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Friday, Jan 15, 2021

Top student given F after exam is marked 'based on school's poor history'

Thousands of students from poor backgrounds who had been predicted A-grades today opened their exam results to find they had failed.
Due to the pandemic, teenagers in Scotland became the first in the UK to get their results despite not sitting any exams. But for 125,000 of them, it was a disappointing day, as their grades had been lowered by the country’s exam board, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

A quarter of all pupils getting their results today found their final grades were lower than they had been predicted – some even claimed they had been dropped from an A to an F. Coronavirus saw exams cancelled and instead replaced with a system that would grant students the grades that their teachers had already predicted for them.

But as the results came, SQA released their awarding methodology, revealing that grades had been granted proportionate to the school’s performance level in previous years – and not based on the advice of teachers.

This means that thousands of pupils from working-class backgrounds who attended schools with historically poor test results missed out on scoring top marks.

Holly, from Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute, was predicted an A and two Bs – the grades she needed to go to Stirling University where she had a conditional offer to start next month.

This morning, she discovered she had been awarded 3 Cs and a D – throwing her university place and future into chaos.

Holly told Metro.co.uk she will be appealing her results but said: ‘I’m honestly devastated and really nervous for the future now.’

Another student who had already achieved four A grades in her Higher qualifications, was handed an F despite being predicted a further top grade.

She wrote on Twitter: ‘I’m really trying the understand how the #SQA think it’s okay to mark me from a predicted A to an F in Psychology because I come from a deprived school with low results despite having 4 A’s at higher already.

‘If that doesn’t show I’m a capable student then what does.’

Explaining its process for awarding results, SQA said: ‘Moderation was undertaken at centre level, where a centre’s 2020 estimated attainment level for each grade on a course was assessed against that centre’s historical attainment for that grade on that course – with additional tolerances to allow for year-on-year variability in a centre’s attainment.’

The method means the exams body downgraded some submitted results despite no exams taking place and pass rates rising at every level.

The Scottish government revealed that of the ‘133,000 entries [that] were adjusted from the initial estimate – around a quarter of all entries – 6.9% of those estimates were adjusted up and 93.1% were adjusted down, with 96% of all adjusted grades changed by one grade.’

Opposition politicians have warned that there will now be a ‘deluge’ of appeals, and accused the SQA of treating the professional judgement of teachers with ‘contempt’ by changing so many grades.

Laura Rettie, Vice President of Global Communications at education consultancy, Studee said: ‘Some students may now be facing the very real possibility of not getting into their first choice university.

‘I empathise with how frustrating it is for teachers who have given a student a grade they believe was deserved, only for it to be changed by someone who has never had anything to do with the student.

‘The appeals process is there for anyone who feels that they have been misgraded and I strongly urge students to use it.’

The SQA said its moderation process had ensured ‘fairness to all learners’ and maintained ‘standards and credibility’ in the qualification system.

But college professor James McEnaney said the SQA results today are ‘appalling but not surprising’ as he and others had warned that this could happen months ago.

He told Metro.co.uk: ‘Poor kids have suffered most, as always, under the guise of “fairness”.’

In a data set from the Equality Impact Assessment, the 2020 estimate from students in the most deprived areas was at an 85.1% pass rate but the actual result reduced that number down to 69.9%. A 15.2% reduction.

For pupils from the richest areas, the 2020 pass rate estimate was at 91.5% with the actual result at 84.6%, a 6.9% reduction.

The SQA told Metro.co.uk, ‘We have published our equalities impact assessment which demonstrates we have complied with equalities legislation, as we should. The most disadvantaged young people have achieved better results in 2020 compared to both 2019 and the average results for the last four years.

‘At Grades A to C, the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged young people is also narrower this year for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher than for last year or the average gap for the last four years.’
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