Tens of thousands of Scottish pupils have exam results reinstated after outcry


Exam results in Scotland that were downgraded by a controversial moderation process will be withdrawn, the Scottish education secretary has announced.

John Swinney told the Scottish parliament that the 124,564 results affected will revert to the grades estimated by the pupils’ teachers.

He said he was directing the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to “reissue those awards based solely on teacher or lecturer judgement”.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon apologises to students

“Schools will be able to confirm the estimates they provided for pupils to those that are returning to school this week and next,” Mr Swinney added.

Pupils in the most deprived areas of Scotland had their exam pass rate downgraded by more than twice that of students from the wealthiest parts of the country.

Exams for nationals, highers and advanced higher courses were scrapped this year due to the coronavirus lockdown, with teachers instead submitting estimated grades based on students’ previous results, predicted attainment and evidence of their past work.

The grades were then looked at by the SQA, which moderated 26.2% of them, leaving the rest unchanged.

More from Scotland

John Swinney has faced calls to resign
John Swinney has faced calls to resign

Of those grades that were moderated, 93.1% were downgraded, affecting 124,564 pupils.

The pass rate of pupils in the most deprived data zones was reduced by 15.2% from teacher estimates after the exam board’s moderation.

In contrast, the pass rate for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds dropped by 6.9%.

‘Deep concerns’ as pass rate cut hits poorest pupils hardest

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised, admitting “we did not get this right”.

Mr Swinney has faced criticism from pupils, parents and teachers amid the furore, with opposition politicians calling for him to resign.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said he “has lost all credibility and isn’t the one to fix this”, while former Scottish Tory leaders Ruth Davidson and Jackson Carlaw both called on Mr Swinney to quit.

The education secretary did not address these calls directly in his statement.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visits West Calder High School in West Lothian to meet staff and see preparations for the new school term.
The Scottish first minister admitted ‘we did not get this right’

“We set out to ensure that the system was fair,” he said.

“We set out to ensure it was credible. But we did not get it right for all young people.”

Mr Swinney added: “In speaking directly to the young people affected by the downgrading of awards – the 75,000 pupils whose teacher estimates were higher than their final award – I want to say this: I am sorry.”

The education secretary said that no grades which were moderated up would be reduced.

The U-turn came on the day that pupils began returning to school full-time.

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Schools in the Scottish Borders are the first to open today, while other areas will gradually open ahead of all pupils returning by 18 August, the Scottish government said.

Most will start to return on 12 August.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he has “no doubt” that schools in England can fully reopen safely next month.

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