Secondary Teachers Tell SQA To Think Again

The SSTA conducted a survey of members delivering national qualifications following the SQA announcement that National Qualifications course assessments in session 2023-24 will return to full requirements – including reinstating coursework and exam assessment and the National 4 added value unit. The majority of SSTA members are opposed to the change with only 19% wanting a return to the pre-pandemic arrangements.

Seamus Searson, General Secretary said

“The SSTA survey has shown that SQA must go back and reconsider its decision when pupils and teachers are still in the process of education recovery. To reintroduce pre-pandemic exam arrangements in 2024 when teachers say that only 12% pupils are ready is foolhardy by an organisation that is oblivious of the realities in secondary schools”.

“The damage to pupils’ learning and the task for teachers in trying to bridge the gap cannot be underestimated, and to make more changes to qualifications when the whole qualification system is about to change requires the SQA to think again. Members are concerned about the wellbeing of their pupils and the immeasurable workload demands on a profession that is already ‘on its knees’. The SQA needs to listen to the teachers who are in schools everyday trying to support pupils and deliver the national qualifications. I challenge the SQA to engage with the profession and consider the findings of the SSTA survey”.

“68% of members said no to a return of pre-pandemic arrangements with only 19% supporting a return SSTA members in favour of return to pre-pandemic SQA arrangements. However, many members sought a phased return over a number of years allowing time for preparation of materials and restructuring of courses in addition of time for upskilling their pupils”.

The largest resistance to the SQA proposals came from teachers delivering higher qualification with up to 91% in some subjects. 

Modern Studies91%
Art and Design85%
Modern Foreign Languages85%
Religious Moral Education79%
Home Economics69%
Technological Education64%
Physical Education59%
Computing Science56%
Business Education44%

“The survey highlighted the range of resistance to the SQA imposition between different subjects and at different national qualification level. Only 30% of members saw the benefit of reintroduction of measures as a benefit at National 4 whilst only 15% sought a return at Higher”.

  • 30% - National 4

(45% PE and Maths, 44% Business Ed, and 42% Computing Science)

  • 26% - National 5

(51% Maths, 49% Business Education, 44% PE and 42% Music)

  • 15% - Higher

(44% Business Ed, 32% PE and 27% Technological Ed)

  • 18% - Advance Higher

(29% Business Ed, 26% Physic, 25% English, and 23% Art & Design)

“71% of teachers said that their pupils would need a lot or a great deal of support to be able to meet the requirements of the pre-pandemic arrangements. In addition, 76% said that increase in teacher workload would go up a lot or a great deal. This is a situation that cannot be ignored and I hope the Scottish Government will intervene and protect our pupils who already struggling and teachers that have no capacity to meet these imposed changes”.


Please note: the SSTA survey received 2120 responses.


  1. Subject and Qualification Level response
  2. Members Response to Survey Questions
  3. Selection of members comments by subject

