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Accusations of classism as Scottish pupils receive SQA grades

5 mins read

Questions over the handling of Scottish exam results this year have been raised as youngsters across the country received their Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) results yesterday, based on teachers estimates and pupils’ performances across the year.

A national moderation system has left students across the country with lower grades than first estimated.

If the results had been based solely on the estimates from teachers, pass rates at grades A-C would have increased by 10.4 percentage points for National 5 and by 14 percentage points for Higher and by 13.4 percentage points for Advanced Higher.

Many students have spoken out on their disappointment with results claiming they were disadvantaged due to being from less affluent areas.

Approximately, one quarter of pupils received lowered grades as exams were cancelled for the first time in history due to covid-19.

Olivia Biggart a sixteen-year-old pupil from Motherwell, with plans of going on to study medicine at university has had her dream left in tatters after she was awarded two A’s and three B’s despite receiving straight A’s in her prelims. Her teachers had also predicted straight A’s.

Olivia believes she received these grades because of where she lives.

Similar stories have raised questions of classism problems within the education system across Scotland.

SQA figures  showed that the Higher pass rate for pupils from the most deprived backgrounds was reduced by around 15 percentage points compared to only 6.9 percentage points for the wealthiest pupils.

This year the pass rate for National 5 was 81.1%, while the Higher pass rate was 78.9% and the Advanced Higher rate was 84.9%.

 Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford said:

“This has been a strange year for everyone, but for our young people at high school, it has meant less time at school to achieve the results that they need for the next stage in life. Teachers, pupils, and the SQA have put in a power of work to ensure that pupils achievements are reflected in the grades they receive. Well done to everyone in getting to where they are today.”

“It’s the case every year that some people won’t have received the results they were expecting or hoping for. This isn’t the end of the road, it’s just the beginning. The SDS helpline is available, with valuable advice on what options re open to young people in this situation.”

“In recent years, our young people have gone off to positive destinations (the world of work, modern apprenticeships, or higher and further education) in record numbers. For those unsure about what to do next, I would urge them to pick up the phone to the SDS helpline.”

Most pupils sit National 5 exams in fourth year and Highers in fifth year with the opportunity to re-sit in sixth year or take on Advance Highers.

Matt Crilly NUS Scotland President, said:

“Today’s a big day for learners across Scotland, at schools and colleges, who’ve been patiently waiting on their results during the uncertainty and anxiety caused by Covid-19. I’d like to offer my congratulations to all those who’ve received their results today in the toughest of circumstances.

“We remain concerned that many students have been marked down from their predicted grades due to the moderation process. I’d urge anyone who didn’t get the results they’d hope for the speak to a dedicated advisor by calling Skills Development Scotland’s exam helpline. And, for those wishing to discuss an appeal – a process which is free this year – they can speak to their lecturer or teacher. 

“We welcome the modest increase in the proportion of students from Scotland’s most deprived communities gaining a place at university. Fantastic progress has been made to widen access in recent years – with more students from poorer backgrounds getting a place at university. We cannot see this progress undermined as a result of Covid-19.”

The SQA’s candidate advice line will run from 0800 to 1800 on Tuesday, and from 0830 to 1700 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The number is 0345 279 1000.

Film Media and Journalism student at the University of Stirling. Film and comment editor at Brig Newspaper. Edinburgh / Stirling

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