Complaining to SQA

This page is for complaints about SQA Awarding Body only.

Our complaints service cannot consider disagreement about academic judgement. This includes the grade(s) you have been awarded and the outcome of any appeal for National Qualifications.

If something goes wrong or you are dissatisfied with our services, please tell us. This leaflet describes our complaints procedure and how to make a complaint. It also tells you how we will handle your complaint and what you can expect from us.

Before raising a complaint, please check our frequently asked questions, or contact us to ask for help.

We handle complaints in line with requirements set by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. This means there are things we can consider as being complaints and things we cannot.

You can complain to SQA about things like:

  • failure or refusal to provide a service
  • inadequate quality or standard of service, or an unreasonable delay in providing a service
  • dissatisfaction with one of our policies or its impact on the individual
  • failure to properly apply law, procedure or guidance when delivering services
  • failure to follow the appropriate administrative process
  • the conduct or attitude of, or treatment by, a member of staff, appointee or contractor (except where there are arrangements in place for the contractor to handle the complaint themselves
  • disagreement with a decision, (except where there is a statutory procedure for challenging that decision, or an established appeals process followed throughout the sector).

Your complaint may involve more than one SQA service or be about someone working on our behalf.

What can't I complain about?

There are some things we can't deal with through our complaints handling procedure. These include:

  • disagreement with an academic judgment
  • a request for information or an explanation of an SQA policy, process or practice
  • an expression of dissatisfaction with a process for which another party is fully responsible, for instance, staffing issues within a centre
  • a complaint to a centre that has been escalated to SQA for regulatory investigation or action
  • a routine first-time request for a service
  • a request for compensation only
  • issues that are in court or have already been heard by a court or a tribunal (if you decide to take legal action, you should let us know as the complaint cannot then be considered under this process)
  • disagreement with a decision where there is a statutory procedure for challenging that decision (such as for freedom of information and subject access requests), or an established appeals process followed throughout the sector
  • a request for information under the Data Protection or Freedom of Information (Scotland) Acts
  • a grievance by a staff member or a grievance relating to employment or staff recruitment
  • a concern raised internally by a member of staff (which was not about a service they received, such as a whistleblowing concern)
  • a concern about a child or an adult's safety
  • an attempt to reopen a previously concluded complaint or to have a complaint reconsidered where we have already given our final decision
  • abuse or unsubstantiated allegations about our organisation or staff where such actions would be covered by our Expected Behaviours Policy
  • a concern about the actions or service of a different organisation, where we have no involvement in the issue (except where the other organisation is delivering services on our behalf).

If there are other procedures or rights of appeal that can help you resolve your concerns, we will provide information and advice to help you.

Normally, you must make your complaint within six months of:

  • the event you want to complain about; or
  • finding out that you have a reason to complain

In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a complaint after the time limit. If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, you will need to explain why.

If you have read the information we've provided here, and would now like to make a complaint to SQA:

Complete our online complaints form.


Write to us at:

SQA Complaints
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
G2 8DQ

You can also email your complaint or phone 0345 279 1000

Complaining on behalf of someone else

We normally need written consent in the following situations:

Ask us for help

We want our service to be easily accessible for everyone. Please let us know when you make your complaint if you have specific needs and we will make reasonable adjustments where possible.

Other people/organisations who can help you

We know it can be difficult to make complaints and there are people who can help you. You could ask a friend, a relative, a councillor, your MSP or an advocate. To find out about advocates in your area, contact Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

When we get your complaint, we will make some checks to confirm:

  • It is a valid complaint in line with our guidance on what is/what is not a complaint.
  • It has arrived at our office within six months of when the issues in your complaint happened.
  • There is enough detail and paperwork for us to get to work on it.

When we assess that the matter is one we can look at, we will start gathering the information we will need for an investigation.


We'll then respond within:

  • five working days (most complaints)
  • 20 working days (complex complaints)

You'll be kept informed at every stage or if our investigation will take longer than 20 working days.

In some circumstances, you may have the right to escalate your complaint, for example to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) or appropriate regulator.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)

For complaints about SQA Awarding Body, you may have the right to ask the SPSO to look at your complaint. Please note that the SPSO cannot normally look at complaints more than one year after you became aware of the issue about which you are complaining and cannot look at complaints that have been or are under consideration in a court of law. Further, the SPSO will not consider complaints about academic decisions, such as the outcome of an assessment and will expect that you have completed SQA’s complaints procedure. You can contact SPSO on Freephone 0800 377 7330, go to their website, or write to them at Freepost SPSO.

Regulated Qualifications

For regulated qualifications where certain circumstances apply, you may have a right to refer your complaint to the appropriate regulator. Please note in most instances the regulator will expect that you have exhausted SQA’s formal complaints procedure before bringing your complaint to them for consideration.

