THE Education Secretary has confirmed the SQA’s replacement in Holyrood after an “administrative error” led to a key report containing the plans appearing on social media.

Shirley-Anne Somerville was forced to bring her statement to the Scottish Parliament forward by a day to Wednesday after copies and sections of the report by Professor Ken Muir – on the future of the SQA and Education Scotland – began circulating on Twitter.

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that the SQA will be replaced by a new non-departmental body, Qualifications Scotland; a new education agency will replace Education Scotland; and a new independent inspectorate will be established by the summer of 2024.

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Somerville said that an "administrative error" caused the report's contents to be "inadvertently shared outside the Scottish Government".

The Scottish Government published Muir's report Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education at 5pm on Wednesday. 

She told the chamber: “Today I can confirm that the SQA will be replaced and that the Scottish Government will legislate for the creation of a new non-departmental public body with responsibility for the development and awarding of qualifications.

“Crucially this new body will reflect the culture and values we want to see embedded throughout our education and skills system; one that puts learners at the centre, supports our teachers and practitioners and instils integrity, fairness and accountability throughout our approach to recognising achievements in education.

The National: Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville during the appointment of Scottish Ministers and Junior Ministers, at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday May 20, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Fraser

Somerville was forced to give her statement to Holyrood a day early

“I agree with Professor Muir that the accreditation and regulation functions should be independent from the awarding body.

“However, careful consideration is required in relation to where these functions should sit, in particular ensuring that the independence of these regulatory functions is secured. Further focused work on this aspect, drawing on the knowledge and expertise which exists within SQA, will take place over the next few months.”

Somerville added that the three new bodies “must be future proofed” and learn the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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She said: “I understand that the last two years have been hard and that school staff are weary. However, we have learned from the pandemic and together with the OECD reports there is impetus for change.

“Many of those Professor Muir engaged with also felt this was a good time to look closely at the future of education in Scotland.

“We will therefore lead a national discussion on the vision for the future of Scottish education, and will appoint an independent facilitator to assist with this work.

“I am committed to working with everyone in education to accelerate efforts to achieve excellence and equity for Scotland’s children and young people and I will seek to engage as many interests as possible as we take this forward.

The National:

"I hope we can work together, not on the Scottish Government’s vision for education, but for a vision for education which we share.”

The Education Secretary set out to assure current SQA and Education Scotland staff by stating that there will be “no compulsory redundancies as a result of reform”.

Scottish Tory education spokesman Oliver Mundell, in response to the statement, said: “Along with just about everyone else in Scotland, can I thank the Cabinet Secretary for the advanced sight of her statement, or should I say, press summary.

“Whether you read its contents online or heard about them in this chamber, they’re just as depressing and hollow.

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"The SNP have frittered away another opportunity to fix our broken education system.”

Mundell claimed that the education bodies need a “major overhaul”, and not a “rebranding masquerading as serious change”.

Somerville responded: “We’ve broadly accepted Professor Muir’s recommendations.

"[Mundell] may quite happily attack the government at will but I think to be honest he does a disservice to Professor Muir and the work that’s been undertaken, as well as the consultation that he spent an exceptionally great deal of time undertaking - that’s why we have committed to taking forward the recommendations that we have.”