SQA 2024 – 90% of Teachers say their Pupils are not ready

Following the SQA announcement that National Qualifications course assessments in session 2023-24 will return to full requirements – including reinstating coursework and exam assessment and the National 4 added value unit - the SSTA sought views of members. In responding to the survey, secondary teachers who are delivering national qualifications were clearly opposed to a full return. More than 2,000 members have responded in a week with the survey closing on Friday.
Seamus Searson, General Secretary said.
“The initial results indicate that 90% of teachers believe that their pupils are not ready for a full return of exam requirements. The damage to pupils’ learning and the task for teachers in trying bridge the gap cannot be underestimated, and to make more changes to qualifications when the whole qualification system is about to change is at best foolhardy and at worst negligent”.
“The SQA is to be abolished and a new body established in 2024.  This is the SQA’s last attempt to take control and is not about putting the pupils front and centre. The SQA has ignored the impact of the pandemic upon pupils and teachers and is set upon its own agenda which is more concerned about cementing its position in the education landscape”.
“Teachers do remember the damage caused by the SQA when it introduced the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) in 2020 which put considerable stress and workload pressure on pupils and teachers in the middle of a pandemic. It was also the SQA that created the grading fiasco that resulted in a confidence vote and potential resignation of the DFM. These are other examples of the SQA not listening to the profession, the teachers in schools. Hopefully the SQA will listen this time”.
“The survey did show that there was a willingness in some subjects and at some levels to introduce a phased change to the current arrangements to improve the opportunities of some pupils. The SQA response seems to ignore the impact of covid and assumes that everything is back to normal. Further details of the subjects and levels to follow the close of the survey”.
SSTA members have said.
“To return to pre pandemic course structure would be a major concern! The majority of our students really struggled to meet deadlines this session and this includes our very able pupils! We simply don’t have enough class contact time next session to go back, I believe there will be even more blank spaces in pupils folios and to return to full courses content pupil grades will decline even more”.
“This is a ridiculous decision by the SQA. It is likely to tip many teachers and pupils over the edge as far as workload issues and stress are concerned. In the past I have worked for the SQA as a marker. I feel unable to do this anymore as I no longer want to be in any way associated with a dictatorial and unsympathetic employer”.
“Teachers are about to embrace study leave and yet again we are left wondering if time has to be spent planning or a full course return as this will mean making new resources and altering timeliness etc”.
“I hope the SQA listen to the views of teachers and act on our feedback. Another year keeping course content as it is would he in the best interest for all involved”.
“As a Guidance Teacher we see the effect of SQA exams on the health and wellbeing of pupils. It’s too much for pupils. Too much change. It would be better to wait until the Hayward Review is complete”.
“Bringing back elements at Higher and Advanced Higher when staff have been stretched and unable to cover the relevant work for the last two years is unrealistic. It could be reintroduced at N5 this year, Higher the following session and Advanced Higher the session after that. It is an unfair demand of Higher and AH pupils this year”.
“Fine with full requirement for National 5, but not Higher and Adv Higher, this would need to be a staggered approach due to the nature of courses i.e. can't fully reinstate topics across all course since prior learning at previous course level has not occurred”.
“The pandemic has impacted on subjects being taught in BGE to truly prepare students with the skills for Senior Phase. This BGE moving into Senior Phase has had a heavily disrupted BGE and not had the opportunity to fully develop skills in preparation for Senior Phase. SQA need to take that into account. There is no spare months to allow catch up. Particularly for practical subjects”.
“The removal of the writing assignment at Higher and NAT 5 level had been the latest change to the course and was not one which I believed added any value. It only meant additional teaching time being spent on the preparation and assessment of this component. It was a pointless and time-consuming exercise for pupils and teachers with no benefit to pupil learning. This has further strengthened the lack of confidence and respect I feel for the SQA. I appreciate the SSTA prompt response to this announcement”.
Please note: 53% of respondents have marked or are markers for the SQA with only 35% intending to mark for the SQA in the future.

The Survey will close on Friday 28 April with a full report to follow.

Message to Members 1 April 2022

Teachers’ Pay Offer for 2021-2022 - Accepted

The SSTA attended a meeting of the SNCT Teachers’ Side (31 March) where constituent parties confirmed their view on the revised 2022 pay offer. All parties stated their union’s position and  SSTA representatives followed the view taken by members (SSTA members had voted 71.6% rejected) against accepting the pay offer. However, the SNCT Teachers’ Side voted to accept and the SSTA is bound by the collective decision reluctantly to accept.
The SNCT Teachers’ Side confirmed the decision to the management side with the expectation that the pay offer is implemented as soon as possible. At the meeting it was confirmed by all unions, even though the pay offer was far below what would be acceptable, that the campaign for 10% pay increase in 2022-2023 had begun and the preparedness for taking action should an unacceptable pay offer be made.

10% for all teachers in 2022

Teachers Pay and Leave

The SSTA regularly receives queries from teachers who have recently started in a promoted post or increased their hours and are surprised to find that their first pay following the additional work is less than expected.
Frequently when querying this with payroll departments they receive an unsatisfactory answer along the lines that “any teacher who moves position, new starts, leavers etc. are subject to the Teachers’ new start/leavers calculation” along with a spreadsheet calculation which may need explanation. To help clarify this we offer the following FAQs.

