John Swinney is under pressure to reform two of Scotland’s key education agencies after opposition MSPs teamed up to back sweeping change.
They want to see schools watchdog Education Scotland broken up, with inspection activities split from its curriculum development role.
Opposition figures are also demanding the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) be made “more accountable” and say teachers should be at the heart of governance structures.
Move to break up schools watchdog
It comes after the Scottish Liberal Democrats tabled a motion calling for changes and accusing the agencies of letting down staff, pupils and parents during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Reforms were backed by 65 votes to 58, although the result is not legally binding.
The Education Secretary hit back strongly against criticisms of the two organisations, describing them as “gratuitous and unfounded”.
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But Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “This vote makes quite clear what is expected of the Education Secretary.
“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.”
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Mr Swinney defended the exams body and schools watchdog, saying they did not deserve the “pathetic” and “shabby” criticism from the Liberal Democrats.
“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 added.