Pupils to receive original marks estimated by teachers, Swinney announces

Scotland's Education Secretary has announced exam results downgraded by a controversial moderation process will revert to the grades estimated by pupils' teachers.

John Swinney apologised to pupils affected by the lowering of 124,564 results and confirmed marks moderated upwards will not change.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Swinney revealed he has told the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) to revert downgraded results to the estimates "based solely on teacher or lecturer judgment".

"I can confirm to Parliament today that all downgraded awards will be withdrawn," he said.

"Schools will be able to confirm the estimates they provided for pupils to those that are returning to school this week and next.

"The SQA will issue fresh certificates to affected candidates as soon as possible and, importantly, will inform UCAS and other admission bodies of the new grades as soon as practical in the coming days to allow for applications to college and university to be progressed."

Explaining the decision to leave the grades moderated upwards unchanged, he said: "Many of those young people will already have moved on to secure college or university places on the strength of the awards made to them.

"To unpick them now would not in any way be fair.

"Due to the unique circumstances of this situation, we will this year make provision for enough places in universities and colleges to ensure that no-one is crowded out of a place they would otherwise have been awarded."

As a result of the changes, the National 5 pass rate is now 88.9%, the Higher pass rate is 89.2% and the Advanced Higher pass rate of 93.1% – up from 78.2%, 74.8% and 79.4% respectively in 2019.

Compared with the moderated results, these have increased by 7.8, 10.3 and 5.5 percentage points respectively.

Mr Swinney said the backlash from angry pupils and parents at the methodology that disproportionately affected pupils from deprived backgrounds "outweighed" the Scottish Government's desire to suppress grade inflation.

He added: "We now accept that concern, which is not without foundation, is outweighed by the concern that young people, particularly from working-class backgrounds, may lose faith in the education system and form the view that no matter how hard you work, the system is against you."

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 and resulted in the pass rate for Higher pupils from the most deprived areas of Scotland being reduced by 15.2%, compared with 6.9% in the most affluent parts of the country.

Professor Mark Priestley, of the University of Stirling, has now been asked to conduct review of situation and make recommendations for the coming year, with an initial report due within five weeks.

The Education Secretary will face a vote of no confidence later this week, tabled by Scottish Labour and supported by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.