Labour demand answers from Scottish education secretary around 'unfair, unclear and unacceptable' appeals system

Scotland’s new education secretary is under increasing pressure to answer key questions around the 2021 exam appeals system amid claims she has misled Holyrood over the issue.

Scottish Labour are the latest opposition party to demand answers from Shirley-Anne Somerville after the education secretary announced the details of the appeals system for this year’s exams.

In a ten-point letter, Labour’s education spokesperson Michael Marra has demanded answers on a range of issues, including whether historic data will be used to inform the awarding of grades.

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Scottish Labour has demanded answers from education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville around the 2021 exams.Scottish Labour has demanded answers from education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville around the 2021 exams.
Scottish Labour has demanded answers from education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville around the 2021 exams.
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This issue was raised by the Scottish Conservatives on Monday and branded an “algorithm of stealth”, referencing the much maligned moderation approach used last year that saw thousands of pupils’ grades downgraded based on historic data.

Both parties argue that at least Ms Somerville has misled Parliament on the issue of historic data, with the letter to the education secretary from Mr Marra asking whether Nicola Sturgeon also misled Parliament or “simply misunderstood” the process.

Mr Marra said: “We are heading straight for another SQA [Scottish Qualifications Authority] results’ disaster and yet again it is the least advantaged pupils that will be hit the hardest.

“Despite having a year to act to prevent and other exams fiasco, the SQA and Scottish Government have cooked up yet another unfair, unclear and unacceptable appeals process.

“It’s time for answers from the Cabinet secretary. There is no time to lose.”

In his letter to the education secretary, the Labour MSP also asks whether taking extenuating circumstances into account was considered as part of the appeals system, and whether the SQA or the Scottish Government have estimated the number of expected appeals.

The party is also calling for a ‘no-detriment’ approach to appeals in which no pupil would be at risk of having their grade lowered should they appeal.

Reacting to criticism last week, the SQA, which is set to have its role, remit and purpose reviewed following the exam scandals of both 2020 and 2021, claimed it had “listened” to the views of young people.

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The authority added: “We have listened to the views of young people in developing this year’s appeals service. For the first time young people have a free and direct right of appeal on a broad range of grounds.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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