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SQA Exams fiasco - what were teachers thinking?

Updated: Aug 25

I don't think I can be the only one who foresaw this exams fiasco.


As soon as it was announced that pupils' exam grades would be decided by their teachers' assessments, it was always a recipe for problems. After all, such a manner of grading is partly subjective, particularly for those pupils that are borderline between two grades.


And as for the SQA, "normalising" individual pupil grades based on their school's historic performance, well even a blind man could see the problems that would arise with that approach. Exam grades have to be based on the pupil not the school. It's so blinking obvious, you wonder what the executives at SQA, and that neap John Swinney (Scottish Education Secretary) were thinking. They should be sacked for incompetence.


But there is one aspect in all of this that is also a little concerning, and yet has not been picked up on by the Press.


Data has revealed that poorer children had their teacher estimate results for Highers downgraded by the SQA by 15.2%, whilst just 6.9% of the most affluent pupils in Scotland had their predicted Higher grades downgraded by the SQA.


Given that grades were downgraded based on the performance history of schools over many years past, these percentages tell us that the teachers who carried out the assessments in "poorer" schools, were twice as likely to over-estimate grades, or to put it another way, twice as likely to "bump up" borderline grades, thus ensuring the higher grade for their pupils goes through. And thus enhance the reputation of that school and themselves. That is not a good look.


I wholeheartedly agree that there will indeed be pupils who have genuinely suffered at the hands of this assessment process, and that those pupils who feel they have been downgraded unfairly are entitled to have their grades re-examined based on their course work to date.


However, neither can we have an appeals process that simply accepts the original inflated grades given by some teachers. To do that would simply destroy the credibility of all grades given out this year.


Whatever process the SQA creates for appeals, it must be one based on an honest assessment of the written work and previous exam marks for each pupil.




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