Exam grade methodology data communications: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

Following several requests, the SQA has confirmed that it will not release full details of the methodology being used to award grades this year until the day on which results are issued. The same is true of the Equality Impact Assessment information.
Please answer the following questions:
1) On which date, and by what means, was John Swinney informed of the SQA intention to withhold this data until exam results day?
2) Did John Swinney approve this decision, either through any formal process or - for example - by indicating a lack of objection?
Please also release copies of relevant communications with regards to the above questions (for example, this would include an email exchange in which John Swinney was advised of the SQA intentions, as per question 1).
If you need any further information or clarifications please let me know.


You will be aware that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is an executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), as set out under the Education (Scotland) Act 1996. As such, SQA operates at arm’s length to Ministers and is responsible for making its own operational decisions.

In answer to your first question, the Deputy First Minister was generally aware from experience in previous years that it is normal for SQA to publish data such as methodology details on the day award results are released. He was specifically informed that this was the intention of the SQA in relation to the methodology for 2020 by email on 30 June 2020 and in relation to the EQIA, by email on 27 May 2020.
In answer to your second question, as an arms-length NDPB making an operational decision, the SQA did not seek approval and, by definition, this was not given either implicitly nor explicitly.
Please find attached copies of relevant communications with regard to the final element of your request.

Within the enclosures redactions have been made under Section 38(1)(b).
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

FoI-202000068096 - Information released


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

Back to top