MSP calls for more data on SQA results to scrutinise potential 'very dangerous assumption'

Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson has called on the SQA to release more data to justify the reduction in grades.

6th year students at Lourdes Secondary School, Josef Sheidiq, Amy Patterson, Morgan Grant, Laura Stewart, Josh Traynor and Weronika Glazreceive their exam resulys by text to their mobile phone yesterday.
6th year students at Lourdes Secondary School, Josef Sheidiq, Amy Patterson, Morgan Grant, Laura Stewart, Josh Traynor and Weronika Glazreceive their exam resulys by text to their mobile phone yesterday.

An Edinburgh MSP has warned of a potential “very dangerous assumption” at the heart of the SQA’s exam result moderation and called for more data to be released by the exam board to further scrutinise the decisions taken.

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney have come under significant pressure to justify why more than a quarter of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher grades were reduced by the SQA.

The proportion of grades lowered was also higher in more deprived areas with around eight per cent more grades being lowered in the poorest areas compared with the richest areas, a system opposition parties claim “bakes in” inequality.

Daniel Johnson has called for more data to be released about exam results

Daniel Johnson MSP took to Twitter to call on the SQA to release more detailed data to allow for further scrutiny of the moderation system he labelled as “wrong plain and simple”.

He said: “The central issue I keep coming back to is that the SQA changed grades of groups of students without any reference to individual evidence - this seems wrong plain and simple.

"I can accept that teacher estimates would need checked or regulated. I can accept the use of statistical models to inform this. But to change and finalise grades without a check as to whether an individual may merit the original award seems very wrong.

"To do so on the basis of groups of students, not just single students, on the basis of where they sit on a distribution curve, compounds this.”

Miles Briggs said the situation was a "debacle"

The Edinburgh Southern MSP for Labour added that the moderation process may also show that the SQA engaged in “unconscious bias” through their moderation system.

Mr Johnson added: "We must also get fuller data from the SQA. Essentially we receive mean data yesterday. If in average 25% of grades estimated at school level were altered, some schools this figure will be much higher. We need to know what the range of alteration was.

“Similarly we were told most alterations were only by a grade. But how many alterations were by more than a grade? Did these large alterations occur more at some schools than others?

"We also need more data on equalities. It strikes me that there is a very real risk of unconscious bias with this methodology. We need to see the data to scrutinise this important issue.”

Lothian MSP for the Scottish Conservatives, Miles Briggs, labelled results day a “debacle”.

He said: “The debacle of exam results for pupils across Edinburgh and the Lothians is yet another example of how they are failing young people on education.

“The marking down of pupils in less affluent areas is sending an awful message to pupils, that if you go to a school in one of these areas, you are not expected to do as well academically.

“It is important that school pupils know your exam results don’t have to define the rest of your life and practical apprenticeship, or going into the workplace, is every bit as valuable as a university degree.”

The SQA have been approached for comment.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. Visit now to sign up.

Subscribe to the Edinburgh Evening News online and enjoy unlimited access to trusted, fact-checked news and sport from Edinburgh and the Lothians. Visit now to sign up.

By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.