FOI22/23 159 Modifications to assessment survey information

Date published: 03/05/2023

FOI reference: 22/23 159

Date received: 31/03/2023

Date responded: 02/05/2023

Information requested

I would like a summary of the responses to the survey conducted to gauge opinions from stake holders on the proposed return of coursework components to qualifications from which they had been removed due to modifications brought in during the pandemic. Ideally the summary should be accompanied by an anonymised version of the all responses received to each of the survey questions - presumably these exist in the form of a spreadsheet or database file. I further request copies of any minutes from any meetings and any email correspondence where the responses to this survey were discussed, and any documents associated with the decision making process prior to the announcement made on Wed 29th March 2023



The documents provide the information requested. However, information relating to the results of the evaluation have been redacted under section 27(1(a) Information intended for future publication

(1)        Information is exempt information if—

(a) it is held with a view to its being published by—

(i) a Scottish public authority; or

(ii) any other person,

at a date not later than twelve weeks after that on which the request for the information is made;

(b) when that request is made the information is already being held with that view; and

(c) it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information be withheld from disclosure until such date as is mentioned in paragraph (a).

It is stated in the document dated 10 February 2023 that the full results of the evaluation will be published in March 2023. Unfortunately, the publication of this has been delayed and it is now intended to be published within 12 weeks of receipt of the request, in early summer.

However, we consider the survey responses 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.

In October 2022 SQA began an evaluation of the arrangements for National Courses in 2022-2023. This involved an initial survey. The main objective was to understand how the modifications to assessment had impacted on learners and practitioners. A short summary of the results of the survey is contained within the Modifications documents dated February 2023. 

The survey provided the opportunity for respondents to provide feedback on how modifications to assessment had impacted on learners and practitioners. It also provided the opportunity to comment in a confidential and anonymous manner. We consider all responses were received with the expectation that they would be treated confidentially, and any potentially identifying information would not be released. If the responses were to be made public and any individual was to be able to be identified it would undermine the confidence that respondents have in expressing views and could diminish the participation in future surveys. This would substantially prejudice the conduct of public affairs both to relationships with and trust between SQA and respondents and would adversely affect the ability of the SQA to conduct future surveys.

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 respondents. The summary data contained within the Modifications document provides a lot of information relating to the survey. Also, it is stated in the Modifications document from February 2023 that the full results of the evaluation will be published in March 2023. Unfortunately the publication of this has been delayed and it is now likely to be in June 2023.

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 (



NQ23 Strategic Group Notes 2023

Advisory Council Minute April 2023

Advisory Council Modifications

NQ23 Strategic Group Modifications