10 Aug First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologises to pupils over controversial exam results | UK News
Scotland’s first minister has apologised to pupils affected by the controversial downgrading of exam results.
“Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that,” Nicola Sturgeon said.
Pupils in the most deprived areas of Scotland had their exam pass rate downgraded by more than twice that of students from the wealthiest parts of the country.
Exams for nationals, highers and advanced higher courses were scrapped this year due to the coronavirus lockdown, with teachers instead submitting estimated grades based on students’ previous results, predicted attainment and evidence of their past work.
The grades were then looked at by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which has moderated 26.2% of them, while leaving the rest unchanged.
Of those grades that were moderated, 93.1% were downgraded, affecting 124,564 pupils.
The pass rate of pupils in the most deprived data zones was reduced by 15.2% from teacher estimates after the exam board’s moderation.
In contrast, the pass rate for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds dropped by 6.9%.
The first minister said: “We will be taking steps to ensure that every young person gets a grade that recognises the work they have done.
“Our concern – which was to make sure that the grades young people got were as valid as those they would have got in any other year – perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.
“That has meant that too many have lost out on grades that they think they should have had and also that that has happened as a result of not of anything they’ve done but because of a statistical model or an algorithm, and in addition that burden has not fallen equally across our society.”
She added: “Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that.
“The most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year.
“We will not expect every student who has been downgraded to appeal.”
Ms Sturgeon said Education Secretary John Swinney would set out a plan to deal with the controversy in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
Opposition parties have been calling for the education secretary’s resignation, with Scottish Labour poised to mount a no-confidence vote against him in Holyrood – something the Conservatives have said they will support.
Ms Sturgeon reiterated her support for her deputy, saying: “When we get things wrong, I want to be able to stand here and acknowledge that and put it right, because I think fundamentally that’s better than simply digging our heels in and trying to defend a position we think in our hearts we didn’t get right.
“That’s the approach I will take, it’s the approach the deputy first minister is going to take and I hope that’s the one that young people affected and their families will see as the right approach to take.”
The first minister said she “absolved” the qualifications authority of responsibility for the controversy, because it developed the system at the behest of ministers.
She said: “Ministers asked the SQA to apply an approach that delivered a set of results that are comparable in terms of quality to last year’s.
“This is a view that ministers are taking now that it didn’t take enough account of the individual circumstances.”
‘I thought I was going to get an A – but I got a D, this is not fair’
Ruaridh Hall, 17, from Edinburgh, had the result in his best subject downgraded by two marks and was given a B in a subject he was predicted to fail in.
He told Sky News: “We did prelims in January and for my design and manufacture I got a B, then last week I got predicted a D.
“How does that make sense?
“I thought I’d get an A, that was the one I thought I’d get an A in and I got a D – that’s disgraceful.
“Apparently my school thought I’d get a B, which is fair enough, but SQA gave me a D – doesn’t seem very fair.
“I want Nicola Sturgeon to fix it, if I can get even what the school predicted me I’d be happy with that, but a D?
“It’s crazy because in my English I was predicted a fail and I got a B, so how is this a fair system?
“If the government says they’re going to fix this for some students and not others then that’s unfair, how is that just?
“I think if anybody gets their grades changed back to what the school said then I should, otherwise I will not be happy.”