THE Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) needs to take a "short, hard look at itself" ahead of being scrapped in 2024, an education expert has insisted.

Professor Ken Muir made the comments at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament education committee today after he was given access to surveys of local government leaders and their perceptions of the exam board.

He told the committe it was clear from these that something was "amiss" with SQA which he claims needs to look at its culture, leadership and governance.

When asked how far back he thought issues with the SQA stretched back, he said he believed it to be “slightly longer than the Covid period” but they were "exacerbated" by the pandemic.

The SQA said it was "disappointed" by the evidence given to the committee which it claimed contained "inaccuracies". 

It comes after Prof Muir published a report earlier this month on reforms to the Scottish education system, which included plans to scrap and replace the SQA.

He told the committee: “Reading between the lines, although there wasn’t a lot of qualitative detail in that survey, you got a sense there was something amiss within SQA in terms of the views of chief executives of councils, of council leaders, directors of education, the levels of confidence in SQA.

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“All of that pointing very much to an organisation that very much needs to take a long, hard look at itself – or a short, hard look at itself, more likely, as opposed to a long, hard look.

“There are a number of things – culture, leadership and governance – that I think are three keys that current executive management team needs to consider.”

Prof Muir also told the committee it would be a "challenge" for the new body being set up to have the confidence of teachers with the same leadership.

When asked by Tory MSP Oliver Mundell if he believed it should have taken a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and his own review for the SQA to see the issues it faced, Prof Muir said: “No, I don’t think it should have.

“I think one of the values of my report and the reports that were issued that accompany my report is that SQA uses them as a mirror to reflect on how they plan to go forward, given they have been given a stay of execution until 2024.”

The SQA has been in place since 1997 and came under fire last year for downgrading exam grades submitted by teachers and has been heavily criticised for its replacement assessment system introduced this year.

Prof Muir's report state there is currently too much focus on exams in schools and recommended a new qualtifications body - possibly called Qualifications Scotland - as well as a replacement for Education Scotland.

Another independent agency is to be established to run school inspections and legilsation will need to be passed in Edinburgh to set up all three. 

SQA Chair David Middleton said "SQA engaged positively and in good faith with Professor Muir throughout his review, and so we were surprised and disappointed by the evidence given to the Education Committee, which contained a number of misrepresentations and inaccuracies.

“We agree with Professor Muir that education reform is needed, with learners at the centre. There is a real appetite for change within SQA, and we recognise the need to listen, reflect, and act.

"However, the complex functions that SQA carries out on behalf of the Scottish Government are not delivered in isolation. They are part of a much wider education system, and change must happen in every part of that system if we are to realise our aspirations. We all need to take a long – or short – hard look in the mirror.”