Education Secretary to address exam results controversy

Education Secretary John Swinney is to announce measures to address the fallout of exams results being downgraded.

As a result of the pandemic, exams were cancelled and a new grading system put in place, with teachers’ estimates of pupils’ attainment moderated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

This was based on criteria including the past performance of schools.

It resulted in more than 125,000 entries being downgraded – about a quarter of all grades handed out by the SQA this year.

Pupils from the most deprived areas of Scotland had their grades reduced by 15.2% compared with 6.9% in the most affluent parts of the country.

The Education Secretary faced criticism from pupils, parents and teachers, with opposition politicians calling for him to resign.

Mr Swinney is set to face a vote of no confidence this week, tabled by Scottish Labour and supported by the Conservatives with the Lib Dems and Greens withholding judgement until after his statement on Tuesday.

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Repeatedly asked to expand on what is going to be announced during her coronavirus briefing on Monday, the First Minister refused to give details but she did say it is not expected every pupil who was downgraded in one of their subjects will have to appeal.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “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.”

On Sunday, Mr Swinney released a statement saying he and the Scottish Government had “heard the anger of students who feel their hard work has been taken away”.

“These are unprecedented times and as we have said throughout this pandemic, we will not get everything right first time,” he said.

“Every student deserves a grade that reflects the work they have done and that is what I want to achieve.

“I have been engaged in detailed discussions over the way forward and I know that we need to act and act quickly to give certainty to our young people.

“I will set out on Tuesday how we intend to achieve that.”