The First Minister of Scotland has apologised to those students affected by the controversial downgrading of some exam results in the country
Students in some of the most underprivileged areas of Scotland have had their exam pass rate downgraded by as many as two times than that of students from the wealthiest regions of the country.
“Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I’m sorry for that,” Nicola Sturgeon said.
Exams for the nationals, highers and advanced higher courses were cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 lockdown, with teachers submitting estimated grades based on students’ previous results instead, using the predicted attainment and evidence of their previous work.
The grades were then analysed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which has moderated 26.2% of the exam results, while leaving the rest of them unchanged.
This comes after Gavin Williamson has said that the education and care of the country’s children is “a national priority” as the government plans to return students to schools throughout England in September.
Of the exam grades that were moderated, 93.1% of them were downgraded, which has affected 124,564 students in the nation.
The pass rate of students in the most underprivileged data zones has been reduced by 15.2% from the estimates of teachers following the exam board’s moderation.
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 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.”
This comes after face masks will be made mandatory in Northern Ireland when indoors, after the R number, an important measurement of how quickly COVID-19 is spreading, rose in the region; The re-opening of pubs, which do not sell food, in Northern Ireland has also been postponed.
Nicola Sturgeon said that she “absolved” the qualifications authority of any responsibility for this controversy, saying that it developed the system at the request of government 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.”