SQA monitoring data: FOI release

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

Information requested

In Holyrood on 19/01/2022, the Cabinet Secretary for Education stated this during a debate on the 2022 exam diet: "The action that is being taken by the SQA is the monitoring of the data and if the data determines that further issues need to be addressed by the National Qualifications group then they will do so.

"There is daily correspondence and discussion around the data and if that data signifies that that requires us to move to scenario two then that is a decision the SQA board can take at any time the data suggests it is required to do so."

The following documents are requested:

  1. Any correspondence within the Scottish Government around the 'data' referenced by the Cabinet Secretary above, from September 1 2021 to date of this request.
  2. Any correspondence between the SQA and the Scottish Government around the 'data' referenced by the Cabinet Secretary above, from September 1 2021 to date of this request.
  3. Any data used by the SQA as referenced by the Cabinet Secretary which was shared with the Scottish Government between November 1 to date.
  4. The Scottish Government's definition of 'further issues' as referenced by the Cabinet Secretary.


A copy of the information you requested is attached.

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 an exemption under sections 30(b (i) (free and frank provision of advice) 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) or 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information.

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, as part of relationships which remain vital in supporting the delivery of qualifications through the Covid-19 pandemic.

These exemptions are 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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions.

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 allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which issues can be explored and refined to enable the Government as a whole to reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective, particularly while the importance of the advice from these relationships continues to have a bearing how qualifications are affected by Covid-19 going forward. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken.

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.

With regard to the ‘data’ referenced in 1 and 2, it may be helpful to clarify that data on attendance and absence in local authority schools is published on the public dashboard at:

2020-21 Data to December 2020:
COVID19-SchoolsandChildcareInformation | Tableau Public
2020-21 Data to July 2021:
COVID19 - Schools and Childcare Information 2021 | Tableau Public
2021-22 Data:
COVID19 - Schools and Childcare Information August 2021 | Tableau Public

At the time of the statement, collation of this data was provided to Ministers on a daily basis,  and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) had access to this information.

With regard to question 4, there was no specific definition of 'further issues'. This reference was intended to indicate that data relating to learner and teacher absences would be collated and monitored to inform discussions and decisions on whether to implement scenario two or whether further or different action was needed.

I wish to apologise for the significant delay in issuing a response to your request. There has been a significant amount of interest in decisions taken around the assessment of National Qualifications in 2021 and 2022 and in related issues. This increased demand on the team who was dealing with these issues, both in relation to a significant number of Freedom of Information requests being submitted as well as crucial policy development work.

The information requested in many cases was also of a complexity and sensitivity which required input from a number of teams, and required review by a limited number of senior policy officials with knowledge of the specific sensitivities who also had significant competing priorities for their time. Time was required to ensure that a comprehensive record of any relevant information was provided to each of these requests.

These pressures occurred over a period of time when there was reduced resources within the team and several staff changes which caused issues in terms of continuity and efficiency of processing FOI requests.

Officials are working to improve processes and learn lessons from this extremely busy period, to ensure that a more effective service is provided in future.

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 - 202200274241 - Index of Enclosures - Final


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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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