‘Get it fixed or go’ – Former FM in stark exams warning to Sturgeon and Swinney

A former first minister of Scotland has issued a stark warning to Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney over the exam results chaos, saying “get it fixed or go”.

Lord McConnell said the fiasco which saw 124,564 pupils’ results downgraded is “not good enough for Scotland”.

The system, produced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and approved by the Scottish Government when this year’s exams were cancelled, saw 26.2% of grades changed during the moderation process based on criteria including schools’ historic performances.

Education Secretary Mr Swinney is now facing calls to resign, with Scottish Labour planning to table a motion of no confidence in him at Holyrood.

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney
Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney

Writing in The Sunday Times, Lord McConnell reflected on the lessons learned from the year 2000 when the wrong – or no – results were received by 20,000 school and college students across Scotland.

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.

In the article, Lord McConnell, who became first minister in November 2001, wrote: “Lessons learnt, honesty, good judgment and hard work had turned it around… Yet, 20 years on, thousands of young dreams have been shattered again.

“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 called for First Minister Ms Sturgeon and her deputy Mr Swinney to “announce an immediate and urgent review” of results in the next 48 hours, with a task force appointed.

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.

“Others, already traumatised by months of lockdown and now feeling powerless, will simply give up.

Exam results protest
Exam results protest

“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.”