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Downgraded exam results to be restored to teacher estimates in massive U-turn by Scottish Government


By Scott Maclennan

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Education Secretary John Swinney visits Farmer Jones Academy at Nairn Academy.
Education Secretary John Swinney visits Farmer Jones Academy at Nairn Academy.

The Scottish Government has announced it will withdraw all downgraded marks for pupils and instead base them entirely on recommended grades issued by teachers and lecturers.

Education Secretary John Swinney told parliament that the SQA will essentially undo all its work and go straight to the estimates in what was a massive U-turn on the government’s controversial certification process.

Mr Swinney also revealed that he will seek to launch a probe into the matter by asking the OECD which is already investigating the Curriculum for Excellence to add this to its inquiries too.

But the education secretary also defended the methodology saying that teacher and lecturer grade estimates would have seen a huge rise in the pass rates that had never been witnessed in “Scottish exam history.”

It means that provisional numbers suggest there were double digit improvements in pass rates in many areas based on the professional judgment of Scotland teachers and lecturers.

The measures announced were:

  • all downgraded awards will now be withdrawn.
  • The SQA will base awards solely on teacher or lecturer judgement.
  • Schools will be able to confirm the estimates they provided for pupils to those returning to school this week.
  • The SQA will issue new certificates as soon as possible.
  • The SQA will inform UCAS and other admission bodies of the new grades in the coming days as soon as practicably possible.
  • Grades which were increased by the SQA will not be withdrawn and will stand.
  • The government will make provision for enough places in college or university to ensure that no one loses a places they would otherwise have been awarded.

Mr Swinney said: “The SQA developed a model which gathered teacherand lecturer estimates in the absence of any other information. It involved moderation of all estimates across centres to maintain standards.

“This resulted inan increase in the pass rate at National 5s of 2.9 per cent, at Higher of 4.2 per cent and Advanced Higher of 5.5 per cent but the system also meant that some people didn’t receive the awards that they were capable of achieving.

“We know that it was the case that the overwhelming majority, around three quarters of these grade estimates, were not adjusted at all.

“The estimates received in May showed an increase in attainment of grades A-C by 10.4 per cent for National Five, by 14 percentage points for National Higher, and by 13.4 percentage points for AdvancedHighers.

“These estimates if awarded without moderation would have resulted in a very significant pass rate across the board and a one-year change without precedent in Scottish exam history.”



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