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Lord Jack McConnell said the fiasco which saw 124,564 pupils’ results downgraded is “not good enough for Scotland” adding that they need to “get it fixed or go”. The Scottish Qualifications Authority has been faced with backlash from distraught teenagers after the system, implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic, was branded “fundamentally unfair”.
More than a quarter (26.2 percent) of grades were moderated by the SQA, a total of 133,762, while 377,308 entries were accepted unchanged.
As a result, hundreds of pupils took to Glasgow’s George Square on Friday morning to protest this year’s system of awarding exam results, the methodology of which was only revealed on results day.
Thousands of pupils are now expected to lodge an appeal over their grades.
Scottish Labour has also planned to place a motion of no confidence in Education Secretary Mr Swinney next week, which is supported by the Scottish Conservatives.
The former Labour First Minister reflected on the lessons learned from the year 2000 when thousands of students received the wrong exam results.
He was appointed education minister later that year, and said he “knew that I would have to resign if we did not succeed” in “fixing this mess” for the 2001 results.
Lord McConnell, who became Scotland’s first minister in November 2001 until the SNP’s Alex Salmond took over in May 2007, said: “Lessons learnt, honesty, good judgment and hard work had turned it around.
“Yet, 20 years on, thousands of young dreams have been shattered again.
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“In 2000, the chaos was indiscriminate. It affected students no matter their postcode – but in 2020 it is targeted.
“In 2000, it was incompetence and overload – but in 2020 it seems to have been deliberate and ignored.”
He stressed that Nicola Sturgeon should “announce an immediate and urgent review” of results in the next 48 hours.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Lord McConnell added: “For the First Minister and Education Secretary to have accepted these grades and to defend them because children in these schools have always done worse is breathtaking.”
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“Others, already traumatised by months of lockdown and now feeling powerless, will simply give up.
“Meanwhile, ministers expect to keep their well-paid jobs and careers and carry on regardless.
“Every headteacher (there are only 357) should be contacted by the end of this week to highlight specific problems.
“Group appeals should be allowed from schools where the results are clearly wrong.
“Appeals should allow changes up to A passes where they are deserved.
“This should be completed before the end of August.
“Put the teachers and pupils at the centre of the system. Lessons learnt, honest judgment and hard work. Get it fixed – or go.”
An SQA spokesman said: “This year’s results will be cause for celebration for many people, but disappointment for others. While this is a strong set of results overall – up on 2019 – this year is no different.
“We would advise young people who feel they haven’t got the grades they hoped for to speak to their school or college first. Our appeals process this year will be based solely on the evidence presented by the school or college, for that individual candidate, on a case-by-case basis.
“The most disadvantaged young people have achieved better results in 2020 compared to both 2019 and the average results for the last four years.”
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