SCOTLAND'S governing exam and inspection bodies are not "fit for purpose" and must be reformed, MSPs say.

Opposition MSPs backed a call to split up Education Scotland and overhaul the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), claiming these have lost the trust of the public due to their performance in the pandemic.

The non-binding Scottish Parliament vote comes amidst growing pressure on Education Secretary John Swinney and follows last summer's exam results row.

There was serious criticism after an SQA system saw students downgraded, something that was later overturned by Swinney and matched by a similar situation in England.

MSPs voted by 65 to 58 in favour of separating Education Scotland's inspection and curriculum-development roles into two new bodies and putting more teachers into the SQA to improve accountability.

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The vote came in a debate brought by LibDem leader Willie Rennie, whose party said the agencies had neither met the "expectations or requirements of hardworking teachers, pupils or parents" during the coronavirus period, which has brought unprecedented change to the school system.

Rennie said the SQA's grading algorithm had hit poorer students hardest and accused Education Scotland of having "totally abandoned" teachers in need of support.

The SNP's Rona Mackay said opposition parties were taking an "extreme" approach to the "unacceptable" problems thrown up during the pandemic.

And Swinney said Rennie's motion "sticks the boot into" public servants in "gratuitous and unfounded" attacks.

But Ross Greer of the Greens, who has called for the resignation of the SQA board, said it had become an "antagonist" in the eyes of the teaching profession.

Afterwards, Rennie commented: "We need the organisations in charge of Scottish education to get out of the way of teachers, and in must come an education system overseen by people with current and direct teaching experience.

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"In this crisis teachers have been creative, dedicated, full of good ideas. They know what their pupils need. We can’t say that of Education Scotland and the SQA."

During the debate, Swinney said judgements had been made "in exceptional circumstances" and teachers and staff had made efforts that were "a credit to our education system and our country".

He said: "On attainment of qualifications at five Highers, at one Higher in areas of deprivation, on positive destinations achieved, young people are doing better today than they did when this government came into office. That's the record I am going to take to the streets of this country on May the 6th."