NEW Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has been challenged to sack the entire board of the “failing” Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer has written to Somerville after the agency missed its own deadline for producing guidance on how this year’s appeals process will work.

The SQA says it’ll be ready to do this “imminently”.

But Greer says many young people have been pushed to breaking point by anxiety over what the Greens call a “marathon timetable of pseudo-exams” without knowing how appeals will work and what will be needed to challenge a grade.

The National: Shirley-Anne Somerville. Minister for Higher Education

In a scathing letter to Somerville (above), the West of Scotland MSP states: “Trust in the Scottish Qualifications Authority is now all but non-existent. While other public bodies have responded with aplomb to the unique challenges of the pandemic, the SQA last year presided over the single biggest scandal in its existence, has consistently failed to act in a timely manner and has clearly demonstrated a commitment to the ‘integrity of the system’ at the expense of students, teachers and lecturers. This has to end.”

Greer’s party want teachers, school leaders and representatives of parents and young people on the SQA board, with at least half of its members to be qualified teachers or lecturers. Currently only one member is a teacher.

Greer (below) said: “The SQA are failing our pupils and teachers at every step in this process, but this shouldn’t come as any surprise. The exams agency’s failures were well known long before the pandemic hit. The government has simply consistently failed to fix the problem.

The National: Ross Greer MSP for the Sunday Herald -JS. Photo by Jamie Simpson

“The new Education Secretary has both the opportunity and clear justification to clear out the current board and force a fresh start, populating its replacement with people who actually understand education.”

Somerville took over the education brief from Deputy First Minister John Swinney on Thursday. He has been given a new role coordinating the country’s Covid recovery, while she was previously the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People.

Commenting on the new role, Somerville said: “I fully understand what an important time this is for education in Scotland. Young people have faced a lot of disruption to their learning due to the pandemic and our teachers have done a sterling job to provide the best learning experience possible in the most trying of circumstances.”

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The Scottish Government said: “We understand this is an anxious time for young people. We asked the SQA to review their appeals system for 2021 to ensure it best meets the needs of young people. Details are expected to be announced soon.”

And an SQA spokesperson said: “The outcomes of the appeals consultation are currently being finalised, following the public consultation. We aim to announce details of the appeals process imminently. Learners should be reassured that a comprehensive appeals process will be in place in good time. The current focus should be on maximising teaching and learning and the gathering of evidence to support the development of provisional grades.”