SCOTTISH Borders Council (SBC) has paid more than £1 million to the nation’s exam board over the past two years for “virtually nothing”, a meeting has heard.

Pupils across the Borders have not sat formal exams since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet the council has still paid fees to the SQA.

The issue was raised by Jedburgh and District councillor Scott Hamilton at a meeting of the full council on Thursday (June 17).

During the virtual gathering, Carol Hamilton, SBC’s executive member for children and young people, was asked how much the council had paid Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for exams and assessments during the pandemic.

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“In 2020/21, there was no exam diet,” said Ms Hamilton, of the Conservatives. “Demonstrated attainment was assessed by teachers and this cost us £540,772.

“[In] 2019/20 there was no exam diet again. [For] inferred attainment submitted by teachers, this cost us £547,938.”

Ms Hamilton added that in 2018/19, when the exam diet was externally marked, SBC spent £556,600. In 2017/18 it spent £547,767.

Responding to the figures, Mr Hamilton said that the reply was “unfortunately not short and sweet”.

“That is going to add insult to injury to a number of my constituents who contacted me initially with regards to the issues with exams,” said Mr Hamilton.

“This is unfortunately not a good situation to be in. Looking at those figures, SBC has paid over £1 million to the SQA for virtually nothing.”

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Mr Hamilton, of the Conservatives, added: “So I can only ask councillor Hamilton that you invoke the spirit of a former Conservative Prime Minister and write to SQA and demand our money back and stop this rip off please.”

Ms Hamilton confirmed she would do this and added that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) is “discussing this matter at the moment”.

Since the meeting it has been announced that the SQA will be scrapped following an independent report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development).

Responding to the report, SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson said it was “an opportunity for significant change that will meet the future needs of our learners, our society and our economy”.