The boss of Scotland's exams body is facing calls to quit after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it would be stepping in to ensure her organisation's practices improve.

Opposition politicians insisted Fiona Robertson's position as chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) was "untenable".

The EHRC has established that Ms Robertson's agency - which the Scottish Government plans to replace - was not routinely assessing the impact of its policies and practices in the way it should under the public sector equality duty.

Under this duty, public bodies are supposed to give "due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups".

The SQA has now signed an agreement with the EHRC. This will require it to complete outstanding equality impact assessments for its existing policies and practices. It has also agreed it will improve its approach when carrying out assessments for any new policies it develops.

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The EHRC will now monitor the SQA's work for the next two years.

Willie Rennie, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: "It's a serious matter for the SQA to be rebuked in this manner.

"It should never be necessary for a public body responsible for the futures of our children to be chided for its failure to meet its human rights obligations. The position of the chief executive of the SQA is untenable. She has to go without delay."

Labour education spokesman Michael Marra said: "This news makes it clear that the position of the SQA leadership is untenable - they should resign today. We know that in recent years, the decisions they have taken have damaged the poorest and most disadvantaged pupils in Scotland.

"But what this undeniably confirms is that there has been a complete lack of leadership within the organisation and from the Scottish Government."

HeraldScotland: Willie Rennie has called on Ms Robertson to resign.Willie Rennie has called on Ms Robertson to resign.

Ross Greer, Scottish Green education spokesperson, added: “Many of us warned the SQA for years that it was failing in its equalities duties, so this finding by the EHRC and the new agreement are certainly welcome. But it should not have taken an intervention by the Commission for these arrangements to be put in place.

"It's clear that oversight of the exams agency has been totally insufficient for years. The board of management absolutely must resign after this damning report.

“To avoid this happening again, we need to ensure that the body which replaces the SQA has equality embedded in its processes and structures from the start. That will certainly be the Greens’ priority.”

Lynn Welsh, the head of legal at the EHRC in Scotland, stressed that, for bodies such as the SQA, "considering equality implications when making decisions isn't a 'nice to do' ... it is a legal requirement to ensure that public institutions make better quality, robust decisions which work for everyone". But she also said that, in signing the agreement with the EHRC, the SQA had "demonstrated its clear commitment to equality and to improving its practices".

She added: "This agreement sends a clear message to other public bodies that considering the impact of their work on people from protected groups is critical in fulfilling their legal duties."

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Mike Baxter, the SQA's director of finance and corporate services, said: "Although we have significantly tightened up on equality impact assessments in recent years, we recognise there is work to do to improve our processes and practice from years gone by.

"We will be taking this opportunity to work with the commission to further embed equality into our policies and processes across SQA's activities. Over the next two years we will be delivering our agreed action plan across a range of work streams. We are fully committed to ensuring equality and fairness are at the heart of all we do."

He added: "We have embarked on a large-scale programme of review of our policies and practices and assessing and documenting the equalities impacts of those is a core element of this work."

HeraldScotland: The SQA oversees Scotland's school examinations system.The SQA oversees Scotland's school examinations system.

SQA chairman David Middleton said: "The SQA has tightened up on equality impact assessments in recent years to ensure compliance with our equality duties.

"There are historic gaps that predate the current leadership and these are now being addressed in partnership with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

"The SQA leadership is fully focused on delivering for learners."