Fury over £1million exam pay-out

Calls are being made for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to refund over £1million paid to it in exam fees over the last two years – despite no exams taking place since 2019.

By Kirsty Smyth
Monday, 21st June 2021, 2:10 pm
Updated Monday, 21st June 2021, 2:52 pm
Councillor Scott Hamilton says the money should be paid back. Photo: Bill McBurnie
Councillor Scott Hamilton says the money should be paid back. Photo: Bill McBurnie

Scottish Borders Council has paid almost £1.1million to the SQA for exam and assessment services during a time when Borders youngsters have not sat formal exams.

The issue was brought to light by Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton, who discovered that the council has given ££1,088,710 to the SQA in the past two years.

That figure – equivalent to the extra revenue brought in by the 0.5% increase in council tax – is just £15,657 less than the amount paid to SQA between 2017-2019, when students did sit exams which were externally marked.

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However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Borders’ pupils did not take SQA exams in 2020 or 2021.

Instead all academic attainment has been determined by teachers.

Branding the situation “ridiculous”, Mr Hamilton has insisted that the SQA should refund Scottish Borders Council.

He said: “The SQA demanding exam fees when there hasn’t been the usual exam diet, as a result of covid, is utterly ludicrous.

“I’m afraid this will add insult to injury to my constituents, both parents and pupils, who contacted me about the examination system and process.

“Considering we have paid just over a million pounds – I need to say that again, a million pounds – for exams which never existed.

“We will write to the SQA to demand that we get Borders’ money back given the ridiculousness of situation”.

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton said the situation was “just another chapter in the SQA fiasco” surrounding exams and grades.

“Over £1million of Borders’ council funds have gone to the SQA despite young people not sitting a formal exam of late,” Mrs Hamilton said.

“The council budget is already constrained due to SNP council cuts, and we must ensure that the SQA is held accountable for demanding this money.

“The SNP Government has cut council funding by a third, and this rubs salt in the wounds to local government.

“Council taxpayers will be rightly furious and Scottish Borders Council should be refunded in earnest.”