FOI21/22 134 Staff Survey Results

Date published: 21/04/2022

FOI reference: 21/22 134

Date received: 02/02/2022

Date responded: 18/03/2022

Information requested

I would like to obtain the results of the last two Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) staff surveys that were carried out, including the verbatim comments - qualitative and quantitative.



The results of the last two surveys are contained within the attached documents. Please note that the employee engagement score is based on six questions asked in this survey and is an average of the total Strongly Agree and Agree responses for each of these questions.

Whilst we are providing the results of the last two staff surveys, we consider the comments submitted by the respondents to the survey to be exempt under section 30(c) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 which states:

30 Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs

Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act—

(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the maintenance of the convention of the collective responsibility of the Scottish Ministers;

(b) would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially—

(i) the free and frank provision of advice; or

(ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation; or

(c) would otherwise prejudice substantially, or be likely to prejudice substantially, the effective conduct of public affairs.

Every year, SQA undertakes a staff survey to seek the opinions of all staff on a variety of issues relating to their work. This is closely aligned to the surveys undertaken by other public bodies. The surveys are undertaken on the SQA’s behalf by Ashbrook Research. The results are obtained and compiled by Ashbrook Research and then provided to SQA.

Within each survey there is the opportunity for staff to enter any comments they feel are appropriate. These are provided by staff on the basis that such comments are given on an anonymised and confidential basis. This approach helps the organisation to understand staff sentiment and identify  opportunities for further development and improvement.

We therefore consider that if staff feedback was to be made public, it would undermine the confidence that staff would have in expressing their views and would therefore diminish the input of staff to future surveys. This would substantially prejudice the conduct of public affairs both to staff relationships and trust and would adversely affect the ability of the SQA to conduct future surveys. It should be noted that the Ashbrook Research stated in the introductory information that “responses to this survey are strictly confidential”.

We accept that when applying a section 30 exemption, a public authority is obliged to undertake a public interest test.

It is considered that there may be a public interest in the comments being disclosed as this would show openness, transparency and accountability in the process. However, it is believed that, on balance, this is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the exemption. It is important that the SQA is permitted to carry out its affairs effectively, which includes being able to obtain the honest opinions and comments of staff. The anonymous survey results data that is being released in response to your request provides a lot of information on staff opinion.

The comments are collected by Ashbrook Research and are anonymised before they being provided to the SQA. However, whilst the obvious identifiers are removed it will still be possible for staff to be identified through the comments and it could be possible to further identify staff if released into the public domain.

Accordingly, the public interest in disclosing the information is outweighed by maintaining the exemption.

In compiling this response, SQA has also considered a previous decision made by the Scottish Information Commissioner which ruled on a request made to the Edinburgh Napier University for a University Staff Engagement Survey in 2018. The full decision notice is available at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s website at the following link:

Decision 007/2019 (


SQA People Survey 2020 (121 KB)

SQA People Survey 2021 (89 KB)