Sturgeon crisis: SNP could face legal challenge following ‘ludicrous’ exam results process

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The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) released higher qualification results on Tuesday, equivalent to A levels in England and Wales. But the exams authority has been faced with backlash from distraught teenagers after the system was branded “fundamentally unfair”.

SQA figures showed that it downgraded 124,564 pupils’ results despite no exams being sat – 93.1 percent of all the moderated grades.

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.

The coronavirus lockdown caused exams to be scrapped for the first time, with teachers submitting estimated grades based on previous results, predicted attainment and evidence of past work.

After SQA moderation, the National 5 pass rate was 81.1 percent, the Higher pass rate was 78.9 percent and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9 percent.

The pass rates have risen from 78.2 percent, 74.8 percent and 79.4 percent respectively and the SQA revealed 128,508 results – 96.1 percent of those adjusted – rose or fell by one grade.

A total of 45,454 entries (8.9 percent) were moderated down from grades A-C to grade D or to no award.

Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservatives Education spokesperson, said: “It is fundamentally unfair to make assumptions about a pupil based on where they live.

“It risks widening the attainment gap to an almost unassailable degree.

“The people who will suffer most are this generation of Scotland’s pupils who face a horrendously uncertain time in the days ahead.”

Jim Sillars, former SNP deputy leader in the 1990s claimed that it had damaged the life chances of thousands of pupils, adding: “Working-class children have worked their socks off and find they are not judged on their ability, they are judged on the school that they go to, which is in a deprived area.

“What the SQA have done, they have damned and injured the life chances of a large number of children by their decision which is in my view a ludicrous one.”

He urged the Scottish Government to quickly take action, adding: “There are two ways for the Scottish Government to say what has happened we now regard as invalid.

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“If that political line doesn’t work then the legal line is judicial review, which would put a kibosh on the whole thing if it came out in the favour of parents.

“For the Scottish Government, of my own party, to say that it’s fair really begs the question – how do they define fair?”

Ross Greer, MSP for West Scotland and Scottish Greens Education Spokesman called for the SQA to adopt a ‘no detriment’ policy for its appeals process.

Mr Greer told that it would ensure a fairer outcome for the thousands of young people who saw their grades lowered by SQA moderators.

‘No detriment’ policies were adopted by some British universities this year to ensure that students weren’t treated unfairly due to the pandemic.

He added: “The SQA and the Scottish Government were warned by the Greens, yet they pressed ahead with this scandalous grade moderation system, one that has clearly penalised thousands of young people simply for living in less well-off communities.

“I’ve been shocked by the messages from young people who achieved an A in their prelims but were then awarded C or even D grades by the SQA.

“It’s long past time that the Scottish Government took seriously the job of supporting young people in our most deprived communities by radically reforming this deeply unjust system.”

At the same time, School pupils are planning to stage a protest over their exam results outside the Scottish Qualification Authority’s (SQA) offices tomorrow.

Erin Bleakley who organised the event said she hopes it will highlight how pupils living in areas of high deprivation were disproportionately impacted by marks being downgraded.

In response, a spokesman for the SQA, said: ‘We believe we have delivered fairness to learners, through a consistent, evidence-based approach in the absence of exams.

“We have maintained the integrity and credibility of our qualifications system, ensuring that standards are maintained over time, in the interests of learners, through judicious moderation of grades.

“The most disadvantaged young people have achieved better results in 2020 compared with both 2019 and the average results for the last four years.

“At grades A to C, the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged young people is also narrower this year for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher than for last year or the average gap for the last four years.”

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