Exam results appeals process 'more important' than previous years, admits Nicola Sturgeon

The First Minister rejected claims from Professor Lindsay Paterson that the moderation system used by the SQA was “unfair” and “arbitrary”.

Nicola Sturgeon admitted the appeals process this year was "more important" than in previous years.
Nicola Sturgeon admitted the appeals process this year was "more important" than in previous years.

Nicola Sturgeon again rejected criticism about the moderation of exam results in Scotland which saw a quarter of grades lowered by the SQA and said that the appeals process this year was “more important” than usual.

Responding to accusations from leading academic Professor Lindsay Paterson that the moderation system which used historical data as a basis for reducing grades was “unfair” and arbitrary”, the First Minister said there would have been controversy regardless of how the SQA moderated grades.

Admitting the initial moderation may leave individual students feeling hard done by, Ms Sturgeon said the appeals process had been put in place to ensure pupils had the chance to get their grades changed.

She said: “What we’ve had is the SQA applying a moderation process which got us to the results yesterday, remember three quarters of results were not moderated.

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"But for the individual young people who did have results moderated that is no comfort, I absolutely accept that. But we now go into the process of individual moderation which is the appeals process where any young person who feels that their individual circumstances have not been properly taken account of, and if they feel they have been disadvantaged by the SQA part of the process, they get the chance with their teachers to put forward that evidence.

"The appeals process is always important with the exams but it is more important this year because of the unprecedented circumstances.

"This next bit of the journey is about individual moderation where it is the particular circumstances of young people that will be looked at."

Ms Sturgeon said that she understood pupil’s disappointment about their results yesterday but reiterated the need for the exam system to be credible for employers and universities.

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She said: “What I would say to young people who are disappointed in the results they got yesterday, I understand that and I am really sorry that we had a situation this year where we had to put in place something different because of the pandemic.

"We are trying to get it right, not just on a headline statistical level, that’s not unimportant because we want employers to look in future years at the 2020 results and not think that they are not valid so we want there to be a credibility about them with those who did well included in that.

"Now we want to make sure that young people who feel they have not had fair results, they get the chance to have their own individual circumstances looked at.

"Yesterday was not the end of that process, and I know this is really difficult for young people but we and the SQA are determined to try to get it right in a year that none of us would have wanted because of the unprecedented circumstances we’ve had to confront.”

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