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by Jenni Davidson
12 August 2020
SQA fails to apologise for exam downgrading issues

Fiona Robertson- Image credit: Scottish Parliament TV

SQA fails to apologise for exam downgrading issues

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has failed to apologise for its system of exam moderation which saw nearly 125,000 young people’s marks downgraded from their teacher-estimated grades.

SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson told Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee that she regretted “the circumstances of the last week” and that criticism had been “felt most keenly” by her and her colleagues but stopped short of making an apology.

Robertson said that the SQA’s role was to maintain the “integrity” of qualifications and that part of the commission from the Scottish Government was to make sure that standards were maintained.

She said she had a responsibility not just to this year’s young people, but those in previous and future years.

There was a “clear and unequivocal case” for moderation, she said, and the SQA “delivered on the Scottish Government’s initial request”.

Responding to comments from Scottish Conservative committee member Jamie Greene that he had not heard the word ‘sorry’ in what she had told the committee, Robertson said it had been “very difficult” to see the reaction to the results, but the SQA had a role to fulfil.

She also said she had been contacted by many young people who were happy with their grades.

Robertson said: “Of course, it was very difficult to see the reaction to last week’s results, but we were asked to fulfil a role and part of that role was to maintain standards across Scotland.

“And while I absolutely fully understand the feelings of young people and the strength of those feelings, it was important, and I think the Deputy First Minister reflected that in his statement to parliament, that I explain the basis on which we undertook that work.

“It was a commission from ministers after exams had been cancelled and in an extraordinary set of circumstances that I think we would all acknowledge, and I think we did our very best to deliver.

“But I also fully appreciate, as I highlighted in my opening statement, that young people felt that their achievements had been taken outwith their control, so I absolutely get that, and of course I regret how young people have felt about the process.

”However, I think it’s also important to highlight that I’ve had messages from many young people over the last week saying how pleased they are with the outcome, so I think it’s important to temper quite clearly the strong feelings from young people across Scotland who feel that they’ve been unfairly treated with the delight of others who feel that they have got awards that reflect their achievements.”

Robertson also criticised the media for publishing stories about pupils who had been downgraded from an A to an F, pointing out that there is no F grade.

She said that if pupils thought their grades had been significantly lowered, they should contact their school, suggesting they perhaps didn’t know what the teacher-estimated grade had been because “either schools had not shared their estimates with young people or indeed young people were not aware of their estimates”.

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