THE head of Scotland’s exam body is stepping down after eleven years in the post.

Dr Janet Brown, chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, will retire next year once a successor has been appointed.

Ms Brown, 67, who joined the organisation in 2007, has overseen a difficult time for the exam body with the controversial roll-out of new qualifications.

Teaching unions criticised the SQA for its handling of the introduction of new Highers, with particular concerns over a maths paper in 2015 that officials admitted was “too hard”.

In 2016 the SQA had to apologise after a number of coding errors appeared in the National 5 computing science paper.

A particular concern for teaching unions has also been the tone of correspondence from the SQA.

Two weeks ago a letter to schools introducing random spot checks to clamp down on inappropriate coaching of pupils was described as “wilfully insensitive”.

Internally the SQA has also hit problems with the handling of a restructuring of departments overwhelmingly criticised by staff in a ballot by the Unite union.

However, Ms Brown has also been seen as a leader who sees the SQA as a body which should celebrate the success of pupils.

David Middleton, chair of the SQA, paid tribute to the leadership of Ms Brown over the past decade.

He said: “I have conveyed to Janet the thanks of the SQA board for her outstanding service. The process of recruiting Janet’s successor will begin shortly.

“In the meantime I know Janet’s strong commitment to SQA and to Scotland’s learners will continue as she will remain in post until a suitable candidate has been appointed. This will ensure the continued delivery of SQA’s commitments.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union, said: “The SQA plays an important role in Scottish education and, while the EIS has contested aspects of the practice of the SQA in recent years, we have always enjoyed a respectful and constructive working relationship with Dr Brown.

“We wish her all the best for her forthcoming retirement, and hope to establish a similarly productive future working relationship with the next chief executive.”