The SQA is to be replaced as part of wide-sweeping reforms in the wake of an international report into the school education system.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report found a "misalignment" between the aims of the curriculum aims and the focus on exams in later years of school.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) will now be replaced as Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced that all 12 of the review’s recommendations will be accepted in full.

Other reviews include recommendations on curriculum, assessment and qualifications which will see Education Scotland substantially reformed.

READ MORE: OECD Report: Scotland should reform '19th century' pupil assessments

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

The SQA was criticised following the Scottish exams fiasco for its handling of exams during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

READ MORE: SQA appeals: Education Secretary at centre of growing storm

Publication of the OECD report into Scotland’s curriculum system, known as Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), meets another of the Scottish Government’s commitments for the first 100 days since the First Minister was elected.

Ms 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. 

READ MORE: SQA and Education Scotland to be reformed

 “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.

“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.”

READ MORE: OECD Report - Scotland should reform '19th century' pupil assessments

Responding to the development, Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive, said: "While our focus right now is on supporting our young people to get the qualifications they deserve this year, I welcome the OECD findings and today’s announcement of a new specialist agency with responsibility for both curriculum and assessment. This is an opportunity for significant change that will meet the future needs of our learners, our society and our economy, and which has the support of all.

“We will make a full and positive contribution to the process that lies ahead, drawing on our experience and expertise as Scotland’s qualifications and accreditation body, and working in partnership with others across the education system. Whatever outcome eventually emerges, it is critical that we all commit to maintaining the high standards that have long been the hallmark of Scotland’s qualifications.

“In the meantime, we will continue our work to deliver this year’s National Qualifications in exceptional and challenging circumstances.  I echo the Cabinet Secretary’s thanks to SQA staff who have worked tirelessly to deliver, with professionalism and integrity.”

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “The EIS welcomes the publication of the OECD report, and the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary that the SQA is to be scrapped and replaced by a new body. It is essential that any new body is properly configured and is accountable to the profession through a model of governance based on educational, rather than political, considerations and with a teacher voice at its heart.”

HeraldScotland: EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan has welcomed news that the SQA will be replaced.EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan has welcomed news that the SQA will be replaced.

On the OECD report, Mr Flanagan said, “The OECD report highlights some of the strengths of the Scottish Education system, not least being Scotland’s place in the top 5 nations in the world regarding global competency, but it also confirms what the EIS has been saying for a number of years, which is that there is a disconnect between the BGE (Broad General Education 3-15) and the Senior Phase (15-18). 

"There is massive assessment overload in the senior phase, which squeezes out the time needed for both depth and breadth of learning – two of CfE’s big ambitions. This overload is also the driver of excessive workload, and that has been exposed clearly during the pandemic.”

He added: “The comparatively high level of teacher class contact time was another area highlighted, with the OECD highlighting the need for reduction in class contact time - a key priority for the EIS - if teachers are to be able to collaborate around curriculum and assessment.

"We welcome that EIS lobbying in this area has already had some impact, with the Scottish Government pledging to deliver an early reduction of 1.5 hours per week in teachers’ class contact time to bring Scotland closer to OECD norms.”