John Swinney is under pressure to set out a timetable detailing how he will respond to calls for sweeping reform of key education agencies.

It comes after opposition MSPs teamed up to back a motion demanding that schools watchdog Education Scotland be broken up, with inspection activities split from its curriculum development role.

They also want the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to be made “more accountable” and say teachers should be at the heart of governance structures.

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has written to the Education Secretary with a call for action following Wednesday’s Holyrood vote.

READ MORE: Defeat for John Swinney

“Parliament has recognised the strength of Scottish Liberal Democrat arguments and made its view clear,” his letter says.

“The Scottish Government must now acknowledge and begin work to implement the will of Parliament with Education Scotland separated into independent inspection and policy functions and reforms to ensure that the SQA is grounded in the teaching profession.

“We need the organisations in charge of Scottish education to get out of the way of teachers, and in must come an education system overseen by people with current and direct teaching experience. 

“In this crisis teachers have been creative, dedicated, full of good ideas. They know what their pupils need. We can’t say that of Education Scotland and the SQA.”

HeraldScotland: Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.

The letter also calls for ministers to publish the OECD’s latest review of Scottish education.

“As Parliament made clear, leaving this document in the hands of ministers and the same organisations it is intended to critique for months of editing is not appropriate, especially when it risks such a significant report remaining unpublished until after the forthcoming election,” it continues.

“The public deserve to have all the facts when they make up their minds. I believe that you would have the support of all parties in writing to the OECD to ask for the publication of an interim report as swiftly as possible.”

Major education reforms were backed following Wednesday’s debate by 65 votes to 58. However, the result is not legally binding.

READ MORE: Move to break up schools watchdog

An SNP attempt to amend the motion was voted down by 64 votes to 61.

Mr Swinney, who is also Deputy First Minister, hit back strongly against criticism of the two agencies, describing it as “gratuitous and unfounded”.

“It serves neither the country nor our children and young people to attack the contribution of some of those staff in Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualification Authority for their efforts,” he went on.

Mr Swinney said a number of indicators had improved, adding: “Young people are doing better today than they did when this Government took office. That’s the record I’m going to take to the streets of this country on May 6.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment on Mr Rennie’s letter.


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