First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologises to pupils over controversial exam results

·5-min read

<p>"Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I'm sorry for that," <a href="https://news.sky.com/topic/nicola-sturgeon-5937" target="_blank"><strong>Nicola Sturgeon</strong></a> said.</p><p>Pupils in the most deprived areas of Scotland had their exam pass rate <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/scottish-exam-results-deep-concerns-as-pass-rate-cut-hits-poorest-pupils-hardest-12042473" target="_blank"><strong>downgraded by more than twice</strong></a> that of students from the wealthiest parts of the country.</p><p>Exams for nationals, highers and advanced higher courses were scrapped this year due to the <a href="https://news.sky.com/topic/coronavirus-8483" target="_blank"><strong>coronavirus</strong></a> lockdown, with teachers instead submitting estimated grades based on students' previous results, predicted attainment and evidence of their past work.</p><p>The grades were then looked at by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which has moderated 26.2% of them, while leaving the rest unchanged.</p><p>Of those grades that were moderated, 93.1% were downgraded, affecting 124,564 pupils.</p><p>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.</p><p>In contrast, the pass rate for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds dropped by 6.9%.</p> <p>The first minister said: "We will be taking steps to ensure that every young person gets a grade that recognises the work they have done.</p><p>"Our concern - which was to make sure that the grades young people got were as valid as those they would have got in any other year - perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.</p><p>"That has meant that too many have lost out on grades that they think they should have had and also that that has happened as a result of not of anything they've done but because of a statistical model or an algorithm, and in addition that burden has not fallen equally across our society."</p><p>She added: "Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I'm sorry for that.</p><p>"The most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year.</p><p>"We will not expect every student who has been downgraded to appeal."</p><p>Ms Sturgeon said Education Secretary John Swinney would set out a plan to deal with the controversy in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.</p> <p><strong>:: Listen to the Daily podcast on <a href="https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/sky-news-daily/id951048357?mt=2" target="_blank">Apple Podcasts</a>, <a href="https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuc3ByZWFrZXIuY29tL3Nob3cvMzI4NzI0Ni9lcGlzb2Rlcy9mZWVk" target="_blank">Google Podcasts</a>, <a href="https://open.spotify.com/show/3RdXZrbbG3NydLsPYmRSJy" target="_blank">Spotify</a>, <a href="https://www.spreaker.com/show/sky-news-daily" target="_blank">Spreaker</a></strong></p><p>Opposition parties have been calling for the education secretary's resignation, with Scottish Labour poised to mount a no-confidence vote against him in Holyrood - something the Conservatives have said they will support.</p><p>Ms Sturgeon reiterated her support for her deputy, saying: "When we get things wrong, I want to be able to stand here and acknowledge that and put it right, because I think fundamentally that's better than simply digging our heels in and trying to defend a position we think in our hearts we didn't get right.</p><p>"That's the approach I will take, it's the approach the deputy first minister is going to take and I hope that's the one that young people affected and their families will see as the right approach to take."</p><p>The first minister said she "absolved" the qualifications authority of responsibility for the controversy, because it developed the system at the behest of ministers.</p><p>She said: "Ministers asked the SQA to apply an approach that delivered a set of results that are comparable in terms of quality to last year's.</p><p>"This is a view that ministers are taking now that it didn't take enough account of the individual circumstances."</p> <p><strong>'I thought I was going to get an A - but I got a D, this is not fair'</strong></p><p><em>Ruaridh Hall, 17, from Edinburgh, had the result in his best subject downgraded by two marks and was given a B in a subject he was predicted to fail in.</em></p><p><em>He told Sky News: "We did prelims in January and for my design and manufacture I got a B, then last week I got predicted a D.</em></p><p><em>"How does that make sense?</em></p><p><em>"I thought I'd get an A, that was the one I thought I'd get an A in and I got a D - that's disgraceful.</em></p><p><em>"Apparently my school thought I'd get a B, which is fair enough, but SQA gave me a D - doesn't seem very fair.</em></p><p><em>"I want Nicola Sturgeon to fix it, if I can get even what the school predicted me I'd be happy with that, but a D?</em></p><p><em>"That's terrible.</em></p><p><em>"It's crazy because in my English I was predicted a fail and I got a B, so how is this a fair system?</em></p><p><em>"If the government says they're going to fix this for some students and not others then that's unfair, how is that just?</em></p><p><em>"I think if anybody gets their grades changed back to what the school said then I should, otherwise I will not be happy."</em></p>