Downgraded exam results in Scotland cause anger

Examination results, England, Scotland
© Ajb110

Exam results released in Scotland create waves of anger after a mass downgrading of teacher-assessed grades, likely to be similar for England in late August

Scottish pupils received their examination results last Tuesday (4 August) and pupils in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales will receive theirs on 13 August and 20 August.

Due to exams being cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, results were calculated by teachers based on their performance throughout the year.

Due to a national moderation system put in place by the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA), over 125,000 pupils, around a quarter of the total, had their grades downgraded.

Many pupils have voiced their disappointment over the drop in their grades compared to what they achieved in prelim exams, with some claiming they have suffered because they are from more deprived areas.

The SQA said the moderation system was needed to ensure “fairness to all learners” and to maintain credibility in the qualification system.

Nicola Sturgeon said she understood pupils anger an frustration and said any “genuine individual injustices” over exam results will be “rectified” through the appeals process.

The appeal process

However due to the outrage of many parents and pupils, an appeal process has been made available for those students who received a lower grades than originally predicted by their teachers. This comes after the exam regulator changed its stance in the fear of backlash from headteachers.

Appeals must supply alternative evidence, and can only be submitted by the school or college rather than the individual. It will only be possible to review a grade, not a band.

Pupils pass rates in Scotland increase

The pass rate for National 5 examinations was 81.1% this year, compared to an average of 78.2% in 2019.

The Higher pass rate for this year was 78.9%, compared to 78.2% last year. While the Advanced Higher pass rate this year was 84.9% compared to 79.4% last year.

If the results had not been moderated and based purely on teachers estimates, pass rates at grades A-C would have increased by 10.4 percentage points for National 5, by 14 percentage points for Higher and by 13.4 percentage points for Advanced Higher.

These results would have led to a higher annual change than had ever been seen before in Scottish exam results if they had not been moderated by the SQA.

Will it be the same story in England?

It is estimated that over 40% of A-level grades submitted by teachers are likely to be downgraded ahead of the release of exam results later this week.

GCSE results are also likely to experience a similar downgrade rate and many. Those most likely to experience revised grades appear to be those on the border between B and C grades, and between C and D grades.

The grades in England will be adjusted according to Ofqual’s statistical model. It will take schools examination history and pupils previous results to provide reliable and fair results. This method will replace the exams scrapped due to the closure of schools because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There is also fear that the A-level results to be published on Thursday will unfairly penalise disadvantaged students, due to the Ofqual appeals process. Similarly to the situation in Scotland, pupils will not be able to appeal individually, instead schools will have to pay a fee to challenge grades.

Critics believe Qfqual’s standardised system may be harmful to bright but disadvantaged students at poor-performing schools, who may have their grades unfairly downgraded.


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