FMQs sketch: Nicola Sturgeon is in full Dolores Umbridge mode on exams scandal

Nicola Sturgeon was doing her best at continuing the charade there is nothing at all wrong with the Scottish Government’s plans for the 2021 exams.

Faced with mounting criticism from the Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour around the use of historic data to moderate the grades given through ‘teacher judgement’, the First Minister refused to budge.

It was a performance in which she appeared to reprise the role of the Harry Potter character Dolores Umbridge.

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Nicola Sturgeon accused of 'sleekit' use of historic data around 2021 exam resul...
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh

Umbridge, for those unfamiliar, is briefly headmistress at the fictional school of Hogwarts.

Always dressed in garish pink, her outward appearance and statements to the pupils mask a sinister side.

Her most famous moment is when she takes glee reminding the titular character that he “must not tell lies” by using a magical quill that carves the phrase into his skin as he does lines in detention.

Douglas Ross, who is always a pair of rounded glasses and a scar away from becoming Harry Potter, had one of his most successful performances in the chamber.

Raising the clear evidence that historic attainment data for schools will be used to check grades and possibly lead to pupil grades being lowered prior to their submission to the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Mr Ross accused the First Minister of being “sleekit” – a change from the recently favoured “algorithm by stealth”.

“This is the same shambles as last year, it is just more sleekit,” said Ross.

But Ross was wrong, Dolores Sturgeon maintained. The system is “a world away” from last year’s algorithm despite the existence of a “quality assurance” measure such as the one described by the Tory leader, she said.

“This is a system based on teacher judgement,” repeated the First Minister.

Grades, she continued, would be based on teacher judgement, evidenced by demonstrated attainment through assessment, and if schools and councils question those grades, teachers are free to stick up the proverbial middle finger to superiors and stand by their results.

One must not tell lies, Mr Ross, was the message.

Anas Sarwar raised case studies where real-world 16-year-olds were set to be disadvantaged by the Scottish Government’s “contingency” arrangements, which will allow those who have not already sat exams to do so after the June 25 deadline.

The Scottish Labour leader was clear, the situation has “all the hallmarks” of the 2020 scandal, and an SNP leadership unwilling to listen.

Why has the First Minister and the Scottish Government failed to produce a functional system after a year, he asked.

‘Lines, Mr Sarwar,’ replied Nicola Umbridge, who criticised her new foe for describing something as “non-functioning” before it has even begun not to function.

“There is no algorithm,” she repeated. “I don’t think it is fair to young people to create the impression that there is.

"We will continue to listen, we will continue to look at all the detail of this and we will strive to make sure that every young person gets the service from the education system and the exam system that they deserve.”

Ah, but Ms Sturgeon, one must not tell lies.

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