John Swinney is told to scrap exam appeal charges

Fewer students from state schools initiate appeals. Picture: PA
Fewer students from state schools initiate appeals. Picture: PA
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Education Secretary John Swinney was last night facing calls for exam appeal charges to be scrapped after analysis showed private schools were more likely than state schools to pay to review results.

Scottish Labour repeated its call for the fee to be waived after the party’s own research revealed that the gap between private and state schools when it comes to initiating appeals has increased.

Labour’s research showed that 2.5 per cent of papers from state schools were sent for review or marking checks last year.

Private schools, however, asked for 7.4 per cent of their entries to be reviewed – a percentage gap of 4.9 per cent.

The analysis, based on SQA data, compared last year’s gaps with previous years and found that it has more than doubled since 2014 when the charge was introduced.

In 2014 the gap between state and private school appeals was 2.1 per cent. Back then 1.5 per cent of state school entries went to appeal compared with 3.6 per cent for independent schools.

In 2014, the Scottish Government introduced a fee if 
an appeal, or an exam 
review’, is carried out but no change is made to the grade awarded. 

The cost of these charges now falls on school budgets, which has acted as a disincentive to many state schools submitting exam appeals.

Critics of the system argue that private schools are more inclined to submit appeals because parents will pick up the bill.

Before the system was introduced state schools submitted a higher proportion of appeals than private schools. In 2013 the percentage for local authority schools was 6.5 per cent compared with 5.7 per cent for schools in the independent sector.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said: “Education should be based on ability and work ethic, not your ability to pay.

 “In every year since the SNP introduced these charges the gap between private and state schools submitting appeals has grown. This cannot go on.

“Pupils across Scotland this week will be considering whether to appeal grades they received on Tuesday. An exam appeal decision can be the deciding factor between a young person getting in to college or university – money shouldn’t come into it.”

He added: “The system now is tilted in favour of private schools. That isn’t fair and should not be the case.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local authorities meet the costs of requests by public sector schools to use this service. Guidance from education directors to schools makes clear that no young person should be denied access to this service due to cost.”