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by Andrew Learmonth
10 August 2021
Call for apology as pupils receive results

Call for apology as pupils receive results

Scottish ministers and the SQA have been urged to apologise for putting senior pupils receiving their exam results today through "entirely avoidable levels of stress and anxiety".

For most school kids there should be little surprise in the contents of the text message from the qualification body, pupils were given their provisional results in June after formal exams were cancelled for the second year in a row, with grades instead being based on teacher judgement.

The Scottish Government has made clear that today’s official results for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher should only confirm those awards. 

The last two months have seen the teacher judgement checked for errors. However, unlike last year, this process of “moderation” should not lead to pupils being downgraded because they attend schools that have historically not performed as well.

This year’s alternative certificate model has been controversial with the assessments used to inform the teacher judgement described as exams in all but name. 

Scottish Green education spokesman Ross Greer said ministers and exam bosses needed to say sorry to pupils.

He said: “The Scottish Government and SQA should start this year’s results day with an apology to Scotland’s young people for the entirely avoidable levels of stress and anxiety they were put through.

"The onslaught of de-facto exams after Easter wasn’t a necessary requirement, it was the result of a near-total failure to plan for the effects of Covid disruption earlier in the school year.

“The decision to cancel exams was taken far too late, the alternative grading system was based on evidence that didn’t yet exist and the only way to produce it on time was through tests which in every meaningful way mirrored the exams they had cancelled.

“On top of all of this, pupils and teachers have no ability to appeal a grade on compassionate grounds or other exceptional circumstances.

“It is scandalous that the SQA has refused to take this into account despite hearing the stories of young people having to undertake these de-facto exams just days after losing a family member or when they themselves had been seriously ill.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart accused ministers of “plotting to spin themselves out of another exams debacle”.

She said: “The fact that the head of the SQA didn’t see fit to apologise for last year’s results shambles suggests that few lessons have been learned.

“Pupils were forced into exams in all but name, sitting as many as 40 assessments in eight weeks, crammed in with little notice. The SQA shifted workloads onto teachers and gave them precious little leeway to recognise that some of their students had missed months of education due to repeated stints in isolation or disruption at home.”

The Scottish Tories used Freedom of Information legislation to obtain Higher results from five councils. They said it showed pupils had been “marked more harshly” than last year.

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell said the reduction in pass rates suggested this year’s system was “just as unfair and flawed as last year”.

A spokesperson for Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It’s disappointing to see opposition parties attacking results before they are even out and trying to play politics with Scotland’s school pupils, rather than engaging constructively to celebrate the achievements of our young people under extraordinary circumstances. I congratulate learners and teachers – the opposition should do likewise.

“This year’s more flexible approach will deliver fair, credible and consistent results based on teacher judgment of the evidence of each pupil’s attainment. There are no algorithms; no historic results defining awards, no SQA veto on results, and the most comprehensive appeal process ever as a safeguard.

“Scotland’s industry leaders and employers have also made it clear that they recognise and value the qualifications achieved by young people this year as much as any other year.”

Meanwhile, Scotland's children's commissioner said the country "should celebrate everything that young people have achieved in the past two years of living through a pandemic".

Bruce Adamson said: "Children and young people have been incredible.

"The right to education is about ensuring that they develop their minds, body and talents to their fullest potential and the resilience, strength and courage that young people have demonstrated these past two years deserves the highest accolade."

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Henry McLeish: 'Yes, I would support independence'

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