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Where does the SQA – having just been handed a death sentence – fit in with the 2022 exams?

Despite the recent decision to scrap the SQA, it is set to play a major role in this year's exams.
Despite the recent decision to scrap the SQA, it is set to play a major role in this year's exams.

The Scottish government announced in June that it would soon be scrapping the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) as part of a ‘substantial’ education overhaul – so why is the SQA still playing a role in the 2022 exams?

The government announced last week that exams will take place in 2022 “if it is safe to do so”.

This year’s exams will cover reduced course content to account for class disruptions during the pandemic, the government said.

It was a decision made with input from public health advisors and the National Qualifications Group, which includes young people, parents and teachers.

But government officials also said that the recently-condemned SQA will be steering the exams process in 2022, as it always has in recent years. This includes overseeing the reduction of assessment requirements for each National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses.

Why is the SQA still involved?

The decision to scrap the SQA came after a ‘damning’ OECD report that raised concerns over the Scottish education system, in particular its exam delivery. Ms Somerville and other high-ranking officials welcomed the report. They promised to adopt all of its recommendations, including replacing the SQA.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has said it will take time to replace the SQA.

But education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said that replacing the SQA will require extensive work and perhaps special legislation. The OECD will release another report at the end of August, which will look at various assessment possibilities, including a study of how other countries deliver exams.

Then, a government commission will review the OECD’s findings and publish a report by the end of January with advice for reforming the exams system. But if reforming the exams system and replacing the SQA requires legislation in Parliament, the process will take time.

Ms Somerville said that, no matter what decision is made about the future, there won’t be any impact on the 2022 exams process.

Speaking to BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland, she said that the SQA is the best option to lead the way –  for now.

“We will need to see what has to happen to develop the new agency. What we will have is the SQA delivering, as they just have done, a set of assessments and a set of qualifications the young people can have exceptional pride in. The SQA will continue to do that work until the new agency is in place.”

Content of exams will be reduced

Ms Somerville said that the SQA helped to reduce what students will be tested on in 2022. This included making accommodations like more use of open books or advanced notice of topic areas for revision purposes.

“What we’re reducing is the content of exams, to perhaps make it more simple for teachers to be able to guide their students about what would happen.”

When asked if this was unfair to students in past years, or if it might discredit students’ results in 2022, Ms Somerville said that the strains of the pandemic shouldn’t be held against students.

“They are facing years like no other… There may be some changes and modifications but they’re doing these under exceptionally difficult circumstances. By far more difficult than your average year.”

So has the SQA’s role changed for the 2022 exams?

In short, no. A spokeswoman for the SQA said the group will continue to operate until it is officially replaced.

“Until the replacement body is in place, SQA will continue to fulfil its responsibility to deliver Scotland’s qualifications.”

She added that the Scottish Government will provide advice on the ongoing SQA review process.

Although the government did not provide a timeline for replacing the SQA, a government spokeswoman said that its duties won’t change for the 2022 exams.

“Learners taking exams next year will not be affected by reform plans.

“A wide range of views will be sought before any decisions are taken on education reforms.”

What do you think?

Do you think the SQA should still be in charge of this year’s exams?

Share your thoughts in our poll. Or, contact the Schools and Family team at schoolsandfamily@pressandjournal.co.uk to tell us what you think about this year’s exams.

Read more from the Schools and Family team

Bubbles, pings and masks: New back to school safety guidance explained

The Big Exams Shake-up: How do other countries test their school pupils?

Sixth year and has never sat an exam: The uncertain reaction to 2022 assessments announcement

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