Fears East Dunbartonshire pupils may have their grades unfairly lowered this year

East Dunbartonshire schools may have their grades unfairly lowered by a secret grade moderation scheme that has replaced this year’s exams, says a local MSP.

Green MSP Ross Greer has raised concerns that pupils in East Dunbartonshire will be unfairly disadvantaged as a result.

After Covid-19 forced the cancellation of exams, the SQA asked for teachers to submit estimated grades, which the exams authority will ‘moderate’, potentially changing what teachers have submitted, he said.

One of the criteria they will use, according to the MSP, is a school’s historical 
exam results.

Photo Emma Mitchell 9.8.17
Bishopbriggs AcademyPhoto Emma Mitchell 9.8.17
Bishopbriggs Academy
Photo Emma Mitchell 9.8.17 Bishopbriggs Academy

Because schools in East Dunbartonshire have seen a big improvement in Higher passes recently, the Greens fear pupils will see their grades unfairly lowered, potentially seeing pass marks submitted by teachers changed to fails by the exams authority.

In 2016 55% of pupils in East Dunbartonshire secured at least five Highers or other qualifications at the same level, SCQF 6. In 2019 that number had risen to 62%.

The Scottish Greens have challenged the SQA to publish in full the moderation system, it is using, as well as the Equalities Impact Assessment it is legally required to carry out - but the exams authority has told them they will only do this after results have been issued.

The body has twice refused requests by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills committee to immediately publish this information.

Commenting, Mr Greer said: “Schools in East Dunbartonshire have worked really hard to improve the chances and opportunities for their pupils, but this hard work could now be seriously undermined by a secret SQA system which reduces the hard work of individual young people to a statistical average and postcode lottery.

“We just don’t know if the SQA will take account of this recent success because of the veil of secrecy they’ve put over this process.

“The exams authority are undermining not only the professional judgement of teachers but the hard work of pupils with this secret moderation process.

“They must publish the details of this grading system and the legally required Equality Impact Assessment now, so teachers can have confidence it is robust and know what 
to expect when the results come in.

“This is particularly urgent now that we know the SQA will not be contacting teachers to let them know that they have changed submitted grades.”

The SQA has dismissed Mr Greer’s fears as “speculative and unhelpful.”

An SQA spokesman said this morning (Tuesday): “This is an unprecedented year and we have worked hard, with schools and colleges, to ensure young people get the results they deserve. This analysis is speculative and unhelpful, particularly to young people who are awaiting their results.

“We have provided information about our approach, but we have also been quite clear that we will publish our full methodology and Equalities Impact Assessment on results day, the day we would normally publish information about our awarding processes. We have said all along that fairness to learners, whilst maintaining the integrity and credibility of our qualifications system, is at the heart of our approach.

“It is important to highlight that, this year, a free appeals service will be available if schools and colleges do not think awarded grades reflect their learners’ performance.”