Increase in FOI requests compared to SQA assessment of students

Teachers union sends advice to teachers after a “sudden surge” in Freedom of Information (FOI) demands on 2021 assessment practices.

The large number of Freedom of Information requests from parents and students in Scotland is a sign of the “concern and confusion ”about the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) – established this year after Covid led to the cancellation of national exams – says the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA).

The SSTA said it has responded to a number of concerns from its members that they may have to deal with complaints from parents and students over the summer.

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The SSTA said this afternoon that it is issuing the following advisory on FOI requests: “A symptom of the concern and confusion surrounding the alternative certification model has been a sudden surge this week in the number of parents and learners making Freedom of Information requests to schools and local authorities regarding concerns assessment instruments and procedures.

Access to Information requests “show confusion over SQA assessment”

“No teacher should be required to collect evidence regarding FOI claims while on vacation. Upon receipt of such a request, the local authority should respond on behalf of the school with an acknowledgment and a time limit for a response. Live [Scottish Qualifications Authority – SQA ] materials and licensed materials are not to be shared by schools, even if the request is made by FOI. “

The SSTA advisory adds: “For members’ information, there are restrictions on what can be shared (eg no scripts / responses but only grade and scorer comments). The timeframe for responding to a FOI request after the results are announced is one month. If it is before, the response must be made within five months of the date of the request or within 40 days of the results being released (whichever comes first) There should be no obligation to share information that has already been shared.

“Learners with concerns should be directed to the SQA appeals process. If a learner appeals, the SQA can contact the school after August 10 to request evidence. Under no circumstances should the evidence be disclosed directly to the parents. “

Before SSTA concerns about an increase in FOI requests emerged this afternoon, the SQA issued a statement to mark today’s close of the service for receiving provisional results from schools, colleges and training providers in 2021. The next milestone will be August 10, when SQA certificates are to be issued.

SQA Executive Director Fiona Robertson said: “I know this has been a very difficult year for everyone involved in education. Many thanks to everyone who supported the design and delivery of the alternative certification model during this very difficult time.

“The SQA appreciates the hard work, collaboration and continued dedication of Scottish teachers, speakers and support staff. We know they have worked tirelessly to support their learners.

“SQA carried out a national quality assurance exercise in every school, college and training provider offering national 5, higher and higher advanced courses. This included nearly 500 appointees who are experienced teachers and lecturers, and whose the contribution to the delivery of the alternative certification model is greatly appreciated.

“We also want to thank all the learners in Scotland, their parents and caregivers. The learners showed great resilience and worked exceptionally hard to give their best. “

The SQA said more information was available here.