SCOTLAND'S exam body the Scottish Qualifications Authority is to be scrapped as part of wide ranging reforms. 

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville made the announcement today following the publication of a report by a leading international organisation.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Organisation (OECD) recommended bringing the exams system under the remit of the same body which is responsible for the curriculum, Education Scotland.

Somerville announced that all 12 of the review’s recommendations will be accepted in full, including recommendations on curriculum, assessment and qualifications which will see the SQA replaced and Education Scotland substantially reformed.

The Scottish Government will actively consider what changes are required to our qualifications and assessment system. 

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In a statement it said the work will be heavily informed by the next OECD report, expected in the autumn, and by consultation with young people, parents, teachers and the wider education system.

Education Scotland will no longer undertake inspections, with this work becoming a separate, independent role. The Scottish Government will engage widely on the options for the future of inspection.  

The OECD also suggests that the curriculum work currently undertaken by Education Scotland might best sit with any new curriculum and assessment body which will replace the SQA.

Publication of the OECD report into Scotland’s curriculum system, known as Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), was a pre-election commitment by the First Minister during her first 100 days of her new government.

Somerville said: "The last few years have accelerated a debate about the future of Curriculum for Excellence and senior phase education in particular.

“The OECD report is crystal clear - Curriculum for Excellence is the right approach for Scotland.

“In fact, despite all the criticism here at home, the OECD tells us it is viewed internationally as an inspiring example of curriculum practice.

“However, 10 years on from CfE being introduced, it is right and proper that we review how it is being implemented. 

“We accept in full all 12 recommendations from the OECD.

“We will replace the SQA. We will talk to young people, parents and teachers to build a system that works in line with CfE – exactly as the OECD recommends.

“Responsibility for inspection will no longer sit with Education Scotland and we will look at what further reform of the agency’s functions is required.

“Everyone across the education system, including at the SQA and Education Scotland, has worked tirelessly this year under very challenging circumstances. They are owed a debt of gratitude.

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“What comes next is a period of change. But it is change in order to improve, to achieve more and to deliver for Scotland’s pupils. Our commitment is to do exactly that and we will work with everyone and anyone willing to help to make that a reality.”

The Scottish Government last year commissioned the OECD to carry out a review of CfE. The remit of the review was to help us better understand how the curriculum is being designed and implemented in schools and to identify areas for improvement across the country.

The Education Secretary intends to set out more details on the Scottish Government response to the OECD report in Parliament tomorrow.

Commenting on the publication of the OECD report, and the Scottish Government response, Scottish Greens education spokesman Ross Greer MSP said: “This report is a damning judgement of Scotland’s exams system and the body which oversees it, so the news that the SQA is effectively being abolished is certainly welcome. 

"As we already knew, the principles of Curriculum for Excellence are sound, but it is near impossible for teachers to deliver in S4-6, because they are stuck teaching to a century-old assessment system instead. 

"It’s a failure of government that the exams system was left largely untouched when the new curriculum was introduced a decade ago. As a result, completely unnecessary barriers have been put in the way of hundreds of thousands of pupils. 

“Replacing failed agencies won’t automatically solve this problem though. These changes must go hand in hand with reform of the exams system itself, moving away from the antiquated high-stakes end of term exam model and towards systems of ongoing assessment which judge a pupil’s knowledge and abilities with far more accuracy. 

"The Greens secured a further OECD review of the exams system for exactly this reason and look forward to its publication in the autumn."

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “If the SNP Government has not been so bloody-minded for so long pupils and teachers may not have been subjected the inadequacies of the structure and support provided by the SQA and Education Scotland.

“The exams chaos two years on the trot, the sluggish support provided through the pandemic and the declining international performance could have been avoided if the SNP government had listened.

“There has been an impenetrable bubble at the top of Scottish education for far too long. After years of campaigning by Scottish Liberal Democrats and others it looks as though that bubble may finally be set to burst.  

“On top of these long overdue reforms of the SQA and Education Scotland we need a comprehensive package of bounce back support for pupils.”