SSTA Management Time Survey

 The issue of Management Time, or the lack of it, has been raised at the SNCT and it will be a major item at the next SNCT meeting. The SSTA believes it is essential for those in management positions to have sufficient time within the school day to meet the requirements of the post.
The SSTA is keen to gather evidence as to the situation in secondary schools so that the employers and Government understand the reality members face in schools. Invitations have been passed to all members recorded on our membership system. We would really appreciate your assistance in this matter. If you are in a management position and you wish to contribute to the short survey and you have not received an invitation, please email with your name, school and the post you hold.  A link to the survey will then be sent to you.

SSTA and SQA Examinations

The SSTA met with the SQA following the release of the SQA support materials for the Examinations this summer. The SSTA shared the responses made by its members  with the SQA to highlight the major distress in schools in trying deliver national qualifications in schools.
Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said
“The SQA seems to have little understanding of the situation teachers and their pupils. The pandemic has challenged schools over the last two in trying to support young people in reaching their full potential. The SQA is ‘out of touch’ with teachers and must be prepared to listen to the calls for help. This could have all been avoided if the SQA had listened to secondary teacher representatives such as the SSTA. The SQA was adamant that it did not need to include the SSTA in its decision making but relied upon the views of those far away from the reality of schools. The SSTA predicted problems in 2020 and 2021 but the SQA pressed ahead with its plans regardless of the stress and pain of pupils and teachers. The response from members highlighted the inconsistency of support, insufficient quality of unvetted unwieldy materials, the insensitivity of procedures that failed to address the reality in schools, failed to acknowledge impact on teacher workload, and the potential reputational damage to the SQA and its qualifications”.
“The situation in schools at present is dire with increasing staff and pupil absences and the collection of mountains of evidence in the event of pupils missing examinations and not reaching the grades the pupils and parents are expecting. The SSTA raised concerns in the summer 2021 of the potential problems this summer and the need to find a system that factored in further disruption to education due to the pandemic. This again was ignored and the ‘full’ exam diet for 2022 was hastened forward. Unfortunately, it will be the poor teachers in the classroom working every hour of the coming months to ensure that pupils get the best results in spite of the SQA”.
“The SSTA sees further problems in the years to come with the pupils in S1 to S3 whose education has been disrupted in the last two years as they join the conveyor belt of examinations with no changes or allowances being considered for 2023 and 2024. The SSTA has suggested that the pressure could be relieved by reducing the number of presentations each year by restoring two year courses, having shared-content courses with a range of pupil-centred summative assessment techniques and ending the unproductive practice of multi-course teaching where N4 to Advanced Higher pupils are being forced into the same classes”.

SSTA Members Update – Pay, SQA and Covid

Teachers’ Pay 2021-2022. The story so far…….

In the autumn of 2020 the SSTA Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee submitted a claim to the SNCT Teachers’ Side for a restorative pay award that promoted the retention and recruitment of teachers. This was expected to be paid to teachers on 1 April 2021.

In December 2020 the SNCT Teachers’ Side agreed the following pay claim that would be paid to all teachers without differentiation:

“A range of 3%-5% is the financial scope of the claim, depending on other measures and benefits also being considered as part of the pay and reward package, in particular those measures aimed at tackling excessive workload”.

On the 15 March 2021 Cosla responded with the following pay offer

“A 2% uplift for those earning up to £40,000; and
A 1% rise for those earning over £40,000 with a cap of £800”.

This offer was rejected by the SNCT Teachers’ Side as it was not only too low but a differentiated offer. Despite further negotiations no further formal offer was made until November.

On 4 November 2021 Cosla made the following

“A 1.22% increase at all SNCT pay points.
A back dating of the implementation date of the pay award to be effective from 1 January 2021”.

This was followed on 13 December 2021

“A 1% increase at all SNCT pay points effective from 1 April 2021.
A further 1% increase at all SNCT pay points effective from 1 January 2022.
A one-off non-recurring payment of £100 to each SNCT member of staff in post on the date the offer is agreed (pro-rata) and a cap of £800 for those earning £80K and above”.

A further offer was made on 10 February 2021

“A 1.22% increase at all SNCT pay points effective from 1 April 2021.
A further 1% increase at all SNCT pay points effective from 1 January 2022”.

All these offers were rejected by the SNCT Teachers’ Side and Cosla made the following offer using the following statement on 25 February 2022.

