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Exams fiasco apology - First Minister says: 'We got it wrong'


By Scott Maclennan

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Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has admitted the Scottish Government got it wrong over exams.

The marking system adopted by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) sparked outrage last week with accusations that many students were marked down as a result of their school's past performance.

As a result of lockdown there were no exams this year, with pupils instead graded on coursework and teacher estimates of their final performance – with these then reviewed by the SQA.

At today's Scottish Government coronavirus briefing Ms Sturgeon confirmed that education secretary John Swinney – amid calls for him to resign – will deliver a statement to parliament tomorrow on the action the government will now take to remedy the situation.

However she also defended the government's record, saying that decisions were taken with the best of intentions.

"For those pupils and parents of pupils who received their SQA results last week, John Swinney will make a statement in parliament tomorrow about the steps we intend to take to address concerns about this year's results," she said.

"At the heart of that will be steps to make sure that every young person gets the grade that recognises the work they have done.

"In a very difficult and unprecedented situation we took decisions that on balance we thought were the right ones, and we took them with the very best of intentions.

"These were broadly the same decisions that have been reached in England and Wales as well, but our concern to make sure that the grades young people get were as valid as they would have gotten any other year perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.

"And that has meant that too many students feel that they lost out and, also, that that has happened as a result not because of anything they've done but because of a statistical model or an algorithm.

“And, in addition, that burden has not fallen equally across our society and despite our best intentions I do acknowledge that we did not get this right and I'm sorry for that.

“But instead of doing what politicians sometimes do and dig our heels in we are determined to acknowledge that and put it right.

“There are of course deeper questions that we will need to resolve for the longer term about the impact of exams on the attainment gap and the difference between exams and teacher judgment.

“But the most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year."

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