SQA Accreditation

For SQA regulated qualifications, complaints may be referred to SQA Accreditation. Please note SQA Accreditation would expect you to have exhausted SQA’s complaints process before complaining to them. Further, it is important to note that SQA Accreditation cannot overturn an academic decision. You can contact SQA Accreditation on 0345 213 5249, go to their website, or write to them at SQA Accreditation, The Optima Building, 58 Robertson Street, Glasgow, G2 8DQ.


For Ofqual regulated qualifications, complaints may be referred to Ofqual. Please note Ofqual ask that the complaint is made within twelve months of the action being complained about and expect that you have completed all stages of the awarding organisation’s complaint process. Further, it is important to note that Ofqual cannot overturn an academic decision. You can contact Ofqual on 0300 303 3344, go to their website, or write to them at Ofqual, Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH.

Qualifications Wales

For qualifications regulated by Qualifications Wales, complaints may be referred to Qualifications Wales. Please note Qualifications Wales expect that you have lodged a formal complaint with the relevant awarding body first. You can contact Qualifications Wales on 01633 373 222, go to their website, or write to them at Qualifications Wales, Q2 Building, Pencarn Lane, Imperial Park, Coedkernew, Newport, NP10 8AR

Everyone who contacts us has the right to be treated with respect and dignity.

Our staff have the same rights, and we must provide a safe working environment for our staff.

We know some people may have difficulties in expressing themselves or communicating clearly, especially when anxious or upset. We also understand that some people may find it difficult to identify what impact their behaviour might have on other people.

Our staff have the right to do their job without abuse or intimidation. We do not tolerate written or verbal harassment. Our staff have the right to end and report calls from abusive callers and to report abuse in email or social media. Our expected behaviours policy outlines how we will handle such instances.

Our expected behaviours policy explains how we address unacceptable actions towards our staff. 

We can send you a copy of this policy on request.

At SQA we learn from complaints. Here we share how we resolved complaints and how we've improved our services/products after a complaint. 

Quarter 4: January – March 2024


A customer contacted SQA to express their concerns about the quality of the envelope/packaging used to send the response to their Subject Access Request (SAR). They highlighted that the packaging was not durable enough for the volume of documents and as a result it had sustained damage during transit by Royal Mail. This raised concerns for the customer about potential loss of some of the contents that were enclosed.

Action taken

SQA apologised to the customer for selecting an envelope/packaging that lacked the durability needed to transport the response to the SAR. In response to the issue, SQA colleagues provided information to the customer to assure them that despite the envelope/packaging being damaged the contents were unaffected, which was confirmed by the customer. Following this incident, the business area responsible for handling SARs has revised their packaging selection process for documents.

Quarter 3: October - December 2023


A parent complained that SQA did not adequately inform the school that a request for adapted question paper could not be met.

Action taken

SQA confirmed to the parent that a phone call was made to the school informing that the question paper adaptation request could not be met and therefore did not uphold this part of the complaint. However, SQA has considered an opportunity to improve by reviewing the process for informing schools about such requests and that any phone calls made will be followed by written confirmation of what was discussed and that the school must notify the learner of the conversation and outcome.

Quarter 2: July – September 2023


A customer contacted SQA to say they received a letter that contained incorrect information and that the letter addressed them incorrectly.

Action taken

The department that sent the letter called the person who made the complaint to try and resolve the issue. It was acknowledged that the letter had wrong information and should not have been sent. The SQA employee apologised for this mistake and mentioned training to prevent it from happening again.

The customer thanked the SQA employee for their call, accepted their apology for the mistake, and said they were happy with how quickly they responded.

Quarter 1: April – June 2023


SQA has received complaints regarding potential errors in the adaptation of question papers for various subjects intended for candidates with a range of additional support needs. These complaints specifically highlighted potential formatting errors.

Action taken

SQA has apologised to candidates where any error has been confirmed and has outlined the steps taken to address the potential impact on each candidate’s exam experience and performance.

SQA has confirmed to those candidates affected by confirmed errors that the Examination Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service (EECCS) provision will consider a range of academic evidence to avoid disadvantage.

Following investigation of these complaints, SQA has implemented corrective actions such as employing enhanced functionality within our software for auto-checking question papers and conducting additional thorough checks by individuals after any amendments have been made following the initial review. Furthermore, SQA plans to update operational procedures regarding question paper checks and will provide training and development opportunities for employees.

At SQA, we provide reports on how we handle complaints. Here we share our Annual Complaints Handling Report, which provides information and statistics about the complaints we've addressed.

SQA Awarding 2023 Annual Complaints Handling Report (162 KB)