“ make a best and final offer within the overall cost envelope allocated and with scope to reconfigure aspects such as the percentage and maintain a one-off non-recurring payment:

A 1.22% increase at all SNCT pay points effective from 1 April 2021.
A further 1% increase at all SNCT pay points effective from 1 January 2022.
An £800 cap for those earning £80K and above
And a one-off non-recurring payment of £100 to each SNCT member of staff (pro-rated for part-time) for all SNCT members in post on 31 March 2022 and based on working hours at that time”.

The SSTA Position

In September 2021 the SSTA Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee took the position that it would not consult members on an offer that was less than 3% and was paid universally to all SNCT grades.

The Committee maintains that the 25 February 2022 pay offer has not met its baseline but has agreed due to the totally unacceptable protracted period of negotiations to consult SSTA members on the pay offer. The SSTA will conduct a consultative ballot of all members that will be issued separately to members at their preferred email address. It is, therefore, essential that members ensure that the Association holds your correct personal details. You can updated your details at www,

*Please note on 7 February 2022 the SNCT Teachers’ Side submitted a 10% pay claim to be applied to all grades and pay points without differentiation or discrimination for 2022-2023.

The SQA and National Qualifications

The SSTA has received many messages from members regarding the latest communications from the SQA and preparations for the examinations next term. The SSTA is meeting with the SQA later this week and would welcome further comments from members at

Covid 19 - Safety First

The Scottish Government has reduced mitigations in schools and is attempting to return society back to ‘normal’. However, Covid-19 is still with us and members are advised to take precautions to ensure their safety.

The current Government guidance ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools’ to ensure a low-risk environment for learning and teaching still applies

This still includes:

  • Risk assessments to be continued
  • Environmental cleaning, hand and respiratory hygiene to continue
  • Ventilation – strengthened guidance for local authorities on CO2 monitoring
  • Support for people in the highest risk groups/pregnant staff

SSTA says ‘Put Teachers at the Centre’

SSTA Members Bulletin – 11 June 2021

Printable PDF

School Teacher Pay 2021
The SNCT Extended Joint Chairs met on Monday 7 June but COSLA were not prepared to make an improved offer.  COSLA said the reason for the lack of progress was that it is awaiting discussion on local government funding with Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes and Shona Robison. The further discussions on finance between COSLA and Scottish Government are deemed necessary before there can be any reconsideration of the terms of the pay offer. 

The Teachers’ Side noted COSLA’s position and made clear that the ongoing delay was very disappointing.  COSLA was also urged to exhibit more urgency in improving its offer and reaching a pay settlement.  The point was made forcibly that allowing this situation to drag on would not be conducive to educational recovery in session 2021-2022.

No date was set for the next meeting of the Extended Joint Chairs as this will be dependent upon the outcomes of the meetings between COSLA and the Cabinet Secretaries for Finance and Local Government.
Professional Update
The SSTA welcomes the GTCS announcement that the deadline for Professional Update has been extended to 31 October due to the current pressures in secondary schools.  The SSTA would expect, therefore, that both PRD and Professional Update meetings do not take priority over the important focus on learning and teaching, as well as the gathering of evidence and assessment necessary before the end of this session.
Lead Teacher
The new post of Lead Teacher will be introduced into the SNCT Handbook from August 2021. The SNCT Lead Teacher report

The new role – which will command a salary of more than £47,000 a year – is to provide a promotion route for teachers who want to further their careers but who do not want to move into school management.

The Lead Teacher Role is described as: “school-based Lead Teachers will remain classroom teachers and should not be regarded as part of the school’s management structure. Their role therefore will include the duties of a teacher as set out in the SNCT Handbook. Lead Teachers would function alongside and complement the existing leadership roles, structures and posts, bringing clear additionality to the system through supporting the professional learning of colleagues in their context and beyond”.
National Qualifications 2021
The Alternative Certification Model (ACM) and the submission of grades is drawing to a close and there is an increasing concern that the process may lead to a rise in appeals. The ACM is restricted to demonstrated attainment only.

This is different to 2020, when teachers were able to use a mix of demonstrated and inferred attainment. Last year teachers had some flexibility to take into account the disruption caused by Covid. This year the SQA has made it clear that inferred attainment cannot be used. In the recent SSTA survey only 36% of members believed the evidence that they collected truly demonstrated their pupil’s attainment.

