Opposition demands parliamentary statement from Scotland’s education secretary on allegations of ‘rigging’ report

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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) delivered a report to the Scottish government last year criticizing elements of Scottish education, including quango Education Scotland and the examinations body, the SQA.

Ministers had previously said they would do nothing more than fact-check the report, but a Freedom of Information request to the SQA showed the review body was asking and in some cases , got changes to the draft report.

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The Scottish Government, however, said publication of its draft comments would damage relations between the “UK and an international organisation”, with the matter since referred to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Willie Rennie said it was clear the SNP had “sought a major rewrite” and had been “caught in the act”.

The former party leader called on Shirley-Anne Somerville to make a statement in parliament on the matter to ‘explain the inconsistency’.

He said: “Documents that the Scottish Liberal Democrats have extracted from the SQA reveal how much effort has been made to change the content of the report and key themes from those at the top of Scottish education. They promised they were only checking the facts, but now we know they doctored the report.

“That’s why we need a statement to Parliament from the Education Secretary to explain the inconsistency between what they said and what we have since discovered.

“It all became clear why John Swinney did not want the report released before the election as he wanted time to change its content.

“The public deserves to know what hand the then Education Secretary had in this process.

“John Swinney’s Secret Alterations Log should be open to teachers, parents and pupils. The new Education Secretary should come to Parliament and pledge to unravel her predecessor’s secret network.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Megan Gallacher added: “Ministers have clearly interfered with this report, which has diluted the independence of its findings.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “The OECD report is an independent review by an independent body. The timing of its publication has been determined by the OECD.

“The report, which was published in full on June 21, 2021, supported Curriculum for Excellence, and the Scottish Government has accepted its 12 recommendations.”

Work to reform Scotland’s examinations system is underway, after the Education Secretary announced in August that the SQA would be scrapped and replaced, with Education Scotland having its inspection powers stripped.

Professor Louise Hayward, from the University of Glasgow, is leading a group that will engage with stakeholders and provide advice to ministers on how best to retain traditional exams in the new system.

At Holyrood in October, Ms Somerville said: ‘The issue of assessment and qualifications generates strong and sometimes conflicting views, but I am confident that, given the experience and views expressed over the past two years , now is a good time to signal that the Scottish Government supports the reform of national qualifications and assessment,” she told MSPs.

“The Scottish Government will consult on the purpose and principles which should underpin any reform.”

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