accepted as a rebranded SQA, he himself said the profession would be “very disappointed”.

While not supporting a full re-set of the new leadership, the professor suggested that current SQA management “need to take a look” at the report in order to use it as a “mirror to reflect their current practice”.

Willie Rennie, a spokesman for Lberal Democratic Education, asked how difficult it would be for Scotland’s new qualification to “defeat the profession if the old leadership stays in place”.

In response, Professor Muir said: “This will undoubtedly be a challenge, and I guess the question is, are they capable and ready for such a radical change in management culture?

“And some of them can be fixed pretty quickly.

“All telescopes should be primarily focused on meeting the needs of students.

“To do this, we need to create an infrastructure that supports learning and teaching.”

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