As a consequence, SSTA believes that there will be an increase in appeals and further scrutiny of how the schools submitted grades to the SQA. Therefore, SSTA encourages members to retain all records of their assessment.
This should include:

  • Your expected pupil attainment level (taking into account Covid-19)
  • Your initial attainment level before moderation/verification, and
  • The final grade submitted to the SQA by the school

Appeals Process (National Qualification 2021)
The SQA Appeals Process has been published and is to be managed by the SQA.

Students have been told they have to register for appeals between Friday 25 June and Thursday 12 August. If they miss the 12 August deadline, they have been told teachers and lecturers can appeal on their behalf until Monday 16 August.
However, as mentioned above, because students are also told they should have another discussion about their options with their teacher or lecturer after results day on Tuesday 10 August, questions are being asked about how this will be possible when many schools are still off for the summer break.
SSTA advises its members not to pre-empt any appeals but to await the formal notification from the SQA in August.
The SQA ‘out of touch’
The SSTA understands that the SQA are conducting post submission checks to take place between 25 June and 7 July. Schools are being advised that SQA will contact them and they must respond by 5 July. This is totally unrealistic as the vast majority of schools will be closed for the summer and teachers will be unavailable.
In addition, priority appeals are now scheduled to be submitted no later than 16 August when a number of schools are due to return. This would not allow schools sufficient time to identify the appeals, gather the evidence and have it packaged without teachers working through their holidays.
The SQA appears to have little understanding or respect for schools or staff if it expects teachers to work through the summer vacation.
SSTA recommends that all teachers take a well-earned break and step away from all work until they return to school in August. The last thing teachers need is another vacation period ruined.

Teachers Deserve A Break – Make Sure You Take It

Survey image

SSTA Survey - Alternative Certification Model (ACM) – May 2021

The SSTA conducted a survey in response to the high numbers of members raising concerns regarding the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) and its impact on teachers and their pupils.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said

“The SSTA received 1711 responses which gave a clear indication of the difficulties teachers and pupils are facing in trying to deliver the ACM.

“The SQA is in its ‘own world’, oblivious to the real situation in schools. It has shown little understanding of the situation in schools and the damage it is doing to pupils and teachers. The SQA’s focus is continuing to ‘fiddle while Rome burns’.

 “The collecting of evidence demanded by SQA in such a short time period, without making any allowance for the disruption caused by the pandemic, is putting a heavy burden on teachers and pupils. 96% of teachers said that the collection, marking and moderation of evidence has created substantial additional stress/pressure for them. 92% of teachers also said that the ACM process has created substantial additional stress/pressure for their pupils”

“More worryingly, only 36% of members believed that the evidence that they have collected truly demonstrated their pupil’s attainment. This highlights the potentially high number of pupils who will get grades lower than would have been expected in a normal year”.

 “The SQA’s focus on collected evidence, which doesn’t adequately take into account the disruption in schools, will lead to a large number of disillusioned young people and very unhappy parents”.

“The SQA must change its stance and allow the flexibility for teacher professional judgement, in addition to the collected evidence, to ensure all young people achieve the results that they deserve”.

SSTA Headteachers members have said

“No proper Headteacher representation on the NQ2021 group to talk about the actual operational actions that they have asked us to do – clearly no one on that group has had recent or living school experience”.

“This whole ACM has been a nightmare of stress for both staff and pupils. I have visibly seen the stress on the faces of my staff and the pupils. This has been the worst, most pressurised time of my whole career”.
Attached:         Appendix A - Survey Results
                        Appendix B - Selection of Members Comments


SSTA Response to SQA Appeals Consultation

The SSTA Education Committee met on 17 March 2021 to discuss and agree a collective response to the SQA’s 2021 NQ Appeals Process Consultation on behalf of SSTA members.  You can view the SSTA Response here. SSTA members are, of course, still able to respond individually at
In making its response the Committee was mindful of:

  • Teacher workload
  • Fairness to learners
  • Maintaining confidence in National Qualifications
  • The importance of good, clear communication

 The response was uploaded to at 0915 on 18 March 2021.