Exam results moderation ‘disgraceful’, says Scottish Secretary

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has described the moderation of pupils’ exam results across the country as “disgraceful”.

He criticised the “postcode lottery” created by the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA), disproportionately downgrading the marks of pupils from deprived backgrounds, partly based on schools’ historic performances.

Mr Jack said Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney “has shown a lack of judgment”, while his UK counterpart Gavin Williamson is “very aware” of the anger from pupils and parents about the situation ahead of the release of GCSE and A-level results in England.

UK Government Hub – Edinburgh
UK Government Hub – Edinburgh

Speaking before Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised for the exams situation, Mr Jack suggested affected pupils could be offered the chance to sit the exams that were cancelled during the coronavirus lockdown.

He told the PA news agency he is “worried” about a system that resulted in pass rates for pupils in the most deprived data zones being reduced by 15.2%, compared with 6.9% for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds.

“I think that’s disgraceful and it is a postcode lottery for them,” Mr Jack said.

“I also think that John Swinney – who has shown a lack of judgment on this to date – needs to actually be careful that he doesn’t come up with an even worse solution in a knee-jerk reaction to the outcry.

“I hope he’s just taking his time and thinking carefully.”

He added: “There needs to be an appeals process that is quick for those children and possibly the option to retake their exams as well.”

On #SQAResults I have heard the anger of students who feel their hard work has been taken away from them and I am determined to address it.

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

— John Swinney (@JohnSwinney) August 9, 2020

Mr Swinney, who is set to face a vote of no-confidence that has been tabled in the Scottish Parliament, has said he will set out a series of steps to address the concerns on Tuesday.

He tweeted he had “heard the anger of students who feel their hard work has been taken away” and said he was “determined to address it”.

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

“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.”

Ms Sturgeon said pupils who had their recent exam results downgraded will not all be expected to appeal against them.