Pupils '˜upset' after exam board's blunder over Mary Queen of Scots

Heads could roll at Scotland's examination board after they got the wrong date for Mary Queen of Scots' execution on a history paper.

Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 1:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 1:16 pm
The National 5 exam wrongly stated that Mary Stuart died in 1567 - 20 years earlier than her actual gruesome demise. Picture: Contributed

The National 5 exam wrongly stated that Mary Stuart died in 1567 - 20 years earlier than her actual gruesome demise.

The blunder was made by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which has promised candidates will not be disadvantaged as a result of the blunder.

The error was printed in an introduction to the source material for the question, which was “from the diary of a lady in waiting who accompanied Mary during her imprisonment in England...written in 1567”.

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Students were asked to “evaluate the usefulness of Source B as evidence of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1567. (You may want to comment on what type of source it is, who wrote it, when they wrote it.)”.

Sir Tom Devine, emeritus professor of history at the University of Edinburgh, said for the SQA to be out by 20 years was “unacceptable”.

He added: “It is slightly cheering to know that the examination board don’t know everything about Mary, because I thought that everyone knew the whole lot, right down to the undergarments she wore at her execution.”

A history teacher, who did not want to be identified, said that the error had confused and upset many of his students.

“It is shambolic that a mistake like this managed to get through SQA’s quality assurance and into the exam,” said the teacher.

“It will have wrong-footed pupils sitting an intense two-and-a-half hour exam, and has led to some of mine second-guessing their knowledge, which really upset them. It’s not good enough.”

In a statement the SQA said: “We will take the error into consideration when the paper is marked to ensure no candidate is disadvantaged.”

In 1568, Mary Queen of Scots, a Catholic, fled Scotland in hope that her protestant cousin Queen Elizabeth 1 would help her in her fight against Scottish nobility.

But she ended up imprisoned by Elizabeth after being deemed a threat to the throne.

After correspondence between Anthony Babbington and Mary was discovered, which plotted to depose of the Queen and ended being tried and convicted for treason.

The diary which the SQA quoted from Mary’s lady-in-waiting at her execution at Fotheringay stated that she quickly knelled to before the block with “great courage” and showed no signs of faltering”.

Mary’s lady-in-waiting wrote in her diary:“The executioner, or rather minister of Satan, strove to kill not only her body but soul, because he kept interrupting her prayers.

“When she eventually finished praying she laid her head on the block. The executioner struck her a great blow on the neck, which was not, however, entirely severed.”