Scotland: Exams could be disrupted again as SQA staff consider strike action

Students sitting an exam.
Students sitting an exam.

Exams are due to go ahead as normal this year as the Government considers overhauling the system

Published

Staff at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) could go on strike before the agency is scrapped, potentially causing disruption to this year’s exams.

The SQA is due to be replaced as part of plans to reform the education system in Scotland, but the Unite branch says staff have not been consulted about their future.

Exams are due to go ahead as normal this year as the Government considers overhauling the system.

The Herald reported that staff were concerned talks about the replacement for the SQA could go on for years, leaving staff in limbo.

The Unite branch at the SQA is due to hold a consultative ballot on strike action.

Alison MacLean, Unite industrial officer, told the newspaper: “The impact of industrial action?

“Absolutely yes, there is an impact on the exam diet, there is an impact on the ability to undertake this reform.

“The biggest issue for the public if industrial action takes place is a threat to future exam diets as well as the reform of national qualifications being impacted and/or delayed.”

She continued: “They are asking staff under threat of redundancy to carry on with a smile on their face.

“It is as if they’re locking them in a cupboard and saying: ‘We want you to do this work for us, but we can’t guarantee you will have job security.’

“It is a political decision of Scottish Government and our members are being used as a political pawn and football in all of it.”

A Unite spokesman added: “Unite’s members are furious at the current situation they are facing after several tumultuous years working at the SQA.

“Confidence in the chief executive and the entire SQA executive management team is at an all-time low.”

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has said work to reform Scotland’s exams will begin in the new year.

Exams themselves will not be scrapped but a group led by Professor Louise Hayward of Glasgow University will advise ministers on a new system.

An SQA spokeswoman said: “SQA management has continually pressed the Scottish Government for commitments on job security for staff since it announced in June that SQA is to be replaced.

“We understand the Scottish Government is actively considering the issue.

“Any threat of industrial action is disappointing and not in the interests of learners.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We appreciate the announcement to replace SQA has caused uncertainty for staff and we are committed to ensuring that employment rights are protected.

“The matters raised by staff and unions are being carefully considered and we will continue to engage and consult with them to try to address concerns.”