FMQs: exams crisis a ‘more sleekit’ repeat of last year’s shambles

Douglas Ross said this year’s exams crisis is a “more sleekit” repeat of the SNP’s shambles last year.

At First Minister’s Questions, he highlighted council reports showing that historical data is being used to analyse and even ‘adjust’ pupil’s grades all over Scotland.

The Scottish Conservative Leader said the difference this year is that “instead of the SQA marking pupils down at the end of the process, the system will force teachers and schools to do it first.”

Douglas Ross called for no pupil to be downgraded based on where they go to school and said the First Minister must rule out downgrades for pupils who choose to appeal.

An Education Scotland report published last week indicated that 3 in 4 councils are analysing pupil’s grades using historical attainment data.

Numerous councils have also published their own grading reports, showing they are making “adjustments” based on data analysis and a school’s prior attainment.

Nicola Sturgeon defended the use of historic data, confirming that it would be used to analyse results while trying to claim that it would not be used to downgrade pupils.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “The evidence paints a very different picture from Nicola Sturgeon’s spin and carefully selected words.

“Reports from councils and Education Scotland confirm that pupils’ grades are being ‘adjusted’ using historical data and local algorithms, in direct contradiction to what the First Minister has told the Scottish Parliament.

“The SNP’s excuse is absurd. It’s sheer nonsense to claim grades will be analysed against historic data but that information somehow won’t be used to downgrade pupils.

“This is the same shambles as last year – it’s just more sleekit. Instead of the SQA marking pupils down at the end of the process, the system will force teachers and schools to do it first.

“The harsh reality of this system is, if you’re lucky enough to attend a consistently high achieving school, your grades probably won’t be reviewed. But if you attend your local school where people work hard but not everyone gets 5 As – the kind of schools the First Minister and I both went to – then your grades are more likely to be lowered.

“Young people feel cheated by another deeply unfair system that judges where they’re from, not how they did.

“The life chances of tens of thousands of pupils are at stake. The 2021 exams crisis has already started. But this government acts as if nothing is wrong.

“Nicola Sturgeon must do something about this now, allow appeals that don’t risk downgrades, and make the system fair. Anything less will let down young people all over again.”


Guidance documents from various council are attached.

Page 4 of Edinburgh Council’s guidance states: “We will work with schools to develop effective support for moderation at the centre, which will include sharing data on prior attainment and looking at provisional patterns of attainment for this session.”

Page 8 of Edinburgh Council’s guidance states: “The Curriculum Leader and the DHT attainment/HT meet to review the provisional results compared to historical data. Implications are considered, and adjustments made as appropriate. Justification for any change is recorded.”

Page 4 of the Inverclyde Council guidance states: “Two data analysis meetings to be held with each school in May and June prior to final submission of provisional results.”

Page 4 of the East Lothian guidance states: “Provisional Grades for the 2021 cohort have been compared with the attainment data from previous cohorts.”

Page 55 of the East Renfrewshire guidance shows a checklist for teachers including the question “Do my overall estimates fall within the agreed parameters for this session based on the data my PTC/PT has used from the last three years?”

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