MSP congratulates pupils but warns too many face results ‘trainwreck’

Questions have been raised of the Scottish Qualifications Authority after isles MSP Beatrice Wishart warned “entire classes” had complained that their grades had been dropped to such an extent that passes had been turned into failing grades.

The Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on education said many pupils across the country had been left “deeply disappointed” with the results they had been given, and described the exam authority’s communication with schools and parents as a “trainwreck”.

It comes after a decision by the SQA to hold back their “moderation guidelines” until after the schools had closed for the summer term.

Results for Shetland showed isles pupils had excelled, recording a higher percentage of pass rates than in 2019 despite battling against the unprecedented circumstances brought about by the coronavirus, which forced the nationwide closure of schools.

Ms Wishart said:  “First of all, I would like to say congratulations to everyone receiving results today. You have all worked incredibly hard in circumstances that have never been faced before. You should be very proud of the work that you have put in. We also owe our thanks to all the teachers who have striven to support pupils at this difficult time.

“While some pupils will be rightly celebrating, many more will be deeply disappointed with how the SQA have handled things. We are already seeing pupils, teachers and in some cases, entire classes, complaining that their grades have been dropped dramatically, in many cases turning passes into fails.

“In particular the decision by the SQA to hold back their moderation guidelines until results’ day itself has meant months have been lost in which these guidelines could be scrutinised, understood and if necessary, improved. These are difficult times for any organisation but the SQA’s communication with parents, pupils and teachers has been a trainwreck that could have been easily avoided. 

“What’s more, the reliance on a school’s past performance as a guide to moderating results will embed the attainment gap and hurt bright pupils from disadvantaged schools. It appears that the system has been reverse-engineered to get the “right results”.

“Everyone will now be hoping that the appeals process is sufficiently robust to handle the volume of pupils who will now wish to challenge their results.”

The SQA said it had applied a “moderation process” to ensure fairness to all learners and to maintain standards and credibility in Scotland’s qualification system.

It pointed to figures which showed a percentage increase in pupils attaining positive results.

Shetland Islands  Council’s quality improvement manager for children’s services Robin Calder said he welcomed the achievement of isles pupils who had done well in their SQA results.

He added: “There has been a robust process in place around estimated grades. There has been a real focus, a real engagement, on the part of teachers to look at all the available evidence up until the schools closed to make judgments on estimated grades.”

Mr Calder added help was at hand for those pupils who did not gain the results they were looking for.

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