Scotland’s Education Secretary ‘has 24 hours to fix exams problem’

The Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats remain undecided on a vote of no-confidence in Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney, despite an apology to young people from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, exams were cancelled and a model of teacher evaluation and moderation, which resulted in the downgrading of a quarter of all entries, was put in place.

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

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 30, 2020
Coronavirus – Thu Jul 30, 2020

This has led to criticism from pupils, parents, teachers and opposition parties, as well as calls for Mr Swinney to resign.

A motion of no-confidence is expected to be tabled this week by Scottish Labour, with the Tories in Holyrood already pledging to support it.

The other opposition parties have withheld judgment until they hear the measures to be announced by Mr Swinney on Tuesday to address the issue.

Speaking after the coronavirus briefing on Monday, when Nicola Sturgeon said too much focus was put on the system as a whole rather than the individual pupil, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie said the Education Secretary has 24 hours to fix the problem.

He said: “We will listen to John Swinney’s proposals in Parliament and if we are not satisfied with what he puts forward, we will vote to remove him.

“The Deputy First Minister cannot casually blame the pandemic for his failures.

“For months he was warned repeatedly to turn back before it was too late. There was another way and he rejected it.”

As well as calling for a solution to the exam results problem, Mr Rennie also said there will be a “compelling case” made for Mr Swinney to be the one to carry it out.

First Minister’s Questions
First Minister’s Questions

Greens education spokesman Ross Greer welcomed the First Minister’s apology.

He added: “I’m pleased that the First Minister has now acknowledged that her Government got this wrong and apologised.

“The working class young people who were unfairly treated last week need an urgent solution to this unacceptable situation.

“The Education Secretary’s statement to Parliament must announce the kind of systemic solution the Greens have demanded, otherwise our confidence in this Government’s ability to discharge its responsibilities in education will come into question.”

Votes are needed from all parties in the chamber to pass a vote of no-confidence in Mr Swinney, who is also the Deputy First Minister.