Scottish Qualifications Authority to revise downgraded exam results

Source: Marco Verch, via. Flickr.
The Scottish Education Minister, John Swinney has announced that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) will revise any moderated grades following last week’s A-level results.

By Morgan Perry | Political Editor

The Scottish Education Secretary, John Swinney has announced that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) will revise moderated grades following last week’s A-level results.

Many students found their grades to be much lower than expected after a moderation process that took place in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Any grades that were lowered will be revised to meet teachers’ predictions, but those that had their grades adjusted upwards will be allowed to keep the adjusted grade.

The announcement follows protests from opposition politicians, teachers, parents and students themselves. 

According to the Scottish Government, more than 75,000 students had been affected by the changes, and as many as 124,000 teachers’ grades had been altered by the SQA. 

“Incoherent and hugely damaging”

The Scottish National Party (SNP) came under fire last week when it was revealed that large-scale adjustments had been made to grades, taking into account the performance of schools as a whole. 

As a result, many predicted grades submitted by teachers were adjusted downwards, to bring them in line with the performance of previous years’ students. 

This, many felt, led to students being unfairly penalised if their peers had not historically performed well.

Information released by the SQA shows that students from more deprived areas were more likely to have had their grades cut, and more than twice as likely than those students from the wealthiest areas of Scotland. 

There have been calls from the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour for Mr Swinney to resign his role as a government minister, and opposition parties are pushing for a successful vote of no confidence, which is due to be held on Thursday. 

So far, he has expressed no intention in resigning.

At the time, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson called the results “incoherent and hugely damaging”.

Announcing the move in the chamber at Holyrood this afternoon, Mr Swinney acknowledged the “clear anger and frustration from young people and their families”. 

The decision to revise grades follows an announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week, which warned that unmoderated teachers’ grades would lead to a record-high pass rate that did not necessarily reflect the ability of all students. 

The Education Minister said that concerns that grades would be inflated by teachers as a result of the circumstances were valid, but were “outweighed by the concern that young people, many from working class backgrounds, may lose faith in the education system”.

Electorally dangerous?

With A-Level Results Day in England and Wales looming on Thursday, August 13, it is not yet clear whether there will be similar disappointment south of the border.

In England, Ofqual announced its intention to follow a similar methodology in calculating pupils’ final grades. So far, there has been no comment from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson about whether there will be similar results to those seen in Scotland. 

Boris Johnson, however, has maintained that the Government at Westminster “will do [their] best to ensure that the hard work of pupils is properly reflected”.

With the Scottish Parliamentary elections less than nine months away, and given 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland can vote in regional elections, the SNP may be worried that some of its younger voter base could abandon them at the polls next spring. 

For now, however, many students will undoubtedly be grateful at the SNP’s decision to revise their results. 

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.

Politics Morgan Perry

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