Publication - FOI/EIR release

Communications with SQA regarding National Qualification assessment 2021: FOI release

Published: 12 Jul 2021

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

Published:
12 Jul 2021
Communications with SQA regarding National Qualification assessment 2021: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100187739
Date received: 30 Mar 2021
Date responded: 8 Jul 2021
Information requested

Any communications (including letters, emails, phone calls) between the Scottish Government and the SQA on the subject of SQA National Qualification assessments in 2021. I would like this information between 01 March 2021 and 26 March 2021.

Response

Attached is a copy of the information you requested. Further details on the 2021 National Qualifications Alternative Certification Model can be found on the Scottish Qualifications Authority website at: National Qualifications in 2020-21 - SQA.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 25(1) (information otherwise accessible), 29(1)(a) (policy development), 30(c) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information.

An exemption under section 25(1) of FOISA (information otherwise accessible) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to information that has been published. Links to the published information have been included where relevant.

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government’s policy on options for the delivery of National Qualifications in 2021, which are still under development or may still be required as contingency plans and in those circumstances would require further policy development, or further development of detail on the option currently being implemented.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on options for the delivery of National Qualifications in 2021 will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy or any contingency arrangements while they are still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs – free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to exchange views in an open way whilst deliberating sensitive policy issues relating to the alternative certification model for the 2021 National Qualifications that remain under consideration, and would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, there is a greater public interest in ensuring that free and frank views can be exchanged in sensitive discussions around ongoing delivery of the alternative certification model for the National Qualifications for young people in Scotland, and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able to conduct this aspect of its business effectively.

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. This has been applied to meeting information where disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to conduct secure meetings because we would not be able to reuse, or use similar, teleconferencing details with confidence. This would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the process of holding secure discussions at distance and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able to conduct this aspect of its business effectively.

This exemption has also been applied to operational documents where disclosing this information would be prejudicial to the operational delivery of the qualifications. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to deliver the qualifications this year as such elements remain under consideration and we would not properly be able to manage risk. This would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in
terms of the exemption.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, there is a greater public interest in delivering the certification of National Qualifications for young people in Scotland and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able to conduct this aspect of its business effectively.

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. names and contact details, 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.

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Contact

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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
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