Labour Demands SNP Education Secretary Quits After Poorer Pupils Have Exam Grades Lowered

John Swinney, who is also deputy first minister, could face a vote of no confidence.

Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.

Labour has demanded the resignation of Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney, who also serves as education secretary, over a policy that saw poorer pupils disproportionately have their exam marks downgraded.

The Scottish Qualification Authority’s (SQA) process, put in place to cope with the coronavirus outbreak, saw the pass rate of pupils in the most deprived areas reduced by 15.2% from teacher estimates after the exam board’s moderation.

In contrast, the pass rate for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds dropped by 6.9%.

Scottish Labour said on Friday it had obtained evidence the SQA would not reveal the results of any appeals until the end of May 2021.

The party said as a result it would table a motion of no confidence in Swinney in the Scottish Parliament so as to have him removed from his job.

Nicola Sturgeon has defended the SQA and argued the argued the system helped to maintain the “credibility” of results.

In Scotland’s first school year without exams due to the pandemic, more than a quarter (26.2%) of grades were changed during moderation by the SQA – a total of 133,762 – while 377,308 entries were accepted unchanged.

The exam board’s criteria for moderation included the historic performance of schools, and grades were adjusted “where a centre’s estimates were outside the constraint range for that course”, according to the SQA chief examining officer Fiona Robertson

New schools without previous exam results were unchanged.

An SQA spokesperson said: “The most disadvantaged young people have achieved better results in 2020 compared to both 2019 and the average results for the last four years.

“At Grades A to C, the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged young people is also narrower this year for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher than for last year or the average gap for the last four years.”

In England, Labour has written to education secretary Gavin Williamson calling for “urgent reassurance” that exam results south of the border “will not exacerbate existing inequalities”.

In a letter to Williamson, shadow education secretary Kate Green warned this year’s system of assessment following the Covid-19 pandemic “risks creating winners and losers and some children in schools that have been improving are those who could lose out the most”.

Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, cautioned “the system risks baking in inequality” as she branded the handling of Highers results in Scotland “disastrous”.


What's Hot