Poor pupils up to seven times more likely to have had grades reduced in Edinburgh
Pupils from schools in high levels of deprivation could have been as much as seven times more likely to have had their grades reduced by the SQA, the Evening News can reveal.
Schools in the poorer parts of the Capital saw up to 76 per cent of grades moderated down by the SQA, while those going to school in more affluent areas saw grades moderated down in just 10 per cent of cases.
It comes as the chair of a parents forum at a school in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas called on the education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney to resign over the fiasco.
Labour’s Cllr Cammy Day, depute leader of Edinburgh City Council, also called on Mr Swinney and the chief executive of the SQA Fiona Robertson to “consider their positions” due to the figures.
Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, added that the education secretary had “lost the confidence of parents and teachers”.
The Evening News understands that analysis of individual schools shows a disproportionate number of grades in schools which are in more deprived areas were lowered than more wealthy areas.
On Tuesday, it emerged eight per cent more grades were lowered by the SQA if a pupil was from a poorer background when compared to those from wealthier areas.
Cllr Day, depute leader of the council, said the figures were “worrying” and said the SQA “potentially undermined” teachers and pupil’s own work.
He told the Evening News: “I have seen some early indication of the mark-downs and ups of exam results across the city and it is extremely worrying.
“They range from some schools seeing single figures with other schools at 76 per cent mark-downs at Highers and that is worrying.
“I am concerned that the SQA has potentially undermined the expertise and knowledge of our teaching staff and the hard work of our students during an already hard year.”
Cllr Day added that the SQA and the Scottish Government should be held to account for the situation, and called on Mr Swinney and Ms Robertson to “consider their positions”.
He said: “The SQA and the Scottish Government should be held responsible for the fact, through no fault of their own due to Covid and a marking system from the SQA, thousands of pupils could be struggling.
“I would trust my teaching staff over the SQA’s bureaucracy. We will be doing everything we can to support our young people but I think the government should react so a generation of young people don’t miss out.
“John Swinney and Fiona Robertson should consider their positions, but all I am asking for is that young people across the city regardless of their postcode and school should be treated fairly.”
Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said the education secretary has “lost the confidence” of the public.
He said: “My inbox is overflowing with emails from concerned parents and pupils, and angry teachers, from across south Edinburgh
“It’s clear that John Swinney has lost the confidence of parents and teachers, so how long before he loses the confidence of Nicola Sturgeon?
“In parts of my constituency a third of children are growing up in poverty following SNP and Tory cuts, and now the SNP has pulled up the ladder from this generation of youngsters.
“The SNP has failed young people in Edinburgh, and Nicola Sturgeon needs to sort this rather than defending an unjust system and putting the blame on our hard-working teachers."
Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon refused to be drawn on any potential resignation of Mr Swinney and said she understood the anger of young people affected by the moderation process.
She said: “If you are a young person sitting at home right now or in George Square in Glasgow and you have results that are below what your teacher thought you’d get you are going to understandably feel very aggrieved and if you think that is because of the postcode you live in or the school you go to that is going to be even more pronounced.
"I understand that, I absolutely understand that which is why this next part of the process is so important.
"Young people, you are entitled to be angry, you are entitled to feel this is unjust and the government will listen carefully to that but please don’t lose sight of this next part of the process because this is the part that is not a statistical model, this is the part of the process that looks at your individual circumstances.
“Now, if we were at a point right now where we were saying the process is over then I think the concerns would be more legitimate because we would be saying like it or lump it, that is the end of the road.
"But because of the difficulties of this process, we have made sure this year that there is a free appeals process for anybody whose teacher wants to put forward evidence for them, to make sure everybody’s individual circumstances are looked at properly. That is just as important a part of the process as the one we have just gone through.”
A spokesman for the SQA said it would not comment on a particular local authority, and, pointing to the apparent narrowing of the attainment gap between the poorest and wealthiest students in 2020, said it believed it had delivered “fairness to all learners”.
He said: “We believe we have delivered fairness to learners, through a consistent, evidence-based approach in the absence of exams.
“We have maintained the integrity and credibility of our qualifications system, ensuring that standards are maintained over time, in the interests of learners, through judicious moderation of grades.
“Our free appeals service opened on Tuesday. Schools and colleges that have questions about a candidate’s final grade can appeal the result, if it is lower than what they estimated. They need to have permission from the candidate and sufficient evidence to support the initial estimate.
“Priority will be given to those candidates wishing to confirm a college or university place. If learners have any questions about their results they should speak to their school, college or training provider first.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.
Subscribe to the Edinburgh Evening News online and enjoy unlimited access to trusted, fact-checked news and sport from Edinburgh and the Lothians. Visit https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.
By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.