Communication with SQA regarding grading of 2022 exams: FOI review

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

Information requested

The release of all communication between the Scottish Government (Ministers, special advisers, staff from education-focused directorates) and the SQA regarding the grading of 2022 exams. This should include information on grade boundaries, pass rates and attainment gaps including any likely public/media response to any of those. Your review request asked that a fresh check be taken to make sure all relevant information is included and that exemptions were applied correctly.


have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed, with modifications. I have set out the matters I have considered in relation to this review below.

Application of the Section 30(b)(ii) exemption

You requested a reconsideration of the Section 30(b)(ii) exemptions. I reconsidered each application of the exemption applied, including reconsidering the public interest test for each of these applications. I did not find that the exemption or the public interest test had been applied unreasonably. However, I did identify areas where, on consideration of the public interest test afresh, I found in favour of additional release as set out below.

In considering the public interest, I balanced the need to protect the ability for officials of the Scottish Government and its agencies to discuss sensitive issues in a free and frank way against the public interest in the important decisions these discussions informed. This was the same balance considered by the original case handlers. I identified portions of the material that was redacted which I felt would throw further light on the development of advice and the discussions that took place, without revealing the detail of those discussions in a way that would impede future consideration. Accordingly, I have made an additional disclosure that can be found at Annex A.

I am satisfied that an exemption under section 30(b)(ii) continues to apply to a small amount of information previously redacted under this exemption for the reasons set out in our initial response.

Application of Section 38(1)(b) exemption (data protection)

I re-considered all exemptions under Section 38(1)(b) exemptions, and considered the application of these exemptions and found that they were applied consistently and properly.

Identification of relevant material

I also considered the steps the original case handlers took to identify material to release. Reviewing all their records and discussing with the original team I concluded that the searches and other steps to find material undertaken by the original handlers were appropriate. I re-ran these searches, undertook additional searches, expanded timelines to corroborate this and found one additional document relating to a meeting between the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and the Head of SQA on 27 July 2022. Although most of the meeting was out with scope of the FOI request, I have included, at Annex A, an extract, which I believe falls within scope of the original request and should therefore be released.

I also considered the documents that had been identified, including the material that was not released. I looked for evidence of any other documents not identified. For instance, I looked for references to documents that I could not identify or discussions that were not part of the minutes identified. I did not find any such evidence.


As indicated above after carefully considering the public interest test and balancing the need to protect the ability for officials of the Scottish Government and its agencies to discuss sensitive issues in a free and frank way against the public interest, I have decided to make additional disclosures. This includes 4 slides from a power point presentation that was attached as document 04.1 in the original FOI request. Due to re-running the original search, and by extending it, I am also providing an extract from an additional document that falls within the scope of the request. Now listed as document 8 within Annex A. In organising these, I have followed the numbering in the original disclosure. I have highlighted newly disclosed text for your clarity and ease.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI - 202200319510 - Annex A


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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