Scotland politics

Swinney attacks 'unbalanced' Holyrood education report

John Swinney

The education secretary has described a report which contained criticism of two education agencies as "unbalanced".

Holyrood's education committee recently published a highly-critical report about the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Education Scotland.

The report argued urgent work is needed to rebuild the relationship between teachers and the SQA.

But John Swinney noted the evidence was taken from a self-selecting sample of people who said they were teachers.

The education committee said in January it had heard "eye-opening" accounts of unclear guidance and mistakes in exam papers.

A survey of teachers carried out by the committee suggested two-thirds had little trust in the SQA.

The level of criticism made by the committee took many within Scottish education by surprise.

Now, Mr Swinney has noted the evidence was taken from a self-selecting sample of people who said they were teachers who were not necessarily representative.

In a letter to the committee, Mr Swinney said: "Whilst I welcome views from anyone involved in Scotland's education system and will always pay close attention to constructive criticism, I believe the points advanced by the committee on the performance of the SQA and Education Scotland in particular are not based on an assessment of a sufficiently broad evidence base.

"The committee places emphasis on an online survey that had 693 responders who self-identify as teachers. This represents slightly more than 1% of Scotland 's publicly-employed teaching workforce of 50,970."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The committee had raised concerns about unclear guidance and mistakes in exam papers

He added: "My concerns about the methodology are exacerbated by the comparative lack of consideration that appears to have been given to the evidence submitted by the public bodies themselves, most notably the engagement activity that both SQA and Education Scotland conduct with their stakeholders to evaluate their respective impacts.

"I believe this has resulted in an unbalanced report."

At the time the report was published, SNP MSP James Dornan, the committee's convenor, said: "The evidence our committee received was nothing less than eye-opening about some of the problems faced by those working so hard on the front line of education.

"We heard first-hand about the time-consuming burden of guidance that has been placed on teachers, something the cabinet secretary has already shown his commitment to deal with

"However, there continues to be confusing and contradictory messages coming from the very bodies that should be making it easy for our teachers to focus on the needs of our children."

The SQA said it was committed to addressing the committee's findings, especially in this period of change, and were working to continue to improve its communication with the wider community.

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