Friday, August 7, 2020

There may be trouble ahead.....


"Scottish exam bosses DOWNGRADE 25% of results after teachers tried to give pupils the best pass rate ever when COVID cancelled tests - so will the rest of Britain's teenagers suffer the same fate?

·        Moderating authority had to mark results down after teachers gave highest ever 

·        Scottish pupils got the results today, which still showed a rise in pass rates

·        Marks were estimated after coronavirus pandemic meant that exams were axed

·        Education Secretary John Swinney insisted teachers had acted professionally"


 That was the headlines in many of the newspapers this week, as the results of non exams were published. The Scottish educational system is very different to the English one.

I think it's fair to say that a Scot coming out of Secondary School, age 17, ready for uni, has a slightly broader based education than the English counterparts, as well as being year ahead.

To get to study medicine, you'd need  five straight A passes at the highers or the modern equivalent ( they do keep changing the name ) at the first sitting. In England, you'd need Three A levels, all passed at grade a.

This amounts to the same academic achievement but the English system lends itself to being either language or science based, whereas up here, you need to take one science if you are a linguist, and one language if you are a scientist.

 During the last two years of school, we sit prelims either in December or January. ‘Mocks’ as they are called elsewhere. These are exams set by the school, not by the education board,  and can be used for evidence of appeal if the candidate is ill during the real exam or just makes a complete mess of it. Some teachers set the prelims at a much more difficult level than the  real exams to frighten the cruisers into actually doing some work. But that can backfire, if the result of the prelim is then used to appeal.

 This year, the exams were cancelled. The teachers were asked to predict an outcome for each pupil and give them a grade accordingly. I’m sure it was based on the prelim result, course work, a general knowledge of the pupil's ability.

 With any marking process, some results are pulled to be verified,  amd exactly the same happened here. The results came out on Thursday and the political outfall could be  very significant

 The government admit they took 25% of the papers and downgraded them, as the overall percentages showed that too many pupils were passing. They didn't down grade them all, just the 25% they looked at. My manager's son was tracking for an A, got an A in his prelims, an A for all course work. And was awarded a C ??

Confusion rules. Dreams are shattered,  students  on course to study medicine  suddenly don’t have to results to get into uni, after having been given a conditional acceptance. but only if they were one of the  one who were downgraded... another pupil might be sailing in on a falsely high mark if the logic is followed.

 Of course they can appeal, but in my day, an appeal could only move one grade, no good if you have been downgraded by two!

My other friend is a head teacher. He was warned well in advance that lawyers were on standby. And he thinks the kids and the parents, and his teachers  have a good case to argue. 

The whole situation is a mess, made  much worse by rumours,  that seem to be born out by fact, the the schools in deprived areas were subject to testing much more so than the schools in the more affluent areas. 

 "But politicians and activists have branded the handling of pupils’ exams a “fiasco” and “tantamount to discrimination based on wealth”.

It came after it emerged teenagers in Scotland’s most deprived areas saw their pass rates reduced by 15.2 per cent compared to 6.9 per cent for those in the richest areas."

And an open letter  from another  newspaper

"School pupils have been asked to cope with a lot in uncertain times.

A lethal pandemic wiped out months of class work and their annual exams.

But they’ve still had to come through it all and make further education and career plans.

They are rightly furious that many from poorer areas were more likely to have their estimated results adjusted down by the SQA than those from well-off areas.

Today, they will demonstrate loudly and clearly that enough is enough.

They are gathering in George Square one day after Nicola Sturgeon was asked to imagine how she would have felt if her grades were knocked down at school.

The First Minister said she would probably have joined the protest. But in office, she is not planning to change the system.

Coronavirus has allowed Scots to peek behind the curtains and see past the theatre of government.

Already the country has seen systemic problems in care, and now the social scandal of inequality is there for all to see.

Scotland’s children have worked hard and they deserve better.

They must not be defined by a rigged system that puts obstacles in their way. We wish them well in their protest."

And so do I.

Caro Ramsay



  1. Caro, this sounds outrageous. I hope the parents sue the pants off them. Apart from anything else, a wonderful opportunity was wasted. If they had let the results go ahead, they could have tracked this cohort through college and compared with the usual process. Maybe these final drop-dead important exams don't matter all that much after all...

  2. Caro, this makes me wish I could shout loud enough to carry across the ocean. I wish I could have watch the decision making process. A song from the runaway hit “Hamilton” — the story of hero of Scottish descent!—has a lyric “i want to be in the room where it happens.” Who gets to be at the decision-makers table makes all the difference. Evidently, no one was there to say, “Let’s stop to reconsider the possible fall out if we do this.” AAARRRGHHHHHH!

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