SQA 'misses deadline' to confirm appeals process for exams in 2021

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has missed its own deadline for confirming the appeals process for 2021 exams in a move that shows the body is treating pupils with contempt, the Scottish Greens have said.

The appeals process was due to be confirmed this month with Fiona Robertson, chief executive of the SQA telling Holyrood’s education committee she hoped confirmation would be “at the latest” in early May.

However, despite consulting on the process earlier in the year, the SQA have so far failed to publish their process.

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The Scottish Greens have criticised the SQA for failing to publish details on the appeals process for 2021 exams

This means many pupils are unaware of what evidence they may need for an appeal in August should they not receive the grades they think they deserve or if they feel they have been discriminated against.

The SQA said in a statement the appeals system would be published “imminently” and that a “comprehensive appeals process will be in place in good time”.

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ education spokesperson, said it was time for the SQA to replace its board due to the failure.

He said: “After last year’s exams debacle, in which the appeals process was an acute point of failure, it’s unbelievable that the SQA have left themselves so completely unprepared for this year's assessments.

“It’s utterly unacceptable that pupils are being forced through exams in all but name without either they or their teachers having any idea how the appeals process will work, or what evidence they will need to provide for it.

“The SQA has once again proven that it does not work in the interests of those it is supposed to serve. Indeed it doesn't even seem capable of doing that.

"It’s long past time the Scottish Government overhauled the exams authority, starting by immediately replacing its board.”

Exams for Highers and National 5s were scrapped earlier in the academic year by the-then education secretary John Swinney, but concerns over the alternative certification model being implemented by the SQA have grown stronger in recent months.

The Scottish Government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn after the 2020 results when thousands of pupils saw their grades downgraded by an unfair moderation system.

Mr Swinney, who narrowly survived a motion of no confidence on the issue, directed the SQA to award grades based on teacher judgement and said a similar process would be used in 2021.

However, many teachers, parents and pupils have expressed their concern around non-exam exams where pupils are sitting multiple assessments in one day as part of ‘evidence gathering’ for the SQA.

This is due to a requirement for “demonstrated attainment” as part of the awards process.

Responding to Mr Greer’s comments, a spokesperson for the SQA said: “The outcomes of the appeals consultation are currently being finalised, following the public consultation. We aim to announce details of the appeals process imminently.

“Learners should be reassured that a comprehensive appeals process will be in place in good time. The current focus should be on maximising teaching and learning and the gathering of evidence to support the development of provisional grades.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said “We understand this is an anxious time for young people.

"We asked the SQA to review their appeals system for 2021 to ensure it best meets the needs of young people. Details are expected to be announced soon.”

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