Holyrood’s education committee has called for more public scrutiny of draft legislation that would replace the SQA and create an independent inspector.

Critics of the Education (Scotland) Bill have raised concerns that the proposal to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) with a new body, Qualifications Scotland, is no more than a “rebranding” of the existing organization, set to be run by largely the same staff.

The Scottish Parliament's Education, Children and Young People Committee hinted at similar concerns in its call for public input.

“While the Bill provides the mechanism for reforming the current Scottish Qualifications Authority and creates a separate education inspection agency, its provisions largely replicate existing legislation, namely the Education (Scotland) Act 1996 and the Scottish Qualifications Authority Act 2002.”

The bill would also create a new independent Chief Inspector of Education, inspecting and reporting on nurseries, schools, colleges, and independent of Education Scotland.

Part of the bill requires Qualifications Scotland to create two specific “charters” for teachers and students, outlining what each can expect from the qualifications body.

According to the legislation, the new qualifications body will also include between 9 and 13 appointed “members.”

In addition to a chair and committee conveners, between 6 and 10 of the members will include a combination of students, teachers, college teachers, and at least one Qualifications Scotland staff representative.

The bill was drafted in response to several reports, including the OECD Review of the Curriculum for Excellence and “Putting Learners at the Centre. Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education,” by Professor Ken Muir of the University of the West of Scotland.

When the Education (Scotland) Bill was first announced, Prof Muir told The Herald that he was cautiously optimistic about its proposals. However, he said that legislation would never be enough to create the cultural change that his and many other independent reviews called for.

“I can well understand why teachers and head teachers looking at this bill will think that it’s just a different brand above the SQA door.

“It cannot be that.”

Read more:

Scottish Government announces new qualifications body under same leadership

Hayward Report explained: What is a Scottish Diploma of Achievement?

Does an SQA by any other name work the same?

Sue Webber MSP, Convener of the Education, Children and Young People Committee, said that the committee’s public consultation will seek to ensure that Prof Muir and others' calls for change are taken to heart and that the promise of engagement with teachers and students in the education bill is genuine.

“The work done by Professor Ken Muir and the OECD provided the Scottish Government with clear recommendations on how the Scottish education system could be improved, so we are looking forward to examining how the Government has approached this in the Education (Scotland) Bill.

“In delivering this draft legislation, the Scottish Government has outlined that it wants to better support pupils and teachers, so we are particularly keen to hear what they make of the proposed reforms.”

However, noticeably missing from the Education (Scotland) Bill is any mention or obvious influence from Professor Louise Hayward’s Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment.

After promising teachers that her assessment of the Hayward review’s recommendations – which include sweeping reforms to the qualifications system and a new style of diploma for Scottish students – would be coming soon in the Spring, Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth recently wrote to the Education, Children and Young People Committee saying that the government’s report on the Hayward review would be delayed until after the summer holidays.

The education committee's public consultation runs from Friday, June 28, until August 30.