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by Liam Kirkaldy
10 August 2020
John Swinney has 'heard the anger of students' ahead of exams statement

Parliament TV

John Swinney has 'heard the anger of students' ahead of exams statement

John Swinney said he has "heard the anger of students" over the SQA’s handling of exam results ahead of a statement in the chamber tomorrow.

Facing a no confidence motion, the education secretary said he was “determined to address” concerns.

It comes after the news that around 133,000 grades provided by teachers were adjusted by the SQA based on the school’s past performance rather than evidence of the individual pupil’s ability, with pupils from poorer background hardest hit.

Most of the changes, 93 per cent, were to a lower mark, and four per cent were changed up or down by more than one grade.

In some cases, pupils saw a predicted A grade reduced to a fail for no clear reason.

With parliament returning from recess, Scottish Labour moved to table a no confidence motion, which the Scottish Tories and Scottish Greens were expected to back.

Facing mounting criticism, Swinney said: “I have heard the anger of students who feel their hard work has been taken away from them and I am determined to address it.

“These are unprecedented times and as we have said throughout this pandemic, we will not get everything right first time. Every student deserves a grade that reflects the work they have done, and that is what I want to achieve.

“I have been engaged in detailed discussions over the way forward and I know that we need to act and act quickly to give certainty to our young people.

“I will set out on Tuesday how we intend to achieve that.”

Scottish Green education spokesperson Ross Greer said: “I welcome John Swinney’s admission that the Scottish Government got this badly wrong. The widescale downgrading of working class young people was unacceptable and entirely avoidable, as the Scottish Greens warned over four months. 

“The fairest, simplest solution is to trust the professional judgement of teachers, as the SQA and Government initially claimed they would before they adopted this awful postcode lottery system.”

But Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories called on Swinney to resign.

Iain Gray said: “It’s taken John Swinney five days to even admit this fiasco is his responsibility. The threat of a no confidence motion has seen him finally accept the fact that he got this badly wrong. 

"This is no way to run an education system. Young people will have been left twisting in the wind for a week by the time he explains what action will be taken. He needs to go.” 

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The answer to this scandal cannot simply be a lengthy appeals process going at a snail’s pace because the SQA don’t have the necessary resources.

“That’s not good enough and Scotland’s pupils and parents deserve far better. Young people cannot be held back any longer from getting on with training and university places. 

“We’ve all got to be prepared to put country before party, as I have in the past, and Nicola Sturgeon must do that now and remove Mr Swinney.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Thousands of young people have endured much avoidable pain this week.

“An admission of error is step one in resolving this major issue but the detailed solution is what matters. Why we ever got into this sorry state is a question that needs answered too.”

Meanwhile SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson will appear before the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday 12 August.

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Read the most recent article written by Liam Kirkaldy - Sketch: If the Queen won’t do it, it’ll just have to be Matt Hancock.



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